UCLA Football 2008:  Going For The Throat

UCLA is getting into the Ring and taking off the Gloves, as the Neu Regime releases its Opening Salvo in the Fight for L.A.

Football Spring Practice is underway in Westwood, as it is every year at this time, but THIS year, there’s something different in the air:  An air of confidence, excitement, and the  intense voices of Rick Neuheisel’s new Coaching Triumvirate, as they constantly urged on their players.

And when Norm Chow talks, people listen.

And they listen to Neuheisel and DeWayne Walker, too.

One of the mantras that was stressed was “Finishing.” The Coaching Staff wanted the players to follow through on the plays – even failed ones – until they all wound up in the end zone.  “Get in the End Zone!  Get in the End Zone!”  That was the battle cry for the Offense.  This is not a Team that is going to be happy settling for Field Goals.  But mainly, the GOAL was to NEVER QUIT.  No matter how bad a play looks, keep on pushing until the whistle blows.

It’s not wise to make too many sweeping, evaluative blanket statements about individual personnel after watching a few hours of practice, in shorts (How we got in those shorts, we’ll never know, but we were at [Capt.] Spaulding Field), so if you’re looking for a detailed analysis of which third-string Lineman has the best chance of cracking the Starting Line-up, you’re in the wrong place.  All we can tell you is that the Coaches were right up in the players’ faces – figuratively – CHALLENGING them to perform to their potential.

And  they weren’t afraid to single out players who made mistakes, and dress them down for the whole crowd to hear.  There were about 75 people in the bleachers — including several male-female adult COUPLES, believe it or not — and many of them could make out every harsh word that was spewed.  We’ll give you one example (with photographic support below), but just because this player made one mistake, you shouldn’t assume that he made any others:  Apparently, Chow felt that Tight End Ryan Moya ran an incorrect pattern on one play, and he got all over him.  “Where are you going?!”  “What are you doing (or thinking)?!”  Then Chow went right after him, talked to him face-to-face, then started to walk away disgusted.  But then he turned back, now having gotten Moya’s complete attention, and imparted some more, possibly constructive, advice.  It obviously GOT THROUGH, and Moya went on to be one of the “most productive” Receivers after that (on a very anecdotal level).

The other Receivers also made some great plays, stretching for balls of varying accuracy.  Obviously, the QB-Receiver timing and synchronicity are lacking this early in practice, but the Staff was challenging the QB’s to hit a spot on the ground (marked by a coach’s cap), and challenging the Receivers to get there.

There was nothing WRONG with the previous regime’s practice methods.  Last year’s practices were also high-spirited, and the confident players paid strict attention to the energized and hands-on Staff.  So we are NOT saying that Neuheisel came in and radically upgraded the way UCLA’s Football Program operates.  There WERE some new practice aids that we hadn’t seen before, but it is certainly possible that these were also used by the Dorrell Bruins and we just didn’t see them.  The first and most visible thing was the abundance of gigantic inflatable blue “medicine balls on steroids” all over the field.  You think that you’ve experienced “Blue Balls?”  Well, you haven’t seen anything like this.  These are huge spheres like the white anti-escape orbs from “The Prisoner,” and the staff was hurling them from point-blank range at Linemen, as obstacles.  They are so wide and hard to get around, that they help the players develop dexterity.  There were also some orange balls, that the players were working with, in a reverse tug-of-war, trying to build strength and footwork by pushing the ball — and other players — backwards.

Speaking of strength:  You will see below that the players are WAY more toned and muscular than they were at this time last year.  If there wasn’t such a tight watch over steroid usage, we would wonder, because the definition of some of these calf and forearm muscles is remarkable.  It could just be a fluke, that we just HAPPENED to get close-ups of guys who just happen to be specifically RIPPED, but there were too many for that explanation to be viable.

The other piece of equipment that we hadn’t seen before (that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been there every year for the last 30) was a boxing glove on a stick, that a Coach used to try to poke Running Backs who were doing their high-stepping “tire” drills.  The Coach was pretty nimble with that thing, knocking down a few guys with a “shot on the jaw” (as Bowie says).    But what it really did was get guys to deal with side-shots to the ribs.  They were taking more hits than Chuck Wepner and Snoop Dogg, quickly learning to juke away from the stick, or at least to shift their weight so that their balance could withstand the shots. 

The process seemed to deliver dividends immediately.  And the best thing about this tool:  It prepares the Bruins for all the cheap shots that they will receive from all the Tools in the actual head-to-head Fight for L.A.  [Maybe the boxing glove is why Neuheisel wanted Ken Norton, jr. to come back, seeing as Norton’s Dad was pretty nifty with one just like it, when he broke Ali’s jaw.]

And speaking of the Rivalry, we’re not sure if the Rivalry is the Reason, but the UCLA QB’s no longer wear RED jerseys in practice.  We always hated that tradition, as it subconsciously trains the Defense to ease up and not pound on players wearing red.  This year, included in the whole New Practice Uniform package, were BLACK jerseys for the Quarterbacks.  There was only ONE Red jersey on the field, and that was being worn by a player being held out of non-individual drills.  The jersey numbers didn’t always match the numbers on the shorts, so we are hesitant to positively identify anyone, but we THINK that the Red shirt was #20, Redshirt (not coincidentally) Freshman Tailback Raymond Carter.   The psychologically smart plan would be to dress the injured “non-contact” players in BLACK AND WHITE STRIPES, like a Referee, because that is the only type of jersey that should instinctually make someone stop attacking.  And ALL BRUINS should be like Bullfighting Bulls*, and always Seek and Destroy anything red.


Below are 20 more shots from practice.  Sorry, but the Cheerleaders don’t perform at practices, and besides, they are in San Antonio right now.  So THESE shots are for the die-hard x and o guys, who want to see the nuts and bolts of the Neu Era in its infancy.  And here’s a reminder for the not-too-computer-savvy:  Almost all of our photos have hidden captions.  Just run your mouse (cursor) over the photo, and a caption will magically appear.  Also, if you click on the photo, it will enlarge to bigger than full-screen size.  And you can right-click them, to save them (for free) to your computer, or even make them your desktop wallpaper (also for free).  Enjoy them, and share them — It’s time to start getting excited about Bruin Football again.

It’s a game of inches.

HOW GREAT must it feel to be back on the field catching a ball like this?

The cap is the target, and this one fell a little short, but NO PROBLEM!

“LOOK IT all the way in!!”

Chow “walks away” from Moya, but check out his eyes — he’s looking back, and he has a plan..

Chow came right back, and made sure that Moya was thoroughly absorbing the right info.

Rick wasn’t too proud to LISTEN to Norm.

Here’s (probably) your first look at #3 Kevin Craft, one of Norm’s new QB disciples

Neuheisel gave plenty of his OWN input to the Offense, in case you were wondering.

Apparently, it was “Ryan Moya Day.”

Right now, Norm Chow is UCLA’s Simon Cowell, and there are 5 Idols left.

He might not have pinpoint accuracy, but NO, he didn’t just whiff on that ball and throw it behind himself - it just looks that way.

Norm had all 5 QB’s develop the exact same routine, in perfect sync (That’s him bent over in the middle).

“I am not a number, I am a free man!”  OR, from AC/DC:  “We’ve got the biggest, balls of them all?”

Nothing fishy about this:  Rubio grabs a taco-way (takeaway) right in front of the Coach.

Nothing Fishy, part 2:  Verner’s got hands like a surgeon (not a sturgeon)

Neuheisel was throwing the balls himself, for the D-Backs to pick, but he threw less INT’s than Sanchez and Mustain did across town this week.

Look at Meadows’ muscle tone and definition -  We’re surprised he doesn’t “pop” the ball.

His eyes are on the ball, our eyes are on those bulging muscles (but not in a Seacrestian way)

Akeem Ayers Airborne — This is actually just a drill (but hopefully, some Basketball Bruins will be emulating this move later)

*  — We recently heard that Bulls don’t actually attack the color red, and that they could be colorblind, because all they are actually doing is attacking the MOTION that the Bullfighters make with the cape.  Of course, that COULD just be a load of bull.



  1. UCLADal Avatar

    Great pics as usual T-H. Thanks for posting. Liked the shots of CNC in Blue. It still makes me shake my head and just like the kid in Animal House that has the half naked sorority chick land in his room, “Thank You God!”

    Only thing I don’t like is seeing all of our QB’s wearing knee braces. I know were not the only team but it’s still concerning.

  2. BRU-ONE Avatar

    Great job. I not only love to see the pics, but appreciate the input about what was happening at practice.

    Keep em’ coming!


  3. jp Avatar

    t-h, do you know if ALL the dance team members went to san antonio? I know they usually send just five or six but i really like it when they send all nine girls.

    [t-h’s note: NO, there are very strict rules about how many people can attend as Cheerleaders, so they had to leave some people behind. The way I understand it, Mollie’s non-arbitrary selection process is based on Seniority]

  4. eric Avatar

    this gives us something to look forward to during the tragic effects of yesterdays basketball loss. There is something ahead, and that is football! hell yeah!

  5. garyK Avatar

    Great article. Loved the “Prisoner” and Groucho references. Yikes, I guess that must make you a boomer like me. Keep up the good work.