Norm Chow’s “Visionary” status might be hard to verify this year.

Chow will have to be “Crafty” to get points on the board.

Even Norm must be puzzled by what he sees from his QB’s and O-Line, which no amount of browbeating is going to fix

He can’t turn water into wine.

The greatest coach in the world can’t win a game without players, and right now, it looks like Norm Chow might need a few more.  The first UCLA Fall Scrimmage under the new leadership of Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow forced Rick to tell the crowd afterwards:  “As you can see, we still have a million things to fix…”

And the first priority is the Offensive Line, and scheming around the deficiency.  The Bruins’ 1st-string Offense could not run the ball, because there were no holes to run through.  No matter which back got the ball, there was never anywhere to go.  Maybe Maurice Jones-Drew could have eeked out some yards, but none of the Bruin Tailbacks showed that same ability to get something out of nothing.  They were going up against the 1st-string Defense, but any average team would have opened up at least a few holes, just every now and then.  And when the 2nd strings faced one another, the result was pretty much the same.

The only back who seemed to run better than his press clippings was Jonathan Franklin.  JF showed some moves, and some slick speed.  But Franklin nor anyone else put a charge into the 4000 or so Bruins fans, who were just begging for someone to breakaway and take one to the house.  The “best” run was actually a Quarterback Draw by Kevin Craft, on which he sprinted a dozen or so yards into the end zone, untouched.  The play worked because of the element of surprise — It’s the OTHER QB, Chris Forcier, that has the more-nimble legs.  The point is, that Norm Chow is going to have to constantly surprise Defenses in order to score.  He will NOT be able to employ any smashmouth tactics.

The O-Line guys are working their asses off, but they are being overwhelmed by a stellar middle-Defensive Line.  The are getting outmuscled, and they are also still getting comfortable with all of their assignments in the blocking schemes.  When the QB’s dropped back to pass (or took the Shotgun snaps), the pockets were short-lived.  To combat this, there were many very short drops, with quick, short throws.  Both QB’s showed some propensity for success with this formula.  Also, they each completed a nice mid-range ball.  But no deep patterns were completed, thanks to a lack of protection, and a lack of arm strength and accuracy.

There were several tips and interceptions, but when Alterraun Verner is on the field, even Tim Tebow is going to give up a Pick.  Forcier showed off his impressive leg-speed, and his natural ability to throw on the run, but Craft seemed to have just enough success to remain the current #1 QB.  The bottom line is that you can’t be too hard on either QB, as they were throwing against a very talented group of young Defensive Backs, and are behind an overmatched Line.  Both of these QB’s today would have won last year’s Notre Dame game, and with a little help, they might surprise a few skeptics this year.

That help could very well come from Nelson Rosario (if only the Bruins had a QB named Dawson, there could be Rosario-Dawson scores, and maybe even a naked reverse).  Rosario came up with a couple of Receptions that gave the fans some hope, especially considering that Starter Marcus Everett caught only one ball, and fumbled it (before finally catching a short TD pass near the end of the day).

That wasn’t the only miscue that caused long sighs in the Drake Stadium bleachers.  The very first Kickoff of the Scrimmage was MUFFED by Aundrae Dean, two Field Goal attempts were low, and blocked, Terrence Austin laid down the ball on a Punt Return, one of the Shotgun snaps sailed over the QB’s head,  and the Bruins started to run a play with only 10 guys on the field.  But that is precisely why they have scrimmages in the first place. 

These were NORMAL mistakes and jitters that every team experiences in mid-August.  None of those mistakes were nearly as scary as watching Defenders constantly get in the face of the Bruin QB’s.  And one of the mistakes was atoned for in high style:  Austin returned the next Punt he got for a long TD.  Don’t get too excited:  The Special Teams were going about 50%, trying to avoid injury.  They were not flying around and hitting with tenacity like they will on Labor Day Night. 

In fact, the entire scrimmage was sort of Stick-free — There were only a few hard collisions the whole evening.  It wasn’t quite “Flag Football,” but it was closer to that than to an MMA event.    

After the scrimmage, the Bruins lined up at the edge of the field to greet the fans personally, sign autographs, and take photos.  After everything that got directed at Karl Dorrell last year, I like to point out positive things about him when I can.  And I noticed that while this year’s players were cordial and obliging, the Bruins under Dorrell seemed to be more well-trained and disciplined on exactly how to interact with the fans.  This is NOT a complaint about this year — Everyone was fine, and I didn’t have a single problem with anyone — but it just seemed like LAST year, they were even more shockingly polite and attentive, and not worried at all about their personal concerns, or families, or friends.  One possible explanation:  This year seems to have a much YOUNGER skew, so the maturity level is understandably not as advanced.  If that’s NOT the reason, then kudos to Karl, for really instilling in his guys the Bruin Pride of overly-respecting the fans.

By the way, the 5:15pm start was perfect for fans, because the bleachers were just getting into the shade.  However, as the field quickly got shaded, the PHOTOS got worse and worse.  Of course, since the CHEERLEADERS WEREN’T THERE, you probably don’t care too much about the photos anyway.  But just in case you do, here are 16 more from the event.  They have mouse-over captions, and if you click them, they will enlarge, and consume your screen.

   SEE?  The Line had some good moments too — Look at that WALL!

And the Line did their job HERE, as Craft takes a QB Draw in for 6!

…but it’s Forcier that relies more on his legs, and he can throw on the run.

Forcier showed that he does have a touch, when he laid this one right in there.

Nice to see Olson keeping his arm in shape and not pouting.

The pen that writes the future of UCLA Football is now in Kevin Craft’s…mouth?

Reggie Carter was just TOO COOL to play.

Ironically, Jonathan Franklin WAS the biggest surprise of the Scrimmage.

Live and Let DYE!

Justin Mann is da Man!

Style points for Theriot.

Jerzy, Inc.

Too bad a Mo-line can’t help the O-line.

Everything was coming up roses for Nelson (”HA-ha”) Rosario.

Norm smiled when a fan yelled:  “You look good in Blue!”

Hopefully, Neuheisel has BeatSC.com’s #1 Priority at heart.


One response to “FURROWED CHOW”

  1. The tide is turning Avatar
    The tide is turning

    Based on what I’ve read, a 5 win 2008 season is to be expected. Therefore, I hope UCLA’s struggles at the Rose Bowl this season are not met with loud boos. Fans should expect a tough year, given the challenging schedule, the new system, that the top 2 QB’s are out, and the OL has had injuries and was thin to begin with. However, fans know the team will improve under the “dream team” of coaches, and given the uptick in recruiting. So, have patience! The light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train.