Mike Harris is confident that he has earned the starting right tackle position, even though things did not begin to materialize for him until just a few days ago.
“I feel like it’s my spot, and I’m going to do whatever it takes. Last year, I was a freshman, new at things, but I feel prepared for this upcoming season. I’m excited and ready to get this offense rolling again. I think it was my whole body of work; I was injured in spring ball, but I came ready in this summer camp. Every day I went hard, and the coaches saw that they can count on me.”
Harris, who started five games last season, believes his familiarity gives him the edge over some of UCLA’s younger players, though he is potentially unseating Jeff Baca, who started eight games last season.
“I think my experience is a big factor. I know what to expect, especially starting against USC last year. I know what it takes to be successful. It will take a lot of hard work and a lot of limiting mental errors.”
On his thoughts after the scrimmage, which got off to a bad start with an Eddie Williams false start:
“It was kind of slow to start; we preached all day, all yesterday that we need to focus, make sure we know the snap count. We’re going to need to change up the snap count during the year. The firstdrive, we false start. Right off the bat, we’re first-and-15. We didn’t get the start we wanted.”
On scrambling, which he did often in the scrimmage:
“I don’t feel like I’m a dual-threat quarterback I don’t have that kind of speed. Not enough to be in the class of a Dennis Dixon. But if the play breaks down, I think I can make some positive yards. If that happens during the course of a game, I’m going to take off and run it.”
On his no-nonsense running style:
“It’s a goal to stay healthy, but I’ve never really worried about getting hurt. The moment you start slowing your play down, it’s more dangerous. To be honest, I’ve never even slid in a game. I’ll try to this year, but once you get in a game, you get that mentality that you can take on anybody.”
Senior fullback Chane Moline had an impressive scrimmage, particularly on one red-zone play midway through.
Running with the first team, Milton Knox took a handoff up the middle behind Moline, who destroyed a scout team linebacker as Knox took it in for the touchdown.
Moline, oddly enough, returns with the most career carries of any UCLA back.
“It’s definitely a good feeling when you get a good block, and then you see a teammate score,” Moline said. “I wouldn’t say it’s been then yourself running a good play. But it’s up there.
After announcing the starting offensive line earlier this week, it seems UCLA has changed things a bit.
As it stands, Mike Harris is scheduled to start at right tackle, Stanley Hasiak at left guard and Jeff Baca backing both up.
Or, at least, that’s the plan going into the weekend’s meetings.
Offensive line coach Bob Palcic said that he and Rick Neuheisel would review the scrimmage tape and start the two who played best.
“I’m going to make one final meeting with Coach Neuheisel to see which direction we’re going,” Palcic said. “Harris or Baca at tackle and Baca or Hasiak at left guard. We’ll make the decision this weekend. We wanted to give them all an opportunity. That was the purpose of the scrimmage, and it’s whoever played best in the scrimmage. I gave them all work with the ones, and whoever played best in the scrimmage will start next Saturday.”
Palcic loves Baca’s ability to play multiple positions, and he might even use Baca situationally.
“I think I have the luxury of moving a couple people around,” Palcic said. “Baca can play both positions, and I even work with him in the center/QB exchange. I like my guys to have two positions, because that’s what I’m used to in the NFL. ”
On his thoughts, post-scrimmage:
“It was a good scrimmage; when you get to play 60 plays and you’re eight days away from a game, and you get to thud with tired legs, it is good. I saw what I needed to see. I think the guys realized we’re not game-ready yet. I think that’s a call to arms over the weekend while they get a little rest.
“I like where we are.”
On what he wanted to see from the scrimmage:
“With so many young players, it’s about how to go inside and come back out and be ready to play. Again, we started slow as an offense. We have to learn that you don’t get a feel-out practice in games. Guys now have more of an understanding.”
On the running the first-team offense against the second-team defense and vice versa:
“We tried to get some looks we may see. It was some portion of game planning. We didn’t want our first defense not running their defense.”
On Damien Thigpen and Morrell Presley impressing him the most:
“He’s proved he’s an exciting football player. We’ll find ways to get him into the game plan. And Morrell Presley did some good things.”
On Kevin Prince’s performance:
“There were a couple balls I think he could’ve let go if. His anticipation skills I still thing can grow. But I thought he managed the game well. I was disappointed that he tried to force that screen and had that turnover.”
As final scrimmages go, UCLA’s final solo dance was efficient if not uneventful.
Heach coach Rick Neuheisel did not expect to gain much by way of immediate satisfaction, choosing to run the first-team defense against the second- and third-team defenses, and vice versa. Today was more about giving the respective first units the looks they would see against San Diego State, rather than providing a punishing workout.
The day did, however, end on a good note, as walk-on freshman running back Demetri Papadakis carried the ball three times on the final drive for 34 yards, including a 17-yard TD run in which he broke three tackles.
More to follow, with a lot of interviews. Stay tuned.
Rick Neuheisel decided to move today’s scrimmage from the Rose Bowl back to UCLA’s practice fields simply to avoid poor air-quality and heat.
At least the air is clean. Somewhat clean.
It is still hot and muggy, the dry desert heat of the last two days replaced by humidity. It should be a good test for the Bruins, are dressed in full game gear.
I will bring updates after the scrimmage, and if you want to pose a few questions for me to ask specific players, I’ll try to do my best.
Here’s what we know about Chris Joseph: He is much smarter than me.
He is also a much better athlete, much more composed, and all-around cooler.
This interview might not have been such a good idea. I’m downright depressed now.
Just one chat with the soon-to-depart Rhodes Scholar, and I wish I had the chance to cover him when he started for UCLA for three years (2005-2007).
In September, Joseph leaves for Oxford University in England to begin his masters in geography, focusing on biodiversity and conservation.
Meanwhile, I know the 50 state capitals.
“The interviews were in November of last year, so from the time when I found out I won until now, it’s been almost a year,” said Joseph, who attended UCLA’s practice on Thursday along with Pat Cowan. “For a long time, it was kind of just hanging off in the distance. Now it’s a reality. I have my passport and my visa. Working on getting my bank account over there. I’m ready to do it.”
He understands that there will be an adjustment, even beyond the weather.
He is prepared.
“Lifestyle, culture, social conventions, everything is going to be a huge adjustment,” Joseph said. “I’m going to be me, regardless of what happens. I’m going to adjust, tweak a few things to make sure I don’t ruffle anybody’s feathers. I don’t want to be on anybody’s watch list, become somebody’s enemy.”
That should not be an issue whatsoever.
Joseph is a composed man, a fantastic student – he carried a 3.95 GPA at UCLA – and he is eager to experience the world for the first time.
“I’m not much of an international at all. I’ve never really been anywhere, to tell you the truth,” Joseph said. “I’ve been places, but never really seen them. I’m a West-Coast guy. But I’m open minded and I’m always in to trying new things. I’m excited and open for anything that can happen over there.”
Meanwhile, on the home front, Joseph expects big things from his former teammates.
“They’ve got a lot of new guys, and I think it’s definitely going to build on last year. At least they have the foundation set,” Joseph said. “It’s not new to anybody yet. They have a lot of new guys playing, a ton of new talent, and those seniors are going to be leaders. I have high hopes; I can’t say they’re going to the Rose Bowl, but I think they’ll do well.”