P10 Hoops Media Day Extras: Part 3

Forward Quincy Pondexter, Washington
“When teams are in transition, they’re very vulnerable. When they’re young, they’re vulnerable. They don’t have any idea what it’s like. And they have teams who have been grueling for a chance to be at the top. We were itching for the top. We wanted to be the champions, and it happened.”

Forward Quincy Pondexter, Washington
“We’re not used to UCLA being where they are but they have a lot of talent on that team .You can’t sleep on them. They’re going to have a lot of learning to do this year; they don’t have a Darren Collison, they don’t have a Josh Shipp, they don’t have an Alfred Aboya. But they have a great coaching staff, and they’ll be able to rebound just fine.”

Forward Michael Roll, UCLA
On the team’s expectations
“The only thing to hang in Pauley is national championships. We feel it’s best to win the Pac-10 title, get a good seed, get a closer game for the tournament, have a good fan base. We realize how important the early games are. Every day in practice, coach is working us so that we can get those early games and have a good resume for the tournament.”

On a preseason schedule that sees them leave California just once:
“Travelling can get to be very much a big burden. People get sick when you travel, it makes you tired, a little jet-lagged. Some of the guys don’t know how to travel. When we stay close, it helps. All the unexpected isn’t there.”

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P10 Hoops Media Day Extras: Part 2

Head coach Johnny Dawkins, Stanford
On the parity of the Pac-10
“There’s a lot of parity, but I thought the same thing last year. From top to bottom there’s terrific talent. Every game is very, very competitive. It’s reflected in what you see with the preseason polls. Both (UCLA and Arizona) have lost a lot of players, but there is parity.”

Head coach Johnny Dawkins, Stanford
On why UCLA will stay competitive:
“I’ve watched coach Howland for a number of years, and he’s a great coach. Right away I’ll say that. He hasn’t done what he’s been able to do for these years without being able to coach his butt off.”

Head coach Johnny Dawkins, Stanford
On the youth of the conference:
“The conference is younger; we lost a lot of experienced players. Guys are going to have to fill their shoes and play new roles. There are a lot of unknowns on a lot of teams. But that makes it exciting. Kids always show us that they are remarkable, they will step up and rise to the occasion given the opportunity to do so.”

Forward Quincy Pondexter, Washington
On the topsy-turvy Pac-10
“It’s how college basketball is. Every kid on the West Coast wants to compete at the schools in the Pac-10. The talent on the west coast is so good that it makes the conference like that. That’s why you see the years of Washington, UCLA, USC’s been good – I just think everyone takes turns because the conference is so competitive.”

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Freshman Football Focus

Talk about a striking contradiction: UCLA has one quarterback who has had plenty of attempts but wants to throw the ball more, and another quarterback who has had scarce opportunities but wants to hand the ball off.

As the Bruins prepared for today’s 1 p.m. showdown at Oregon State’s Reser Stadium this week, redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Prince and true freshman quarterback Richard Brehaut each got their fair share of repetitions with the starting unit.
Despite sharing time, though, they did not share focuses.

Prince is looking to take more chances, to bring some bravado to the position, to risk failure while knowing that an interception does not mean a demotion. He is trying to discover that “gunslinger” mentality only shared by the legends, those who are willing to gamble to be great.

“Growing up, I was kind of more tentative, and my stats would show that,” Prince said. “If you look at my high school stuff, I didn’t really go downfield unless it was there. But my favorite quarterback of all-time has been Brett Favre, and that’s what I love about him. That’s something I’ve tried to slowly get myself into.”
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Pac-10 Hoops Media Day Extras: Part 1

I was able to steal some time with various players and coaches at Pac-10 media day. They were all very forthcoming…

Head coach Ken Bone, Washington State:
On UCLA reloading:
“Ben Howland is a great coach and he also has a lot of good players. Because so many great players have left the UCLA Bruins the last couple years, a lot of people think they’re just not that strong. But when you’ve been this business a few years, you see teams reload. UCLA is good and Ben Howland is good, and they’ll continue to be strong.”

Head coach Ken Bone, Washington State:
On the Howland system:
“It’s a good system, and it’s been successful. People up in the Northwest talked about the Bennett system and how slow it was, but it was what, two years ago when they were ranked fourth in the country? Ben’s system is not extremely fast, it’s defense-oriented, but it’s extremely successful, and it will continue to be that way.”

Point guard Jerome Randle, Cal
On the expectations of being the preseason No. 1:
“I know it’s gonna be tough, man. Teams that start off on top, they have to stay on top. You have to play hard every night. There are people out there out to get you. It’s really up to you and what you do with it. The expectations should raise our play every night.”

On UCLA and Arizona being down in the rankings this year:
“I’m really not throwing any of those teams under bus. The Pac-10 is tough every year. Even if you don’t have those projected top-10 lottery picks, you still have good players in this league. I don’t take anyone for granted.”

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Weekly Answers, Part 2

1) What would you do with Kevin Prince? It seems his confidence is shot, and he is now a detriment to the team. – Bunche Hall
I would work on him extensively in practice, and let Brehaut or Craft start the next game.

2) With Matt Barkley obviously having a grip on the USC quarterback job for the next three year, will UCLA try and recruit Jesse Scroggins from Lakewood High? – Anonymous
I doubt they’ll push too hard for him with Nottingham coming in and two freshman getting playing time now.

3) Rick Neuheisel’s helicopter flyby at Kaiser High School angered that school’s officials and they questioned letting him near the field. Has Neuheisel burned his bridges at Kaiser and has he received that type of negative reaction elsewhere? – Anonymous
Check it out: Flyby

4) Would it make sense at this point to play some of the frosh on the RS Scout team? Or do you just keep them as redshirts and hold for the future? I am thinking in particular of guys like Marvray and Golper. Marvray supposedly can run crisp routes and Golper in high school was considered a tackling machine who always was on the ball and never missed tackles. Rivals had him rated #5 in the country on pure instincts and having a nose for the ball. – Anonymous
Marvray has a heck of a lot of talent, but has not displayed the consistency needed at the position. Golper is far behind the big three linebackers and even the second team. He’ll be a good player, but not worth it to burn the redshirt.

5) What are your “10 steps to help the current UCLA football team get better today?” – Anonymous
1) Play Randall Carroll more. 2) Get Milton Knox and Damien Thigpen at least six touches each per game. 3) Tell Kevin Prince he can throw eight picks and you won’t bench him because you have that much faith, or put Richard Brehaut in. 4) Blitz more up the middle. 5) Pass more on first down and second down in the red zone. 6) Stop throwing short to Logna Paulsen and Ryan Moya on third down. 7) Make Derrick Coleman a blocking back or put Trevor Theriot in there on short downs. 8) Stretch the field as often as possible, even purposely overthrowing wideouts just to get the defense on their heels. 9) Relax. That should be No. 1, actually. 10) Pull Kevin Prince if he’s struggling and play Richard Brehaut. Too hard to readjust confidence in the middle of a game.

6) During the whole Randall Carroll Twitter blowup, the heart of it was that UCLA practiced the creative, daring plays I expected from Chow, but doesn’t run them in games. Is this a fact? Why is this Chow offense so bland? – Anonymous
This Chow offense is so bland because the offensive line does not get the consistent protection needed to guarantee a creative play doesn’t blow up in their faces.

7) How is it that Utah, Boise State Cinn. and Tcu who to my knowledge have not had higher rated recruiting classes consistently put a better product on the field? Coaching or poor evaluation? – Mbrant
First of all, a much, much easy schedule for many of those teams. Secondly, Boise State recruits against Idaho, Montana and Wyoming for local talent. UCLA recruits against USC. Third of all, those mid-major teams have a hell of a lot of speed, and the Bruins simply don’t. TCU recruits running backs and then converts them to defensive end. It’s a risk, but it pays off.

8) Is there a schism between the offense and defense yet? – Bunche Hall
How could there not be? No one will go on the record with me yet, but there has to be some frustration.

9) Has Rick re-evaluated implementing the Spread at all? – Fan4Life
The team does not have the kind of offensive line needed to protect a quarterback in a spread offense, and Prince/Brehaut/Craft aren’t good enough right now to pull it off.

10) What do I have to do to get an answer to my question about Jackie Robinson and other four-sport athletes? This is the third week I have asked. – Jungleland
Send me an email at jon.gold@dailynews.com and I’ll do my best to find out. I don’t have the opportunity on Fridays, when I typically finish the Q&As, to ask that question. Remind me, and I’ll make sure I find out this week. Thanks for your patience.

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Quick chat with FB Josh Smith

I finally caught up with Colorado transfer Josh Smith, and really, I think UCLA is in store for big things. The kid has looked fantastic on the scout team, and along with Joseph Fauria, he adds to true targets in the passing game next season. With the lack of explosiveness at wideout this season, Smith could become the Bruins’ top target next year.
With the graduation of Terrence Austin, Smith, Damien Thigpen and Randall Carroll will fill the role of returner admirably.

Here’s what Smith had to say:

What do you think you’ll add to UCLA?
“Really, I feel there’s a big opening for me, a big opportunity for me, to come right in and fill the void of wide receivers making a lot more plays out there. I feel like next year is going to be a big time for to compete and be the guy. I want to fine-tune the receiver group as a whole, get us on one accord. I want to change the whole attitude of the receivers, for all of us to know that we’re going to make plays next year.”

What has impressed you most about UCLA so far?
“First of all, man, the defense. The defense is really impressive. At Colorado, I was always that guy just hoping that we’d get a turnover so I could get back on the field. I’d dare them to throw the ball to me after a turnover. To continue to see these guys go out there and get two or three picks a game by one person, another two by another. I have never really been a guy to witness that over at Colorado.”

“Secondly, the attitude of these players. They all were dominant players where they were before. They know how to lose well and they know how to win well. That takes a strong person to know how to continue to rally back and not continue that bad attitude into the locker room after a tough loss. These guys have been in every game, not been blown out by any of these teams, when a lot of these teams are capable of blowing out a lot of teams.”

How hard is it not to play right now?
“I don’t sweat that any more. I’ll wait my turn. I’ve been in the fire before, and now I’m sitting back, but I’m seeing that the game isn’t changing. As long as I keep working, it keeps me eager to get back in the fire.”

“Watching the game is actually hard. It’s a whole lot harder to watch than play. I’m more nervous watching than I’ve ever been as a player. A lot of people thought I’d be extremely nervous to go on the field my true freshman year. No, I’m extremely nervous to go on the field my redshirt year. I know I can’t help.”

How have you improved in your redshirt season so far?
“I feel like I’ve fine-tuned everything. I feel faster. I feel like my routes are a lot more crisp. I feel like I’m more of an aggressive player, not a guy who’s just a speed-burner. I get really good reps against guys l ike Alterraun Verner and Rahim Moore.”

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Checking in

Hey all,

Arrived at my Corvallis hotel room about three minutes ago. For those of you still around for the ride, sorry I was MIA: Didn’t realize travel would take me more than eight hours. But I’m here, and I have some great one-on-one interviews from Pac-10 Media Days for the hoopheads, and a chat with FOOTBALL Josh Smith about his time at UCLA so far.
Also, I spoke with BASKETBALL recruit Josh Smith last night, and he said he’d call after his official visit to Washington this weekend.

Chime in with questions here or at jon.gold@dailynews.com, and check out my Twitter account all day tomorrow at DNJGInsideUCLA.

Thanks guys,
Jon

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Post-practice update

* As reported earlier, defensive tackle Jerzy Siewierski has plantar fasciitis and is out indefinitely. Expect at least a few weeks.
* David Carter will start at defensive tackle, but Jess Ward, Justin Edison and Andy Keane will all get increased playing time.
* Neuheisel remained uncommitted at starting right guard, but all indications are the Ryan Taylor will get the gig.
* Aaron Hester will play but will probably not get the starting spot at cornerback opposite Alterraun Verner.

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