* Fairly typical Wednesday practice, good tempo on a cloudy, somber day.
* Rick Neuheisel said that Anthony Barr might need surgery for a meniscus tear. He missed practice again today.
* Jamie Graham and Andrew Abbott were back at full-go and looked like they hadn’t really missed a step. That’ll be huge as Sheldon Price missed practice again with a knee injury and appears doubtful for the game. Dalton Hilliard and Alex Mascarenas missed practice too. This will be a trial by fire for guys like Brandon Sermons, Tevin McDonald and Graham/Abbott.
* Tony Dye, however, saw more action and said he’ll return this week. He admitted that his absence last week was not just precautionary and that he’s feeling much better this week.
* Some pretty good offensive work today, particularly in the throw-and-catch game by both Richard Brehaut and Kevin Prince. Prince had a few beautiful passes in a row at one point, and Brehaut seems more comfortable with the team and his role.
* UCLA coaches talked extensively about the need to “corral” Andrew Luck, who passed for just 151 yards last year but ran for 63, after throwing for 198 and rushing for three yards in 2009. Stanford completed 9-of-16 third downs last year while UCLA went just 1-for-9.
Was the plan against Oregon State to be that conservative? Finishing with 11 quarterback passes and nearly 40 runs?
“If you look at that first half, we had three opportunities where we had guys running down the middle of the field wide open and we couldn’t get it off. We had protection issues, guys pushed back in the quarterback’s face. That changes the whole game. Had a play with 42 seconds to go, fastest guy matched up against a linebacker, and we couldn’t get it off. If you make those plays, you’re talking about a 250-yard passing game and a 220-yard running game, and you have proper balance.
Going to Covallis, I thought it was important we stayed in 3rd-and-6 or less – if you look at our third downs, we were better on third down and we had four or five 3rd-and-ones. After the Texas game, when we came out and threw it early, I thought it was important we didn’t put our team in that situation.
We were in control of that game for the most part, and when we had to battle back – that touchdown when we got out ahead again, they were throws. There’s a time when you have to open it up. From our standpoint of growth of confidence, I think it’s important you put them in situations for them to be successful.”
Do you have a gripe with the label of conservatism?
“It’s not as easy as throw it to Randall (Carroll) or throw it to Josh (Smith). You have to understand the offensive line and who they are. You’ve got to understand if you put them in too many situations, what’s going to happen. You have to understand the growth of your quarterback and flip-flopping the quarterbacks early and not giving one guy all the reps and that situation. It’s a culmination of all of that. If you drop back and throw it 30, 40 times, how many sacks are you going to give up?
Then you say, what is best situation to put our offensive line in? We have a defense trying to find its way thats injured. It’s important we don’t extend their reps. For me, its a total process of putting all that together and making sure you’re putting your offense in the best situation to win.”
Do you have to approach every game differently in terms of that?
“Every game is different. Against Texas, you have to come out and you had to loosen them up a little and we threw three picks. We didn’t execute as well as I would’ve liked, but I thought it was important to have balance. The Oregon State game we came out and first two or three drives, we took three shots. Didn’t hit them – didn’t even get them off – because somebody pushed back. Had Randall Carroll running downfield three times, didn’t get chance to capitalize. You look at the whole picture, the defense and offense, how are we blocking up front, and you try to put together a plan to go win the game. When you play a team like Stanford, you have to score points. You have to take those chances. You can’t be as conservative against Stanford as Oregon State.”
* Nothing too special today – decent throwing game, but many of UCLA’s defensive backs are out or nursing injuries, so that’s to be expected. Got some interesting stuff from Mike Johnson about “conservatism” that I’ll post, and he addressed some of the questions very directly.
* Cornerback Jamie Graham returned for individual drills and said he was 100 percent and expects to be full-go tomorrow.
* Anthony Barr did not practice and had his right knee wrapped up. He said he had an MRI on Monday and that he was to visit with a doctor tonight.
* Kip Smith missed practice but Jeff Locke had a good day in his absence and told me he saw the flaw that led to two low kicks against Oregon State that were both blocked.
* Sheldon Price was in street clothes – as was Dalton Hilliard – and both are still questionable for Saturday.
* Johnathan Franklin practiced and looked fine after suffering a hip contusion.
* Tony Dye remains out of practice, while Andrew Abbott was back in a red jersey and is expected to make a full return tomorrow.
Readers: Post your final score prediction and vote in the poll. Closest to actual score with correct winning team gets to give me 10 questions to ask a player of their choosing, within reason, for an upcoming video.
bruwin5931 came closest with his 28-20 prediction for UCLA v. OSU, so please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org