On the offensive line continuity so far:
“It’s paying off so well. All of us, we communicate on the field, and we just know we’ve got each other’s backs. It just comes with the repetitions in practice. This is group as a whole, having five guys who just want to kick some butt. That’s what we were missing last year. People were calling us soft. This year, definitely, we’re the hammers and the other team is the nails.”
On playing with a line leader like Kai Maiava:
“Playing especially with Kai Maiava, he’s such a good center. That’s what we were missing – that leadership role on the line. He’s been taking that role, and I’m proud of him.”
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.”
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. ”