Yogi Roth: UCLA football is as ‘gifted’ as any team in the Pac-12

UCLA began practicing again on its Westwood campus on Monday, Aug. 24. (Scott Tarley/Staff)

The Pac-12 Networks crew arrived at UCLA on Tuesday — their latest stop on their preseason tour around the conference — and analyst Yogi Roth took some time to share a few of his thoughts on the Bruins.

How does UCLA compare to the other teams you’ve seen across the conference?

“Deepest team in the Pac-12 conference, I think, all across the board. You hear 18 starters? It’s really more like 20, 21 starters. Not even including special teams. I would’ve picked them to win the Pac-12 if we had an answer at the position that matters the most. And they’ll figure that out. … But they are gifted, man. I mean, when I saw last year on ‘The Drive,’ seeing the build and the youth — the year before that they played 12 true freshmen, I think. (Note: UCLA actually played 18 true freshmen in 2013.) This year, maybe two, maybe three guys are gonna play? You just have crazy depth. …

“This is my 15th year in major college football. I’ve never seen players work for a head coach like they work for Jim. I’ve never seen the admiration that they have. I think he’s got something really brewing here. And if they can get consistent play at the quarterback position — and I think those two guys should do it — they’re as gifted as anybody.”

What do you think of the quarterback competition between Jerry Neuheisel and Josh Rosen?

“In San Bernardino last week, I saw Jerry have full command of the offense. I talked to him this summer, he said this offseason was the best of his life. And you have that when you have your opportunity. I remember as a player, we all went through that. When you get your chance to be the guy, it’s just different. It just is. He led all the workouts. He’s clearly the leader of this team. Whether that means he starts or not, I don’t know. But I saw a guy that was in total command of the offense. A guy that is saying, ‘I know you’re playing well, Josh, but I’m still here.’ He hasn’t given up the job.

“You look at Josh, and I’ve said this a bunch of times, I think he’s the most gifted quarterback in this conference, top to bottom. I know what that means. He may not be ready to play yet. But if you ask the quarterback gods to build somebody, they’d build Josh Rosen. I don’t know what Troy Aikman looked like at his age, but I just imagine it very similarly. I’ve known Josh a long time. His functional football intelligence is on par with Jerry’s. Jerry grew up with a coach. Josh is a savant, mentally. But he’s a first-time starter as a freshman, from the jump. I would expect both of them to play, because I think both probably earned it.”

Does it affect the offense not to have a starting quarterback named yet this close to the start of the season?

“I don’t think so. I think one of the biggest misnomers in college football is the fact that we talk about players as leaders. Continue reading “Yogi Roth: UCLA football is as ‘gifted’ as any team in the Pac-12” »

Pac-12 links: FCC approval of AT&T—DirecTV merger could help Pac-12 Networks

» The FCC announced on Friday that it has approved AT&T’s takeover of DirecTV, a move that could clear the way for the Pac-12 Networks to appear on the satellite provider. The breakdown in negotiations between DirecTV and the Pac-12 has been arguably the biggest blemish on the resume of commissioner Larry Scott.

Bay Area News Group columnist Jon Wilner examined the issue earlier this week.

» Each Division I school will receive $18.9 million from the NCAA to fund cost-of-attendance-based scholarships and other projects.

» USC’s Adoree’ Jackson wants to win the Heisman and an Olympic gold medal.

» Oregonian columnist John Canzano no longer believes in Dana Altman — and according to emails he obtained, the Oregon administration may not either. Continue reading “Pac-12 links: FCC approval of AT&T—DirecTV merger could help Pac-12 Networks” »

Rick Neuheisel leaves Pac-12 Networks for CBS Sports

Former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel has left Pac-12 Networks for CBS Sports, the latter announced today.

Neuheisel compiled a lackluster 21-29 record with the Bruins from 2008-11, but soon took a job as a broadcaster with the conference’s then-fledgling record. The 54-year-old was a natural on television, and was also fun to watch when he interviewed his son/doppelganger, backup UCLA quarterback Jerry Neuheisel.

The elder Neuheisel will be an analyst on CBS Sports’ “College Football Today” pregame show, as well as a regular part of the weekly show “Inside College Football.” He will start his new position in September.

“Rick’s enthusiasm, football acumen and experience on the field and the sidelines make him a natural on television,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said in a statement. “His addition strengthens our college football announce team and we look forward to showcasing his sharp insight and analysis across CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network.”

Here he is singing “Born in the SEC”:

Q&A: Looking at ‘The Drive’ with producer Michael Tolajian

After two seasons of shooting football, the Pac-12 Networks’ “The Drive” docu-series is trying to focus on basketball for the first time — jumping around the conference to focus on its various teams. Tonight’s episode, which airs at 9 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks, is focused on UCLA and Oregon State.

“The Drive” crew shot the Bruins’ loss to Oregon State on Jan. 22, their win at home over Colorado on Jan. 31, and some of the practices leading up to each one. It also focused on the respective coaches, Steve Alford and Wayne Tinkle, as well as Bruin freshman Kevon Looney and Oregon State’s Gary Payton II.

I caught up with senior coordinator Michael Tolajian to ask him how the experience of shooting the two sports compared, as well as his thoughts on Alford and Jim Mora.

How did you pair teams together for episodes? This is the first episode that isn’t arranged geographically (i.e. Arizona State and Arizona, Colorado and Utah). Was it a factor that UCLA and Oregon State are teams have underachieved and overachieved, respectively?

Michael Tolajian: We weren’t set in stone with doing the local teams. We did it sometimes. A lot of it had to do with what the programming lead-in was going to be. … Ideally, there would be a live UCLA game or live Oregon State game going in. we weren’t able to do that every time, but that’s a good way to get audiences to tune in.

The other aspect was talking to the coaches and talking to the school. A lot of the times they had preferences. There was no set formula. It was kind of a combination.

We kind of set this early. We didn’t really know (who was good). Other than knowing Arizona would be good and maybe Utah. Really, the rest of the Pac-12, you could throw them in a hat. Any given night, you don’t really know. We shot with Cal. They started off well, went in the toilet, and then now they’ve won a few in a row. … It’s really been hard to predict. Like any documentary type programming, you just have to be there and follow along. Sometimes the stories contrast nicely, and sometimes not.

How does it compare to shooting “The Drive” for football the past two seasons? Do you lose a bit of depth in favor of breadth versus depth compared to the football format? Are there any advantages to being able to dabble around the conference through the season?

Tolajian: Unlike football, where it’s kind of episodic, you’re following along each and every week. You’re tied in every week. With basketball, we’re bouncing around the conference. More than it being about the narrative of the team, it’s really taking a step behind the curtain, hearing from some of the players, hearing how the coaches run the teams. … It’s really sights and sounds and process, rather than trying to tell some overarching story. Continue reading “Q&A: Looking at ‘The Drive’ with producer Michael Tolajian” »

Center Jake Brendel talks about being featured on ‘The Drive’

Pac-12 Networks made UCLA the focus of its docu-series “The Drive” this season, and Mora has pointed out numerous times that the film crew has been very unobtrusive in their day-to-day work.

That hasn’t prevented the Bruins from ribbing one another when one of them is featured. The half-hour weekly show usually begins with an individual feature, and the latest subject was center Jake Brendel — a Harley-riding Dallas-area native whose maturity was played up as the show recapped UCLA’s 20-17 win against Texas.

“It’s never good to be that one guy,” Brendel said. “At the same time, it’s something that someone’s got to do. So I guess I’ll take the hit on that one.”