On Tuesday’s practice:
“Very happy with this practice. Two days off, usually you’re a little sluggish. It’s like pulling teeth to get kids to run around, and it was anything but today. Not all perfect, but certainly things we can work with. We’re excited as a program about where we are, and frankly, we’re hungry for more. We’ve just got to keep pinning down the details.”
On the goal of first bye-week practice:
“I told the kids today we had three things to get done, No. 1, to improve, we have to improve. No. 2, to create competition – make sure all positions have those kids who are not on the front lines working to become on the front line. No. 3, have some install, the ability to try things out.”
On the running back talent in the Pac-10:
“Everybody understands the value of a running game. Takes a lot of pressure off your quarterback, your defense, the play-caller. It’s a great weapon to be able to run the ball, you can control the ball. There are a number of quality backs in their conference, but that’s not unusual to me. That’s the nature of a very fertile West Coast area to recruit from.”
On re-opening up competition at certain positions:
“You have to get comfortable in competition. Is it good to be challenged in the fourth quarter? Sure, I’d love to win them all handily, but you’re going to get tested. Rather than react like something you’re not used to, you have to accept it. It brings out the best in all players.”
On competition when he played:
“I’ll never forget as a player here, Michael Young and Karl Dorrell battling every day to see who would be starting flanker, trying to bribe me as QB. You talk about two great players, because the competition of the other one was there.”
From UCLA media relations:
UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel announded today that four players have been suspended from the team due to a violation of team rules and will miss this Saturday’s game against Kansas State.
Sophomore cornerback Courtney Viney, freshman running back Milton Knox and freshman wide receivers Morrell Presley and Randall Carroll will sit out the Kansas State game. The players will participate in team practices during the suspension.
“When you are a member of a team, you have a special commitment to the entities that make up that unit and to those that you represent,” said coach Neuheisel. “When someone falls short in that regard, there have to be consequences, and then, we move on.”
“It doesn’t matter if Kevin’s out, we’re still going to be playing with a lot of inexperience on offense. We’ve got to continue to shore up our fundamentals. It was interesting to watch young players get into that environment. You watch film with them and they can’t tell you why that happened. It’s what they refer to as the fog of war.”
On being 10-point favorites against K-State:
“We were underdogs, and that motivated us, the same will be true about Kansas State coming here. It will motivate them. To ignore that and act as if they’re not going to come in here believing and working and excited about making their own statement, then we’re crazy. We have too much experience on our coaching staff to not nail that point home and demand that we improve. It didn’t matter what happened at Tennessee, we need to improve. We need to improve. That’s the entire focus of the week.”
On true freshman quarterbacks having immediate success:
“I kind of hypothesized as I was flying home. I’m noticing, there’s Matt Barkley playing well, and TF for Michigan. No. 1, there’s so much pressure on the quarterback position and gameplans are so predicated toward the starter, that backup quarterbacks if you’re not careful, if you don’t have it really strategized, don’t improve over the course of the season.”
On entering college early:
“The other thing that’s happening is you’ve got a lot of midyear transfers now. I think both of those players joined their teams in time for spring football, as did Richard Brehaut. Now you accelerate the development of a freshman; he’s been not only in the system and learned, but he’s also been indoctrinated into the team. Those kids being given that chance have already earned that. It’s not unheard of to blossom early.”
“Excited about beginning the season 2-0, excited about a lot of the good things that happened over the course of two weeks. Also excited about the challenge of fixing the things we need to fix. The Tennessee game was a great team effort in a tough place to play, and it was as advertised in terms of an arena.”
On the challenges this week:
“Kansas State coming in this week is a huge challenge for us. I know that there will be people saying that I’m just trying to motivate my team. But it is going to be a very, very important game for us. We have a lot of work to do. We’ve got to break in a new quarterback, at least from the standpoint of this season. Those are great challenges, and ones we are looking forward to.”
On his lack of changing expectations:
“I said before the Tennessee game, whether we win or lose, we have a lot to improve upon. We’d be crazy, absolutely crazy – certify us – if we think we can waltz through anything. We have too many young players, too many things that have to be pointed out and addressed.”
On what he expects from the Wildcats:
“Maybe like Tennessee, they haven’t used their whole package yet, and we were exposed a little bit in our protections and people are going to copy that stuff. Coaching is a very plagiaristic business. There’s going to be a lot of copying the game plan.”
Here’s what Rick Neuheisel said after Sunday’s conference call with LA reporters…
On the risky call to go for a pass on 3rd-and-9 that culminated in a safety and Prince’s injury:
“They were out of timeouts so if you make a first down, the game’s over. The risk was, ‘Kevin, you’re not throwing this ball unless a guy is wide open, you’re not going to fumble, and if you can’t (find anything), I understand and we’ll punt and take the 30 yards of field position.
“Had you told me I was going to lose my QB, I think I would’ve gone with your QB sneak.”
On choosing between Craft and Brehaut
“(Offensive coordinator Norm Chow) and I will talk and watch practice and go from there. You’ve got an experienced player in Kevin Craft who has played a lot of football. You’ve got a kid who played pretty well in a brief stint against SDSU. We have a lot of confidence in Richard Brehaut – he was a big-time recruit and he’s proven he belongs at this level. He didn’t look nervous (against SDSU), he went out and he played well. And I’ve seen enough good things from Kevin Craft to know we can go out and play fine.”
On whether UCLA can move forward with Kevin Craft as quarterback, after a disappointing 2008:
“This is a different edition of UCLA football. We’re going to weather it. We weathered the Aaron Hester injury a week ago. I think these guys are resilient.”
ESPN’s Ted Miller writes:
“Redundant questions are part of the game, and a veteran coach like Rick Neuheisel knew entering the week that he was going to field a bevy of inquiries about how his young UCLA Bruins would handle the intensity of 100,000 fans at Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium.
Neuheisel’s responses included two two points: 1. It’s going to be fun; 2. It’s not that big of a deal.
‘A lot is made of it. It’s going to be no secret to our players that it’s going to be loud,’ Neuheisel said. ‘I don’t think making this seem like this is a mountain we have to climb is the right way. We address it. We deal with the practical things in terms of snap counts and trying to make checks as an offense.’”
Long ago, Rick Neuheisel realized he had two good quarterbacks competing for one job, and that one was a redshirt freshman and one was a true freshman.
Long ago, Rick Neuheisel realized he had the luxury of holding one of the two back a year, keeping Richard Brehaut’s redshirt, putting him a year behind Kevin Prince in eligibility.
Long ago, Rick Neuheisel realized he would not.
What seemed like a hasty decision, giving Brehaut reps in Saturday’s 33-14 victory over San Diego State, was actually well-thought out and debated over.
“I made it well before the game,” Neuheisel said. “I made up my mind that he’s too good of a player, and we’re going to keep him coming along. I just believe that good things are in store for him. We’ll try to get him in the game as often as we can.”
Added Norm Chow: “I don’t think we burned any redshirt year. We need him to play, we need him to get experience. You never know when you’re going to need a guy.”
Early last week, Brehaut was told he would be called upon if the time came during the season opener, that he would not simply ride the pine this decision because he could.
“It’s been an ongoing situation,” said Brehaut, Scout.com’s No. 9 recruit out of Los Osos High. “(Neuheisel) never told me straight up I’m not redshirting. You never know with the quarterback situation how things are going to go, if guys are going to get hurt. He’s always told me, ‘Stay ready, if I can get you in the game, I’m going to.’ The opportunity came about, and luckily I was prepared.”
Brehaut entered the game with just less than five minutes to play and connected on both of his passes for 39 yards, including a 30-yard pass to Nelson Rosario.
Brehaut said he was well-prepared, having been informed of his possible playing time early. He went about his business in practice all week, just as he has done throughout camp, with the possibility of a redshirt looming overhead.
“I knew in the middle of the week last week,” Brehaut said. “I don’t think it changed my approach. I’ve always been working out here like I’m the one guy. If something happens and I’m that No. 1 guy, I need to be ready. You never know what can happen. What if KP went down? What if Kevin Craft goes down? Then I’m in there like Craft last year. I have to prepare, no matter where I am on the depth chart.”
The decision is not without its controversy, though.
Brehaut came to Westwood as a highly touted recruit, and after Prince won the starting job, it seemed clear that the newcomer would redshirt. Now, though, the two will compete for playing time throughout their careers at UCLA.
“I have to realize that I always have to put in that work,” Brehaut said. “Kev knows his stuff. He got that redshirt where he knows everything down pat. I just have to work extra hard to make sure we can keep that competition up. If we are both at that high level, it’s only going to be better for the position.”
In the meantime, Brehaut will take any opportunity he can get.
“Right now, no, I don’t think I have to catch up,” Brehaut said. “(Prince is) above the bar a little bit on me. I have a base for all the schemes. But I have to get better at the little details, with every single thing I have to do.”
On Tuesday’s practice:
“It was a pretty good practice; like all install days, they have their rough spots. For the most part, I felt the guys showed good focuses and are mindful on the level of their opponents.”
On using Damien Thigpen immediately:
“He’s got that kind of gamebreaking ability. We have to find ways to give him chances. I could tell you how, but then I’d have to kill you.”
On Courtney Viney:
“The guy just finds ways to make plays. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but you can’t tell him that. That’s why small people can play this game, because they don’t know they’re small and won’t buy into the thought they are. Courtney was ‘Johnny on the Spot’ the other night, and we needed him.”
On blasting crowd noise over the speakers later in practice:
“Gotta get time to talk things through as you learn the plan. I expect that we can settle them down here shortly. We’ve done that before around here. It wasn’t a completely novel idea. But human nature is, when you’re trying to concentrate and you learning new things, you want quiet. It’s like being in an automobile when you’re lost; first thing you do is turn off the radio.”
Just got done talking to Courtney Viney – one bright kid – and I’ll have some interviews for you shortly.
Some quick tidbits:
*Kai Maiava sat out of practice with a sore back, with Jake Dean filling in at center, but he is expected to play on Saturday
*Glenn Love was hobbling throughout practice with a sore ankle, but is also expected to play
*Gavin Ketchum was out in full pads jogging a bit, but still is doubtful for Saturday
*Brian Price was out of practice, too, with an banged up leg, but he’ll play Saturday.
Coming soon: Rick Neuheisel, Courtney Viney, Richard Brehaut, Carnell Lake and Damien Thigpen…
On playing so many freshmen:
“Part of it out of necessity and part of it is there are kids who are ready to play. I had some true freshman play in my time at both Washington and Colorado. But I’ve never had this many. That is a sign of two things; our depth is still an issue and also the quality of our recruiting class.”
On Rahim Moore:
“Rahim is one of those guys who is just gifted with a great personality. He’s one of the jokesters on the team. He has a smile on his face 24/7. He loves football and being a student. There’s no one who gets more out of life than Rahim Moore.”
On the coaching staff being perfectionists:
“When you get a chance to look at tape, there are things you can be better at. Tim Hundley, who coaches the safeties, I know while congratulating him on the award, also said that we have to put that aside for a second and look at all these things we can improve upon. Truthfully, that can be said about every kid in the program.”
On what he saw from UCLA:
“We’ve got a little bit more ability to be explosive. We’ve got some kids in the program who are going to make some big plays. Guys like Johnathan Franklin, Kevin Prince, even Richard Brehaut, who only threw two passes; we’ve got the chance to get the balls down the field. A year ago, that was all but impossible.
Now we have to just go down into being a more consistent offense.”
On his players not psyching themselves out:
“What they don’t know won’t hurt them. I thought long and hard about it during the offseason, and I don’t think you hide anything. We’re going into one of the great venues of college football. When you list the top 5 or top 10, its going to be on it. The crowd they get on a weekly basis, they’ll all be in orange, it’s going to be a vertical type of stadium, and it’s what you dream about when you’re a kid. We have to soak that up for a brief time, and then we have to forget about it and pay attention to what’s happening between the lines.”