Starting cornerback Matt Clark is currently considered unavailable to play this Saturday at Oklahoma. UCLA can't comment, due to student academic privacy issues, but it's a situation that UCLA is trying to resolve this week in time for Saturday.
Clark received a grade in a class last school year that made him academically ineligible, but apparently Clark is trying to appeal to the professor of the class and have the opportunity to improve that grade.
Head Coach Karl Dorrell said that Clark would practice with the team this week and prepare to play on Saturday.
Linebacker Spencer Havner did not start the Illinois game, having missed time in practice last week due to his shoulder injury. Karl Dorrell indicated Monday that Havner got the majority of plays at his position and played well enough Saturday against Illinois to prove to the coaching staff that he is close to full recovery.
While there has been some speculation that Manuel White could supplant Tyler Ebell as the starting tailback this week after his 102-yard performance against Illinois, but Dorrell squashed that speculation. Dorrell said: "Tyler is still our starter. It's just a matter, if Tyler's hot, Tyler stays in. We still have our plan. We have to play Manuel. Manuel's a very good talent for us. Just like I said in week one – we're going to make sure he has those opportunities to do things for our offense, whether that's catching or running the football. Will Manuel get the same amount of carries this coming Saturday? I really couldn't tell you. The complexion of the game will determine that. But his role in our offense will be just as much as his role was this past week.
"I think Manuel White was the hot back. When he had an opportunity, even when there was nothing there, he was able to get some yardage for us. There were a couple of drives in the third quarter, and he ripped off a couple of big runs for us and was carrying people down the field. It's more of a feel thing than anything. That's usually how things play out in the backfield. If you have a hot back that has the feel of the game better than the other, we'll tend to feature that back until the water runs dry. For Manuel, he kept rolling."
Much has been made of the many drops by the UCLA receivers in the Illinois game, and Dorrell said it's an issue that will be fixed: "We have to settle the receivers down. It's not that they don't have great practice habits. They do. It's so much about them wanting to make a play because they know the offense needs someone to make a play. Usually that's working against them. Our job is to stay the course. We feel at some point in time, and hopefully this is the point in time when we're going to see more production in our passing game. Nobody has lost confidence in those guys, it's just a matter of getting those things executed and hopefully it will begin this week for us and be evident this Saturday."
Keith Short started the game in place of Clark and Dorrell had praise for the senior cornerback, and explained why the coaching staff went with Short over Marcus Cassel: "Keith played particularly well in the first game when a couple of our corners got tired and he was thrown in the game against Colorado and played particularly well. With it being Marcus's first game to play, I think our defensive staff felt more comfortable with Keith since he had some playing experience from the first week. They challenged him toward the end. They challenged Matt Ware at first, and Matt made a couple of big break ups and had an interception. And then they went on the other side and Keith was able to do what we coached him to do and he performed very well. It was a good call for our staff to put him in that position."
Brandon Chillar and Justin Medlock were named the defensive and special teams players of the week.
The win over Illinois was Karl Dorrell's first victory as a UCLA coach, but the 500th win in UCLA history.
UCLA's defense is giving up an average of 264 yards a game, #1 in the Pac-10 and 16th in the country. The defense also ranks 9th in the country in points allowed, averaging 9.5. UCLA's offense has gained an average of 223.5 yards a game, last in the Pac-10, and astonishingly last among the entire 117 teams in 1-A college football.
The top two tacklers among Pac-10 players currently are Brandon Chillar and Ben Emanuel. Chillar is averaging 13 tackles a game, and Emanuel 11.
More Comments from Karl Dorrell...
On thinking about playing #1-ranked Oklahoma:
"We have to take care of ourselves first. This week is no bigger than it is going into any other game on a week to week basis. I think the issues that will help us against Oklahoma are the ones we need to address in any given week, and those are the ones that are plaguing us right now. I feel that with our team if we execute better in all of our phases we're going to be in the position we want to be in with Oklahoma. So it's just a matter of us doing the things we need to do to improve. Obviously this is the #1 team in the country and it's a great challenge, but every week is a great challenge. Regardless of who they are we're going to have to perform and do the things UCLA needs to do to be successful. So we'll worry about our issues first before worrying about in particular about what Oklahoma does. I'm worried about UCLA. I'm going to get UCLA ready to play, to play well, and we're going into Norman and winning the football game."
On whether the offense has lost confidence:
"I don't think so. They're wondering why these issues have happened. I think they realize we just have to settle down and focus. And have a little bit more mental focus in practice and make those practices more game-like. The points I've been trying to stress since spring ball are starting to come across more."
On whether Ebell might not be suited for this type of offense:
"It's too early to make that determination for me. It's only after week two. I don't really think it's an issue whether we run the ball differently, or he runs the ball differently. It's a matter of us just actually playing better football."
On what needs to improve offensively:
"Everything. I think we can run the ball better. We can catch it, we can throw it, block. I think there are a lot of different areas that need to be improved. We have a young offense and a new system. And I think when everything shows improvement on that week to week basis we'll reap the benefit of watching the players make those plays. There's not one area that we can't use improvement in. I think our coaching staff, that's the stance they're taking right now, to improve our overall performance as an offense in all phases."
On just how good Oklahoma is:
"Pretty good. They're solid. They're a solid football team. They have as good as skills on their offense and defense as anybody. That's why they are where they are. They're playing well, and coach Stoops is obviously a very good defensive coach, and has put together great defenses. And this is no different than any other year than when he's been at Oklahoma."
On whether the UCLA defense is the same caliber as Oklahoma's:
"I think our defense is already at that caliber. I think we can be better. I think those plans and issues are in motion now. We continue to get better week to week where our defense will be able to perform with anyone in the country. And that's what we're hoping to accomplish."
On whether the UCLA offense is the kind that could come back from a large deficit:
"I'm not going to look at it that way, as the glass being half empty. What if we're up by two touchdowns? Can we hold on to the lead? That's the way I'm looking at it."
On whether he trusts the offense:
"Yes I do. The worst thing you can do as a coach is not believe in what you're doing. There's not a single coach or player that feels that way. There are issues under our control we need to fix but that's why we'll get those things fixed."
On whether he prepares trick plays?
"You do think about those things. And we do like to have one or two in every game plan. But I think a lot of that depends on your experience level with your team. Those are things you're trying to build as you go along. There is always a trick or two up anyone's sleeve, but what we're trying to establish, putting in the foundation of what you want to do, you want to make sure you're able to execute those things first. And then take it step by step in getting the other things involved."
On Jason White, Oklahoma's quarterback:
"Their offense, they can move it. They're an offense that can spread you out. A lot of their running game is quick passes. Their philosophy in their offense is a five-yard catch is a five-yard run. There's nothing wrong with that. That's a productive way of doing offense. And he does a great job of operating in that system. He's an experienced player that's been there a while and it's nice to have that kind of experienced player that understands your system."
On whether Stoops has designed a blueprint for building a program:
"I think recruiting is a big factor in any program that you build. When you can recruit as well as anyone in the country, that gives you a great chance. You have to coach them and do all the other issues, and get them to play well, which puts you in a position to win more football games and then you're in a situation where you're among the best in the country. UCLA will be there someday. That's what we're aiming to do, to put ourselves in that position. We have to start somewhere and that's where we're at. Hopefully we'll build from this point on from a week to week basis. There's no magic formula. It's just a matter of doing the steps you need to make to build a solid program that can sustain that level of success from a year to year basis."
On what kind of lift a win over Oklahoma could be for the program:
The only thing I think about is that it could move us to 2-1. And moves us on to the next week. That's the process we're taking. It's a twelve-round fight and each week we're going to line up and put our best on the field. If we win, great, we'll enjoy the moment, and then we're on to the next week. This particular year is a great challenge for our program. It's going to see where we're at. And our players understand that. They'll be ready for the challenge on a week to week basis."