Monday Football News

Defensive end Dave Ball collects some accolades, and some lofty national rankings; Head Coach Karl Dorrell comments about the Washington game, the quarterback situation and more; and we have an update of various personnel issues...

Defensive end Dave Ball leads nation in sacks, averaging 1.7 per game with a total of 8.5 in five games. Ball was named Pac-10 defensive player of the week for collecting 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles against Washington.

UCLA's defense is retained the #1 spot in total defense in the Pac-10, giving up an average of 294 yards a game. Washington is still second, giving up an average of 303 yards per game. UCLA is 16th in the nation in total defense, 23rd in rushing defense (92.6/game), and 21st in pass efficiency defense (103.18 rating).

Personnel Update:

Jarrad Page is considered doubtful. In a collision with linebacker Dennis Link during the fourth quarter of the Washington game, Page injured his shoulder. He'll have to be evaluated as the week progresses. Kevin Brant or Nnamdi Ohaeri is next in line to start at either safety position and since Ohaeri is the designnated nickel back, Head Coach Karl Dorrell believed it would be Brant taking over Page's starting position.

Dorrell was encouraged that Asi Faoa was not in a boot on Monday, having sprained an ankle against Washington. He said Faoa feels pretty good and will more than likely be prepared to play Saturday.

Keith Carter, the tight end who has been out since last spring when he severely injured his hip in a motorcycle accident is getting closer to returning to the field. Dorrell said about Carter Monday: "He has good practices and then may not have as good the next. He had a good week last week. I think it's a lot like we were talking about Matt (Moore). We want to make sure he's in a situation where he does practice, and the following day we don't want any setbacks, as if he took a step backward. He's at that point now. He's hoping to play here probably in his mind, some in this game (against Arizona) and for sure in the Cal game. We have to make sure he's capable of doing those things without having any setbacks. It's hard to tell when but I think it's going to be soon, fairly soon."

Starting center Mike McCloskey suffered a fractured ankle against the Huskies, and redshirt freshman center Robert Chai filled in for almost three quarters of the game. Dorrell said he was more than pleased with Chai's performance: "I thought Robert stepped in and did a very admirable job. I didn't notice any difference in our line. If anything, it might have gotten a little bit better, to be honest. He did a nice job of stepping in and filling the role. I didn't see any issues with him being in there. We're very fortunate to have that type of player backing up our guard and center positions. Obviously he's going to be our starting center now. Our depth is what it is. We don't have much and we just have to keep hanging on and keep knocking on wood that it doesn't hit us again."

Fullback Sean Norton is also doubtful for Saturday, despite insisting he'll play. Dorrell said, "He wants to play this week. But I don't know. He still has quite a bit of swelling in that ankle. We'll have to see what he can do this week."

Manuel White and Brandon Chillar also reported a few minor bumps and bruises but are expected to be 100% for Saturday.

Joe Tomasello, the JC longsnapper, is in school at UCLA but ineligible to practice because of academic issues. He's expected to be eligible by next season.

Jibril Raymo, the wide receiver/safety who left the program and left school, is not expected to return to the team next year.

Quarterback Situation:

Dorrell answered many questions about the status of the starting quarterback spot and the situation between Drew Olson and Matt Moore.

When asked if the situation had changed this week, Dorrell said: "It's the same as last week. Nothing has changed. We're going to continue to evaluate Matt and see where he's at. Drew's done a tremendous job for us. He's obviously has been our starter, and that's something we'll continue to evaluate as the week goes on. Nothing has changed from my standpoint from what I've said before."

On whether there's any chance that Moore could start or to safely assume Olson will: "That's my assumption as well. We're going under the impression of getting Matt ready to play. And getting his health evaluated and getting his timing back. I have no difference from what I said last week. I have no difference from what I said on Saturday."

On whether Moore will get playing time in the game: "We'll see. We'll see how he does in practice. We want to make sure he's fully healthy, and has all of his capabilities that are necessary for him to perform. That was a four to six week injury. So we want to make sure that if and when he's ready to play that we're doing the best thing for him and for our football team."

On how Moore did in practice last week: "He practiced Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Tuesday was a little bit rough. Wednesday was better, and then Thursday usually is a day where the starter gets 90% of the reps, so he didn't get many reps on Thursday. But he did okay. Hopefully he'll have a better week this week."

On quarterbacks coach Steve Axman commenting last week that Moore was rusty in his timing and possibly how long it takes to get that back: "There's no strict gauge telling you when his timing will be back. That's an issue that changes from player to player. We're hoping it comes back really quickly. As to a time frame, I couldn't tell you. That's something that's one of our concerns. We want to make sure he has all of his capabilities. We'll evaluate his situation as to when he'll be back. We don't want to rush it when Drew has done a very good job."

On whether, hypothetically, if Olson hadn't played well, would they be trying to rush back Moore: "We're always going to error on the health side. To throw someone in there when he's not quite ready to do it, and he re-injures that particular injury, that's not smart on our part. That's an interesting hypothetical situation, but I think we'd probably be the same way."

On Dorrell's previous comments that a starter doesn't lose his job to an injury: "We'll determine who does what given the circumstances. But my general feeling is that no one loses a position because of an injury. That's just how I feel. But we're going to do what's best for our team and best for our program."

On the possibility that Moore could start sometime during the season: "That's foreseeable, yes."

When finally asked if whether Olson keeps improving could he hold on to the starting job, Dorrell exhaustedly answered, "I don't know."

More Comments

Dorrell praised Olson for his performance last Saturday and his improvement: "He's gotten better week after week, and that's one of the things you notice as a coach. He's one of those guys that makes a mistake or two, but he's starting to realize that's he's in the position you're going to do that some, but how strongly are you mentally to battle back and get to a winning situation. That's what I see in the kid. Right now he's a war daddy. He gets hit a lot. He'll get up. He'll make a mistake or two. He'll get chastised, and he'll get right back in there and battle. He has all the traits you want for a quarterback. I'd be concerned if it was the opposite, if we felt we couldn't talk to him when he made a mistake. He's a tough kid. He's learning the system very well. And you can see that every week. He's getting better and better."

The coaches and the players have been maintaining for the first four weeks of the season that the offense would eventually click and turn a corner, which could be said happened to a degree in the second half of the Washington game. Dorrell commented: "We had some good, positive, bigger steps that could help us become the team we think we can become. We were able to do some things in the second half of the Washington game that we knew that as a staff we had the potential to do those kinds of things. It was nice to finally have everything start to click on all phases. That's what I was really pleased about. I thought our players showed a lot of resolve, coming in at halftime, obviously regrouping and coming out in the second half with an urgency to get things done. We feel that was a huge step for our team. We want to try to capitalize off of that, leading into this week, and hopefully doing a lot better job of executing. We've been getting better the last four or five weeks and we want to continue that trend. We have Arizona this week, obviously they've had their own issues, but in this conference, any team can really surprise you and do good things. We're going to get their best shot, and they'll get our best shot. My job is to challenge our team to prepare for this game just like we've done the last five games, and putting your best effort out there on Saturday.

"I definitely see it as a building block. The foundation has been set for quite some time. Maybe that's harder for you all to see, compared to what I've seen for the last five weeks. Every Saturday we've played hard and done some good thing, even though there were a couple of games we came up short. In terms of what we've done as a foundation for our team, that has been very, very consistent – our effort, and our passion to play on Saturday. Now we're getting execution to go along with the things we've built. We ended up putting together a pretty good half. I think they see the picture, the light starting to come on, why we work on those little things over and over again, because it's finally going to click into place, and you're going to have the type of performance you're capable of having. Those are the things we're going to draw from this game, of what our capabilities could be. We proved it for a half, so now we want to begin that way and be able to sustain it for four quarters."

On limiting Reggie Williams in his effectiveness: "That was one of the things we wanted to do with our game plan, to try to restrict the big play. We knew he was going to get his number of touches, but we just didn't want them to be 80-yard touches. We wanted them to be more in a restricted area, let him catch, get what he needs to get, and our defense did a good job of doing that. We had a good plan for what we needed to accomplish."

On the momentum swing UCLA experienced after Rodney Leisle's fumble recovery: "It was the second play that turned the momentum. The first play was the kickoff coverage. Then the second play. Those two successive plays really jump-started our football team. We rode the momentum all the way through the second half. I think it was a big learning experience for the guys on special teams and defense – how big a factor those kind of plays can be."

On the production of the tailback position: "They did a nice job. Manuel is kind of our workhorse. And we wanted to do a better thing of packaging things for the other guys. Those other guys did well with what they were supposed to do. Our game plan of using all three of them went as expected. And it was nice to get some production out of all three. We'll probably continue that type of trend in our offense. All three of those guys can be factors in a game."

Tyler Ebell is listed in the depth chart as the starter at tailback after Dorrell said last week that Manuel White was the starter. He tried to explain why: "That's still the same way. We have a way of doing things depending on how we start the game and who we use. If we're throwing the ball, we want these backs in. There's a particular way we do it, even though it might not make any sense to you. But that's the way we line up and just depending on what we're doing at the beginning of the game. That's how we feel the positions should be."

On the continued proliferation of penalties: "I think the penalty issue is something...we're having issues while we're watching the tape and we see things some of them are discretionary. I think most of them were discretionary this particular week as compared to San Diego State. That's something that we as coaches have to continue to harp on. I don't think most of those penalties were malicious, but discretionary issues as to whether it was a holding call or pass interference. The thing that I don't want to ever discourage is playing hard. Sometimes that's part of the produce of when you play hard. That's also something you can correct, if you keep working on those issues and stress the fundamentals of football. We have to continue to work on playing hard but playing smart. I think those issues will start to subside."

On talking to Matt Clark to keep up his confidence and whether he's lost it: "Not really. He's very familiar with what we do. The corner position is very hard. It's like quarterback on the other side. You're the one if you throw interceptions or get sacked everyone sees it, and you don't know if it was a protection issue or if it's the quarterback's fault. The corner position is like the pitcher. You're going to get a home run hit against you, you're going to get beat. But can you battle back. Can you continue to compete and all of those things. The one thing about Matt Clark is he does compete. He's had a very good year, and he played very well on Saturday. Every kid goes through symptoms when they're not quite sure. Sometimes that's our job, to give him a little pep talk, get him back in there, and let's go do it. I'm very satisfied with how he's playing. The thing is that he understands is that he's smaller than Matt Ware. So on a week to week basis, everybody is going to look at 6 more than 17. He's ready for the challenge. He's going to be our guy. That's how it is."

On freshman wide receiver Joe Cowan: "We are bringing him along more and more each week. He's played more snaps on offense and he's starting to fill a lot more comfortable out there. He's on our special teams as a gunner and doing a nice job. As the season progresses, he'll be getting more and more in the fold."

On middle linebacker Justin London: "He's getting better. He's getting more familiar, the signal caller. He's a very passionate, energized player. A young player. He'll get a little too excited and will have a missed assignment here or there. For the most part he's the kind of guy you want as the middle linebacker. He's the one they feel off of. He's always excited about playing. He's jumping around the field, and all those players on defense feed off of his energy, along with some others. He's done a nice job for us so far."

On how you channel the energy of someone like London: "Experience. It's like any young player. You have to get him in there and he's going to make a few mistakes here and there but his mistakes have been less and less as he plays more and more. He's getting more comfortable with his role. His physical talent is already starting to take over. He'll get familiar with what he's supposed to be doing and become the player we envision him to be."

On Craig Bragg: "He's a difference maker type of player. He made quite a few in that game to extend drives. He's one of those players, one of many on our team, when they make a play, it kind of energizes our team. He's a player that's looked highly upon by his teammates. There are certain expectations he has for himself. All those plays he made in the game he said it was because he was supposed to. He doesn't see it as anything different, nor do I. Yeah, that was a good catch on that one deep one. But I expect him to make that catch. I think he has the same expectations for himself. Am I surprised how he's playing? He's just playing to the caliber of what he should be doing."

On whether Bragg is ahead of the curve on understanding the offense: "I think all of them are starting to get a pretty good understanding of it now. I think that's the reason things are starting to click. Just like Drew has gotten better. Everything's getting better position by position on the offense. They're starting to becoming more familiar with what we're doing. That's no different for Craig."

On facing the worst team in the conference this week in Arizona: "I've always said that from the beginning our only concern is ourselves, for us to do what's best for ourselves and get ready to play every Saturday. We have to treat this week like the other four or five weeks we just had. We can't worry about the issues that are going on in that program. The only thing we can control is what we can do in our own program, and that's getting better week after week. It seems like we're starting to get more continuity with our team, so we want to keep building on those issues, and continue to play with the same passion and intensity that we've been consistent with so far this season. So our concern is ourselves more than anything.

They [Arizona] are going to find a way to turn things around. To me that's what makes this week a particularly stressful week. They can make a wholesale change on either side of the ball. You're not quite sure what's going to happen. So that's why we have to do our part of preparing ourselves to go into any possible given situation in Tucson. We have to be ready to play. That's something that concerns me. They could change things on defense or offense, and we have to be able to adjust right away."

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