"We're finally into game week. We're excited about getting out of camp and getting ready for an opponent. We've already started some of our preliminary game-planning for San Diego State. We did that over the weekend. Things are going to shape up pretty nicely for us. We plan on doing some certain things differently this week because of the night game, it's to probably have two practices as night, Tuesday and Wednesday, to get a feel of the lights, particularly for our skill positions. We normally don't play at night all that much. It gives those guys a chance to adjust to the ball, punt returners and kick-off returners, and things like that.
"In terms of the camp, we had a really good camp. I'm real excited about the prognosis of how things have turned out. The only disappointing fact was Kevin Brown, the injury he had, and the length of time he will be out. He's obviously a very talented football player and we're not going to be able to have him early on in this season. But we have some very capable people that can do a nice job for us. We're used to this kind of pattern before. We had a young defensive line last year, and some guys that had to play and grow up early. We're not as young as we were a year ago. We're a little bit better in terms of technique and size, and all of those things. We still may have a young player or two that has to play for us, which is better than having six or seven new guys having to play for you.
"Camp went great. We had a great battle, in every position on the field. The last battle everyone was concerned with was quarterback, and we got that cleared up. I was really happy with how everything turned out. The corner position is still very competitive. We have four and five very good corners that will get playing time in this game. We don't think there's much of a drop-off when those guys are playing. I'm excited that the depth at corner is the best it's been for us since I've been here. Other than that, we're in good shape, health-wise. We have some nicks and bruises. But nothing of real significance, other than Kevin Brown. And we're hoping to get everything ready to go by Saturday night."
Talk a little bit about Drew Olson, how he looks different this year...
"He's physically in better shape than he's been before. The injury, when he had it last season, was a pretty good wake-up call for him. He ended up being in much better shape than he's ever been since he's been here, and his legs look great. He looks quicker than he's ever been. He's sharper with his decision-making out on the field. There are a number of things. His experience has helped him. I think this injury has helped him mature a little bit and put things in perspective. He's had an excellent camp."
How's Ben Olson's bruised hand?
"He'll practice today some. We'll see. We'll have to see how he does on a day-to-day basis."
What led to the decision to make Nathaniel Skaggs the starting nose tackle?
"He played inside in the spring, and we moved him back outside in camp, thinking that we had enough depth inside. But losing Kevin we brought him back inside. He's done a nice job. He has the strength and size you need inside. He's a lot more comfortable playing inside, being a former center in high school, and playing inside with the tackles and nose guards. It's a natural fit for him."
What are your thoughts on San Diego State, and in particular Lynell Hamilton. He had a great 2003...
"I think they have a young team. It's probably more talented than it's been in the past couple of years. I think with Lynell Hamilton, with him getting his health back, he did a tremendous job against us a couple of years ago. We didn't play against him last year. I think he's a quality tailback. He's powerful, strong, quick, and can make people miss and handle the tough yards running off tackle. I think he's going to have a tremendous impact season for them. I'm sure he's hungry. He's missed a year. He has to have a great desire to get back into the flow of things, and I'm sure he'll be a feature this coming Saturday. They're also talented in other areas, too, particularly at wide receiver. They have a lot of experience at receiver. They have a good nucleus of their offensive line back. Their quarterback I hear has done a nice job in training camp and has improved quite a bit from where he was a year ago. So on offense they have some good core players that are returning that are going to make them a pretty potent offense. On defense, they're young. They graduated some linebackers. But I've heard that their linebackers are young but talented, quick and aggressive, and much in line to the graduating group that just left their program last year. Defensive line, they're probably more athletic than they've been in the past. They're probably not as big, but they probably do some great things with movement. San Diego State, particularly on defense, has always been a trouble for us offensively because they do move a lot, twist and blitz, and do a lot of different things that puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback and the offensive line. So, it's going to be another one of those games where I'm sure they're going to attack us with a good game plan and we're going to have to execute our game plan to do what we need to do."
How tough is it preparing for such a young team?
"It's tough preparing for any opponent, particularly your first opponent because you don't know exactly what they're going to do. They've made some changes offensively, and we're not sure exactly what they're going to do offensively. There is some different personnel there. Their best back is back from a year ago that missed a season. So there are some things there that we don't have certainties with, but we have to be ready to make adjustments along the way. There are some things we're doing differently, too, some things they haven't experienced from us for the last couple of years. So they'll have to make adjustments as well. I think the first game of the year is always the toughest one because there isn't a game under your belt. You don't have a strong clue or indicator exactly what this team is all about. But we'll be ready for whatever challenge they bring to us, and we're going to have to do our adjustments to make ourselves successful."
Have you been able to install most of your game plan on offense? Compared to perhaps the first year... "It is a lot more than it was the first year. It's three years into it, so it's a lot more in depth. It has a lot more flexibility in it than its first year. That's just because there's more experience here. The core of the offense is in the program, so our young players have a pretty good inkling of what it is. As they gradually become starters or back-ups they have a pretty good knowledge base of what we're doing. It's pretty much intact now."
"Chris Joseph and Brigham are fine. They'll be fine to play. Question marks will still be Slater and Everett. They're supposed to do some things on a limited basis this week, but we're not really counting on them. We're really moving on with what we have. They are listed day-to-day. It just depends on how quickly they recover."
How do you expect Maurice Drew to be a better back this year?
"We do expect him to be even better. His experience, for one. He'll be a much smarter player. He understands our offense a whole lot better now than what it was three years ago. Those things are natural., when you've been a key part of the system for three years. Physically he's in great shape. He didn't miss a practice through camp. We expect a lot of great things from him. But we don't expect to overload him, though. We are capable of playing some other people. Chris Markey is going to get some playing time in the game. Kahlil Bell is going to get some playing time in the game. We don't want to run the horse into the ground, so to speak. We want to make sure we're keeping him fresh. And we have some change-ups with the pitching with the other two guys coming into play."
Do you get the sense from the way the players went about fall practice that going 1-0 is something really important?
"It's something we talked about all through the off-season until now. They were buzzing pretty good in the weight room this morning. They're excited about it finally being game week and getting a chance to challenge one of our goals, and that's starting off the season the way we should. It's on their mind, sure. It's on all of our minds. We want to have a great week's preparation, to get ourselves to play at our optimum on Saturday night. So just judging from what I saw this morning in the weight room, it's a good feeling and we're ready to go."
A lot of the players talked about this being a different camp in terms of attitude. What does that really mean at this point?
"They have a better understanding of what our expectations are in this program. I think we spent quite a bit of time on our foundation, the certain aspects, the standards of how we do things. We got feedback from them. We've also given our feedback. We're just all on the same page. I think it's difficult when you're a new coach and the philosophy is different than what it's been. I think there's some transitioning that has to happen. I think we're through that transition period now. I think we have clear-cut, stated goals that we've set for our program, and expectations, and there is no hesitation or indecisiveness about the aspects of UCLA football. Those are the things that come up more than anything, where there is some clear vision and purpose now."
What are some of the aspects of that foundation you're talking about that are central to you and your philosphy?
"We like to keep it central. That's something that's our team, that we don't like to talk about other than in our family. It's important to us. I think the most important thing we want to reiterate to our people, our fans, the media, is the product of what we do on Saturdays. That's what we need to show, and prove to ourselves, and to people outside of this program, about our program and the direction it's going. Those things are issues that we deal with, and it's important to us and we understand that. We're just anxious to prove it every step of the season this year."
How is your ability to read your team and get a sense of what might happen on game day? How have you changed in getting a sense during the week of what you need to do to get your team ready?
"That goes back to the previous question of where we are as a program. I think the expectations are at a level, and everything is clearly stated. There is a better understanding. Everyone is on the same page. Coaching and peer pressure is what get people to do what they need to do. Right now there is an extreme level of peer pressure in this program. And those are great signs. There are expectations they have amongst each other, and accountability that they have amongst each other that make them hold the line as well. So it's a two-way street. There are coaches and their responsibilities, and their relationships with their players, and there are players counting on the other players in the program. I've said that earlier in the conversation, that there is more electricity going on on Monday, from what I've seen already. Our guys are here and lifted this morning and they were buzzing. It's definitely something in the air, and something we're anxious to do on Saturday."
There wasn't anything significant to report from Monday afternoon's practice.
Ben Olson attempted to throw in some team drills, but couldn't very well. It appears he could be questionable to play Saturday.
Offensive lineman Chris Joseph and Brigham Harwell practiced lightly, being held out to ensure that they'll be ready for Saturday.
Neither of the injured receivers, Marcus Everett and Matt Slater, dressed for practice and are looking very doubtful for the SDSU game.
Dorrell awarded one-year scholarships to four walk-ons - receiver Andrew Baumgartner, linebacker Christian Taylor, safety Charlie Schuh and holder Brian Callahan.
Brandon Nicolas, the 6-4, 270-pound defensive tackle transfer from Notre Dame attended practice Monday. He watched the defensive line drills for most of practice and then spoke with the coaches afterward. He's expected to make a decision between UCLA and Colorado in the next couple of days.