Neuheisel, Palcic and Embree on Thursday

The team goes over the wall again Thursday, this time after practice and at the request of Head Coach Rick Neuheisel. We also get comments from Offensive Line Coach Bob Palcic and freshman wide receiver Taylor Embree...

The players went over the wall again after practice…but this time, Head Coach Rick Neuheisel actually forced them to climb the wall to leave.

Rick Neuheisel's comments:

At least they did it right this time...

"They did it right this time, exactly right."

And Brandon Bennett made it...

"Did he? Outstanding.

"Good practice today. Good practice today. We've got to get our center-quarterback exchange straightened out. It's absolutely driving me crazy and the only way I know how to do it is to bombard it with attention. So, we just gotta go back to the drawing board and get done what I think we can get done. But, I liked the intensity, I think they came out eager and I think we'll get a great effort out of them tomorrow under the lights. I know everyone feels a little faster under the lights. It'll be a good one."

How many plays this time?

"A little bit less than last time. I think we did 90 last time. I'd say somewhere between 65 and 80."

That's good because we're on deadline...

"Everything I do I keep you guys in mind (he then invited all of the media to the football alumni dinner)."

How will you split time tomorrow (at quarterback)?

"We'll talk about that tomorrow. We'll see exactly how to go about it, and I'll tell you about it after if you're not able to see it when you're watching."

Do you think you'll maybe get Ben Olson a look with the No. 1 group?

"He was with the number ones a bunch today and we dropped a snap about ten times. I got to get him more with Micah Reed so we don't do that. It was at least six balls on the ground. And, obviously that's a non-starter."

Why do you think it was happening?

"The only thing I can think of is that it's a different top hand. A left hander's got a left hand on top and a right hander has a right hand on top. We just gotta make sure we get that problem solved."

is it more the center or the quarterback or some kind of combination?

"It's got to be a combination. The ball is coming either short or up. If the ball comes up it's usually not quite catching the quarterback's hands correctly. We've gotta get our hands further in. We'll get it fixed."

Is Nick Ekbatani going to go a little tomorrow?

"That's our hope, at least some. We don't want to hurry him and then not have him next week. If we need to rest him one more day and not get him any reps so we can have him for a full week next week, that might be the more prudent thing to do."

What have you seen from Nate Chandler?

"He's a great prospect, he's just raw. That's what you do, you mold him, you mold him and mold him and all of a sudden he becomes accomplished."

What do you need to do with him?

"It's still rote memory right now. The offense hasn't been engraved in his subconscious yet. He uses athleticism. He's thinking about where to put his feet rather than just putting his feet there and until that happens, it looks a little mechanical."

What have you seen out of Ryan Moya now that he's back playing?

"I like Ryan. I think he's got a lot going on in his head, too, learning a new offense. As he settles down, his natural athleticism is going to be more evident as well. He made a play today where he made a guy miss. That's what he needs to be for us. A guy who can touch the ball and get a lot of junk yardage."

Can you tell he didn't play last year?

"Yeah, he's rusty. That's why these practices are so important."

Comments from freshman wide receiver Taylor Embree whose dad, of course, is former UCLA tight end coach Jon Embree.

So I hear you can catch pretty much anything?

"Yeah, I mean, I just try to catch everything thrown my way."

Are there any special drills you've done to make you so good at catching the ball?

"I use the jug machine a lot. But really I did a lot of stuff with my hands and playing around with the football a lot. Just kind of work my hands. A lot of drills where your back is to the ball and you have to turn around and catch it. Concentration, reacting, trying to find the ball. I just grew up catching balls all the time from my dad whenever he was doing drills or at football camps I always stay after to catch balls on the jug machine or play catch with the quarterback. I'm always looking for an opportunity to do work catching the ball."

Do you ever do anything where you try to practice by catching smaller balls?

"Well, I've done stuff like that, but that's more so you get guys to focus on the ball. What you do is you take a tennis ball and paint it different colors and then have guys throw that at you and when you catch it you say 'red or blue or black' and that's just so you'll concentrate on it. That's keeping your eye on the ball. That's really just to make sure you keep your eyes on the ball. That's another thing I'll do, when I'm in a drill, and if the ball's high, I look at the ball and watch it all the way in. You might not do that in a game, but it helps you and it becomes a habit to watch the ball in."

What has coach Reggie Moore taught you about your technique?

"He's got us doing ball drills. He's really good at the technical stuff, like running routes. You know, getting in and out of plays, and keeping your hands up, so that when the balls there, you can get out of your break and just make the catch."

Have you ever had balls thrown to you from these kind of arms?

"Oh yeah. My dad coached with the Kansas City Chiefs, so I used to always catch balls from them. And even when I was way little my dad used to just launch balls at me. You know, he wasn't trying to hurt me, just get me ready. Even the jug machines, if you go harder, it makes these balls a little easier to catch."

Do you think that naturally you just have pretty good hand-eye coordination?

"I think I got it from my dad. He's got pretty good hands. I think it's pretty natural, but it's something I've worked at and that I'm going to continue to work at. I look at it as, today I dropped a couple of balls and I was not happy about that at all. Like, I think I should catch every ball thrown to me, whether it's high, low, or behind me."

Do you see spring as a real opportunity to showcase yourself given the lack of depth right now?

"Oh yeah, definitely, because we're low on wide receivers. Right now I get a chance to learn the offense and show what I can do, so I'm a step ahead of the people coming in. They control their destiny and I control mine."

Comments from Offensive Line Coach Bob Palcic.

Generally, how do you look at the development of the o-line thus far this spring?

"I think for the most part we've improved each and every practice. We still have a long way to go, but we pretty much have everything installed that will be going in for the Tennessee game, so the learning process will slow down and the execution should improve."

What did you think was the problem with the center exchanges today?

"I'm not sure. I don't know if the quarterback didn't have his hands up in the exchange enough or if the center wasn't lifting the ball to the pressure."

Have you ever had a line with this little experience?

"The line that I had at the University of Wisconsin two years ago...Joe Thomas, the Outland Trophy winner, didn't practice in the spring...that line, minus the Outland trophy winner, was pretty much like this line. And we won twelve games, so I'm confident that if we keep working hard, and keep concentrating and pay attention to details that we can develop into a solid unit."

Do you see anyone who has that Thomas-level talent who can come in in the fall to help?

"No, I said minus Joe Thomas. But these are a bunch of hard-working young kids. It's not going to happen overnight, but I've been in this business thirty nine years and you got to be patient but be demanding. I really believe that in time we will get to where we have to be."

Is this one of the toughest challenges you've had as a coach?

"This ranks up there with the toughest challenges I've had, yes."

What do you see differently, just judging by the technique of the guys, between you and the former o-line coaches here?

"I don't know, I didn't even pay attention to any of that."

But you don't see yourself in a position of unteaching what those guys have taught?

"I don't know what was taught prior to me getting here and I really don't care. I just am going about my business and handling practice and teaching the way I've been handling it a long long time."

But have you made it kind of a clean slate teaching method, where everything starts at square one?

"I started at square one with them. We just went to work. I got into these situations assuming they know nothing. We start from the stance and the first step and the second step and the landing point and that's where we started."

What do you think of the depth at the o-line?

"Eh, those years I was in the NFL, we would go into the game with only seven players. I have to find seven guys. It's not like I have to have 15, I only need seven."

Are they jumping out to you right yet?
"No, not yet, but that's good. I want there to be competition."

With the incoming class, it seems the only place where there is no real help coming is o-line. Is that an issue for you?

"Well I've never worried about that. Freshmen will very seldom play, so I'm not counting on them."

Unless they're Jonathan Ogden...

"Well, tell you what, I've had a couple. But they come around once every 15 years."

Thursday's practice report comes courtesy of BRO Message Boarder smilingjeffrey: Practice Report

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