If the offense looks good, there is also the accompanying notion that, then, the defense didn't.
And vice versa.
Watching UCLA go through the paces Saturday night, it was more of the same. You would expect the defense to basically have its way with the offense, since the O was working mostly with fledgling quarterbacks Kevin Craft and Chris Forcier and is breaking in a new scheme from a new offensive coordinator. So, when the offense actually put together a couple of drives, you then started to have concerns about UCLA's defense.
Either way, no matter how you look at it, you really shouldn't take too much from it. For one, it was such a controlled scrimmage it really didn't give you a true sense of the state of the offense – or defense. There were no blitzes allowed, and the offensive play-calling was such that the quarterbacks were still trying to be protected from the rush, with mostly short, three-step throws and various screens.
If you saw Notre Dame's offense at the beginning of last season when it was trying to work in true freshman Jimmy Claussen you'd get the picture. Well, except against UCLA (sorry to bring that one up).
This scrimmage was controlled in its way to protect the offensive line, really. Because if the defense was actually unleashed on it, the UCL coaches realize that it would be an onslaught and the offense would have looked particularly bad in front of 15,056 at least partially inebriated fans at the Rose Bowl.
So, when you read the results of the scrimmage, you have to, first, take the effort to protect UCLA's thin offensive line into consideration.
The quarterbacks were, for the most part, shaky, but had a few good moments. As Rick Neuheisel said afterward, Craft was revved up too much, and was better once he calmed down. After a few failed possessions, he put together a couple that showed some ability to move the ball. In his fourth possession with the first-team offense, he went 50 yards in 10 plays, capping it off with a two-yard touchdown run by fullback Trevor Theriot. The highlight of the drive was a throw by Craft on a third and five to tight end Logan Paulsen down the middle for about 20 yards. Later in the scrimmage, Craft threw a touchdown pass to Gavin Ketchum late in the scrimmage, on a pretty throw over the middle.
Forcier, once he got comfortable, put together perhaps the drive of the night, given the circumstances. The redshirt freshman quarterback drove the second-string offense down the field against the first-string defense on one possession, and put it in the endzone o a 3-yard run by tailback Christian Ramirez. Forcier, working out of the gun (and looking comfortable that way), hit Ketchum on a slant for a key 20-yard completion. He then threw a nice touch pass to tight end Ryan Moya in the flat that went for 18.
Quarterback Osaar Rasshan still looks raw, even though you have to compensate since he was working mostly with the 2s and 3s. He looks the best when he's scrambling and improvising. In fact, he was always very good at Bruin Ball, a kind of mix of football and rugby that the coaches use at their football camps, and when a play breaks down he goes into his Bruin Ball mode. He did throw a nice 20-yard touchdown pass to a streaking Alex Pearlstone, a walk-on receiver, for a touchdown.
Most of the running plays went between the tackles, also probably to limit the exploitation of the offensive line. Chane Moline was the workhorse, gaining 42 yards on 16 carries. Ramirez had 33 yards on 11 carries.
The spring game did, again, emphasize that UCLA's offensive line is the particular worry. Micah Kia is the one true reliable body at one of the tackle positions. Scott Glicksberg, who has been plugged in as a starting guard, is being praised by the coaches for his toughness, especially since he's playing with a tweaked shoulder blade. But the fifth-year player, who has gone from the OL to TE and back to OL, and has lost and gained 40 pounds during his career, is merely a stop gap at guard. Combine that with the former walk-on Micah Reed at a new position at center, and the two new green youngsters, Darius Savage and Sean Sheller, projected as the starters at the other guard and tackle positions.
Even though the offense was so limited, it still was encouraging to, at least, see how a real offensive scheme works. Offensive coordinator Norm Chow, while being fairly conservative here, as we said, to obviously protect the offensive line and his young quarterbacks, still did some things that we haven't seen at UCLA in a long time – such as a misdirection pitch, a screen to a tight end, use of the fullback for passes and runs, etc.
As any coach will tell you, it's all about the line in college football, and in the first year of Neuheisel and Chow – and offensive coach Bob Palcic – it looks like the Bruins are going to have to patch together something to just get them through.
And while the defense easily dominated the scrimmage, is still far premature to anoint this defense as a "good" one. It did, after all, look good going up against UCLA's "patchwork" offense this spring. It has, really, just a few starters back from last season, and has to replace three of its four starting defensive backs.
Interestingly, with stronside linebacker John Hale out, Defensive Coordinator DeWayne Walker went with a couple of different lineups in his linebacking group. Akeem Ayers, the talented redshirt freshman, plugged in at the starting weakside spot, with Kyle Bosworth going back to the strongside. Steve Sloan, the redshirt freshman, also worked with the ones at middle linebacker, and Reggie Carter slid over to the weakside position, where he played last season.
Brian Price, the true sophomore defensive tackle, definitely stands out when even just casually watching the defense perform. His first step is so quick and he sliced through the defensive line a number of times to get a tackle for loss or disrupt a play.
Courtney Viney, the redshirt freshman cornerback, had a nice pick.
Glenn Love, the redshirt freshman safety, injured his knee, and Neuheisel didn't know the extent of the injury. When he was on the field, Love, at 6-4, looks absolutely huge lining up from is safety spot.
When Love and Ayers, who is 6-3 and 240, are on the field, that's the bigger, quicker and more athletic type of future you want to see for the UCLA defense.
Overall, what you had to do when watching the scrimmage Saturday, is remind yourself to be patient. If you expect UCLA to be good next season, given the personnel it has, you more than likely will be disappointed. Even with the talented incoming freshman class to fill out the ranks, it almost certainly won't be enough to make that big of a dent in the first year of the new coaching staff.
It could take a few years for Neuheisel to get this working. But, at the very least, to see the hints, like we have all spring practice, that there is a real offense being employed now, by a real offensive coordinator, is enough to generate some excitement for next season. Not even to hope for the offense to roll up 500 yards a game, but just to see that it's attempting something dynamic is enough after the offensive desert this program has been through.
Being at the Rose Bowl, under the lights, and the crowd of just over 15,000 made it a great experience. Neuheisel addressed the fans by using the ref's microphone before and after the scrimmage. He also introduced the two senior quarterbacks on crutches, Patrick Cowan and Ben Olson to the crowd.
We have a partial list of the recruits that attended the scrimmage, and we'll be adding to this list throughout the day Sunday.