Moses Talks on Tailback Heirarchy

It appeared that the starting spot at tailback was set with Christian Ramirez. But because of Ramirez's hamstring issues and the younger guys behind him doing well this fall, running backs coach Wayne Moses talked about the issues surrounding the rotation at the tailback position...

Christian Ramirez did not practice Friday morning, bothered again by a tight hamstring. After that session, Coach Rick Neuheisel said that the Bruins' top running back would have to make an impression in their fall scrimmage and noted the development of sophomore Derrick Coleman and redshirt freshmen Jonathan Franklin and Milton Knox.

‘'It hasn't hurt him, but we can't sit here and put a blind eye to the way the other kids are running,'' the UCLA coach said of Ramirez. ‘'I think he's eager to get going and hopefully we'll get Christian rolling (Saturday night).''

Ramirez was able to get in some reps in the second of double-day practices, but he was limited in the spring because of hamstring issues, has been limited in fall camp because of hamstring issues, and Neuheisel and running backs coach Wayne Moses dispelled the notion that there is not competition to start the season-opener against San Diego State.

Ramirez remains No. 1, but Moses said the plan was for all four of the Bruins' backs to play against the Aztecs and a starter and a playing rotation has yet to be determined.

Here is Moses on Ramirez, and the Bruins' other backs …

Coach Neuheisel mentioned this morning that Ramirez had to get some work in during the scrimmage...

‘'He came out this afternoon and was relatively healthy, but he's been hurt a little but. But he got back this afternoon and did fine. But the hamstring has been bothering him a bit.''

It seems like he is surviving on a memory, it's been so long since he's been on the field...

‘'He was hurt all spring pretty much, and right now is a back that is not able to explode because his hamstring is bothering him and that kind of thing. When you can't operate to your best ability, then consequently you're not as effective as we're used to seeing him. That's why he hasn't been looking great, is a little sluggish, stuff like that. It's the hamstring. But he has to get it going. He came out this afternoon and was OK.''

What is it about his game that keeps him at the top of the pecking order, even without practicing...

‘'How is he holding his spot? Because right now he's a guy who has played and we basically saw what we think he can do and he's been in the action, so we want to give him the opportunity to do what we think he can do.''

And those things he can do are at a level that is ahead of the other backs at this point?

‘'Well, I mean, he's been in there. He's good on the protections. He knows he's supposed to block. He's good at blocking. He brings a lot more to the table right now than the other guys, and the other guys are just lacking a little bit of experience. But all of those guys are going to play - as how much and when, I don't know, but they're all going to play. They've all demonstrated the ability to go in and help us this year. To me, who goes out first, second, third and fourth, is kind of a moot point to me because right now we've got four guys that can go in and play. How it sorts out just kind of depends. But we feel like we've developed some depth there with those guys and that's where we're headed.''

Do you like to try to find the hot guy and go...

‘'If it happens, it happens. Right now we plan on going in and my thinking is we've got four guys who can play and like I said, how much and when depends on how it's going. Right now the plan is to get them all some action. Now if a guy is just on fire, then it's like a basketball player. You give him the ball and get out of the way and nobody argues with that. Nobody is going to complain, ‘I'm not playing.' And the thing is all those guys are great supporters of each other. One guy is in the other guys are supporting him. That's the good thing about the group. The group has good camaraderie and they support each other and they want what's best for us. If a guy is out there and playing good and can help us win then, hey, more power to him.''

In talking to Franklin in the spring, he knew he had to work on his protections. How has he progressed in that area?

‘'He's gotten better. I think all of them have. We worked on it and they understand what they had to do to get better and I think they've done that. They've taken the challenge to get up there and make that happen. They're not the biggest guys in the world, but if you get your technique down and you have the right attitude, then you can do that. I think they've done that to this point.''

The mindset is there, then?

‘'Right. It's all part of the game. You have to have the willingness and they are willing. They know that running the ball is only part of their job as a running back and in order to help the team they're going to have to protect some, they're going to have to catch the ball some they're going to have to do a lot of things other than just have the ball handed to them.''

So what are you looking to get from Christian (Saturday night)?

‘'I don't know. It's a day by day operation. He didn't practice this morning, was real tight and sore, came out and loosened it up this afternoon so we'll just wait and see tomorrow to see hoe he feels. We'd rather work day to day with him as opposed to get out and it's tight and he yanks it and is out for three or four weeks. We're still in camp. The scoreboard hasn't come on yet. So let's see where we are because we've still got a little time.''

Are people being overly concerned about Christian and where he is and what he can do, because it's been so long since he's been in a game...

‘'We'll, I mean, we're going to find out. I don't know that the anticipation of him is any better than Coleman, Franklin or Knox, because they've all come out and had good camps to this point. So I don't know that there's any great anticipation for Ramirez, as to any of those other guys. I think the excitement level is just as good for those other guys because they've come out and had good camps and made some things happen. Like I said, we feel like we have nice depth there. We feel like all those guys have earned their stripes in terms of going in and being able to go in there and contribute and play and that's the plan. How much and when? That's a feel, how things go in the game.''

That's part of the equation, isn't it, because you have depth that isn't there at other positions, so why not Franklin, why not Coleman? That's the perception...

‘'I don't know. I haven't said anything. I don't adhere to that. Like I said right now you've got to have an order and if we had to have an order that kind of how it would go. Now, it could change in a series, in two series. The thing is, how that goes kind of depends. We've still got a little time. I don't know how the anticipation kind of got so sky high for him as opposed to the rest of those guys, Maybe because he's the only guy who has played outside of Coleman, the other two guys haven't played. But we plan on changing that on the fifth.''

So behind Ramirez, how would that stack up right now?

"That kind of depends. We've got a big scrimmage (Saturday) and we'll see. We'll come back and get with the head coach and the coordinator and then we'll see how we want to proceed. If we need to change the order we will. If not we'll then keep it as so and do what we have to do. The key point is at some point, there's got to be a guy to go out there first. Now who that is right now, that's going to be Ramirez. Now if that's going to be on Sept. 5, time will tell us and that's getting pretty close. But we've got a big scrimmage (Saturday) and if we have to make some decisions after that we will. If not then we'll see what we have through the week there and take it from there.''

For you also, then, Christian has to do something...just so you know that he's close to health, that he can be there for San Diego State...

‘'Well, he practiced this afternoon, so that's a start. So we'll see where he is (Saturday). It's a day by day thing because of his injury situation. I don't know if you could say if you're going to put your mortgage check on him being the starter Saturday, for a lot of different reasons, based on his health, based on what happens in the scrimmage. We're still in a competitive situation, you know what I mean? We're charged with putting the best guy out there on Saturday to help us win. Now who that is right now, we're going to have a good scrimmage (Saturday) and we're going to find out.''

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