Neuheisel After Sunday's Practice

Coming off a bye week, UCLA got in an extra practice Sunday afternoon, and Rick Neuheisel talked about it, the preparation for Stanford, the issues he wanted to fix, and how competitive the Pac-10 looks to be...

Rick Neuheisel after practice …

Opening:

‘'Had a good weekend. Introduced myself to my wife again – not sure it was a great weekend for her, but … It was a good practice. This was kind of stealing a day of preparation, when you get this kind of day. We'll spend a lot of time in the film room with coaches (Monday) looking, poring over that Washington tape and then get back to it in earnest on Tuesday. But I'm looking forward to a great week and it'll take that, it'll take our best game to go up there and have a chance to beat Stanford. They played really, really, well last night.''

Is Kevin Craft, just to get it out of the way, the starter?

‘'I don't see any reason to say, ‘No.' I mean, I think Kevin played well enough and I think we can build off of it. But we continue to want to have the competition.''

When do you decide for sure on that?

‘'Well, I haven't. Just posing the question, I guess, yeah, I guess that would be the way to go. But we're going to keep working Richard Brehaut and I hope he has a role in the game.''

Talking about their kick returner, Chris Owusu...

‘'Yeah, he's a special guy. Three kickoff returns for touchdowns and we're four games into the season. That's unique. We are going to work in earnest and we'll have to figure out ways maybe to kick it away from him.''

You said last week there were a couple of things you wanted to fix. How have you done on getting after those things?

‘'Line of scrimmage play, you know, we've had some things that have been plaguing us – guys jumping offsides, guys not lining up correctly, so we get needless 5-yard penalties that not only set you back on that drive but take big plays off the board if you're fortunate enough to make a play. Those things we're continuing to harp on, and we've got to keep working on the effectiveness of the throwing game with respect of everybody doing their part to impact zones, stretching things, just being more meticulous with the details of the throwing game. Defensively, tackling. Tackling is going to be huge. From the Kansas State game, maybe for the first time all year, we didn't tackle well and in watching the game the other night and the Toby Gerhart kid, you've got to tackle. I mean, he's not going down with any one person, so you've got to be physical and wrap up. That will be a key component this week.''

Is Christian Ramirez looking like he's going to be ready?

‘'I think he'll be ready … I think all our guys will be ready …''

How do you deal with that now? You've got five tailbacks … there's not enough carries in a game …

‘'It's a nice problem to have. I know if you're the odd man out it's no fun. But we're going to keep working them, try to find little roles. But like I said, it's a nice problem to have. It's a luxury.''

Is Ramirez a guy you feel you need to get in the game?

‘'I'd love to get him in the game. I still think he's a very good football player, but, you know, we'll have to wait and see how that all shakes out.''

Was it mainly install today?

‘'Mostly install, some things that are standards in our package. But the true install will start Tuesday.''

Early in practice, you did a lot of running game …

‘'It's been huge. We made a big point during the off-season that we have to be able to handle the line of scrimmage, both from a running game standpoint and a protection standpoint, and I think both have been vastly improved this year. It's not there yet, but vastly improved, and if the passing game can come up to the level that those two have improved then everything will take a notch further.''

There's been so much talk that the running game has improved, but it's still ranked No. 108. Is that more of an indication how bad it was last year and how far you've come?

‘'Thanks for sharing … Uh, yeah, it wasn't very good last year. We're 108th in the country in running?''

It might have been 60th …

‘'I don't think we're that low. I think we might be in the 70s. But anyway the bottom line is we've got a long way to go. We're not there. We're excited about the bar moving in the right direction, but it's got to keep moving.''

How is the competition at cornerback coming?

‘'It's spirited. You know, Courtney Viney is anxious to make amends for his transgression and Sheldon Price is getting better and Aaron Hester is fighting to get healthy. It's where you want it – you've got three guys dying to play.''

Where is Hester?

‘'The latest X-rays showed the bone is indeed healing. It'll probably be another week to 10 days before they'll let him start really running and then we'll see how long it takes to get back I game shape.''

The last couple of weeks there've been a lot of upsets in this league. Is this going to be more wide open than usual?

‘'Well, usual based on the last six or seven years, I guess, yeah. …''

But could there be three or four teams in this thing, and could the best team have a couple of losses?

‘'I would be surprised if it weren't a fight to the finish. I would be surprised if one team really took over and dominated. I would be surprised. I think it's going to be a dogfight to the very end. I think every team is improved, I really do. Arizona looked good the other day. Oregon State, we know how good of a team they can be. I would say that this is going to be a … it's a very competitive conference.''

So they let teams into the Rose Bowl with three losses?

‘'They did once … thankfully.''

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