Practice Preview: Chow on the O

Norm Chow is going into his third season as UCLA's Offensive Coordinator, and he talked candidly with Bruin Report Online about some of the things to watch for from his offense this fall, especially with the use of the Revolver...

In your time here, looking at the o-line, it seems like you've had to make a lot of adjustments to compensate for issues up front … changed the blocking scheme, tried to even up the numbers by throwing in some Wildcat … Now, in year three …

‘'Well, you know, there's no question that after the third year, you should have some stuff in place, and if you don't … I think four years is about the right amount of time, OK? But this is the third year. I also think as a football coach, we owe it to our players to not be so stubborn. Because I know something best - but if it doesn't fit our players - doesn't mean that we should run that stuff. I think that's the key to coaching, to make sure you put your players in a position where they have chance to be successful.

‘'Most of the times you can do that a little more subtly than we're doing now, but I think even though this looks like a major change, it really isn't, because we've been doing this blocking scheme, we've been doing this. So, somewhere in between is where we have to have a niche. Not from people thinking we've gone way out there trying to change, to people thinking we're not changing at all.

‘'It's hard to figure what people are thinking, but in our minds, if we just made enough changes to magnify calling, the ability of the players we have, then we're doing a good job as coaches. If we can't then we should be fired. It's simple. It's not hard.''

You throw in those changes, you throw in some experience now, because a lot of those guys have played …

‘'And then you have a chance, right? You know, we didn't throw the ball badly last year – I think we were third or fourth in the Pac-10 or something. I don't see a major change there. But, again, you'll see changes, but hopefully you don't recognize them. Even though we've changed to take advantage of what we try to do, the normal guy won't see it because they don't know routes and they don't understand coverages.

‘'But if you see a change in the run game, it's because we really haven't run the ball as well as we should run the football.''

Your expectation now is that enough elements are there that you should be able to run it successfully, or at least better than you have?

‘'If we can stay healthy. I don't think this place is at a point where … the real dominant teams can lose a guy and put the next guy in and not lose much. We don't have that luxury just yet. We have to make sure that, where maybe there are 10 offensive linemen, we may have seven. So if we get three guys hurt and maybe have to go to the eighth guy, we may not be as effective.

‘'Do we have it in place? You know, we have the (Nelson) Rosario's and the (Taylor) Embree's, who are in their third year now. The offensive line has some seniors now. We're still young at quarterback, we're still young at running back. You know, Kevin Prince hadn't played for two years when he played last year. He hadn't played. But he did OK. He didn't do great and he didn't do bad. He did OK. So you expect him to make a major step and then you have to get lucky and not get anyone hurt.''

With the line, to this point, what do you think have been the primary issues?

‘'No, I think the line gives us the hope. But even though you're playing with experienced guys, Eddie (Williams) only played, what, five games? (Ryan) Taylor only started two games. Kai (Maiava) started the majority of the season, (Jeff) Baca started them majority of the season, and then you've got Micah Kia now, who hasn't played in more than a year. So even though Micah Kia is a sixth-year senior, he hasn't played for a year. Even though Eddie Williams is now a senior, he's a junior college transfer that only played in five or six games before he got hurt.

''So, yeah, you look at the maturity of those guys, the guys that can lead us emotionally when times are tough, they don't have that much experience, even though they're seniors. Taylor is a senior, played JC ball and he only started two games for us. So, you know, it can be a little misleading.''

Do you think that group really has the personality to really run over people?

‘'Yes, I do. I do. They've done a great job in the off-season. Eddie Williams has lost 40 pounds. Darius Savage has lost 40-some odd pounds. Kai Maiava lost a bunch of weight and yet gotten stronger. We have some 400-pound bench pressers now. So, yeah, you would think that. We all know when you go from 18 to 19 the major maturity shift that goes on. So, yeah, I think they do. I think they have the mentality. I think they have the desire. I mean, obviously, they have the desire. They all did decently in school, you can see that they're motivated. Yeah, to answer your question, yeah. Are they good enough? We've got to wait and see.''

The run game should be better, though …

‘'Crazy as this may sound, we ran the ball better last spring than we ever had the last two springs. OK, we were still sporadic, but we ran it well … he hit a couple of big plays. So if we can now hone that and make that 100 percent better, then we have a chance … we have a chance.''

With Darius Bell coming in, how do you work him in to what you're trying to get done in camp?

‘'Well, he's going to have to learn the quarterback position and then if we feel like he can handle that position, then he has to compete with Kevin. You know, nobody hands anybody a job. He has to compete with Kevin and then if indeed he can do some stuff, it's real easy to play them both at the same time, and force the defense to cover and recognize what's going on.

‘'The idea is to see where he's at, see what he can do, and then try to work it out. I think, and I can't emphasize it enough, I think we as coaches have the responsibility as coaches to make sure we give guys a chance to be successful and there were times where we didn't do that, but there's a lot of reasons why you do what you do.''

He gives you a more athletic dimension than the other backup quarterbacks …

‘'Oh, sure. Now, you've got to cover everybody. He can run it and he can throw it. Kevin can run it and he can throw it, you know …

That sounds like an intriguing combination to work with.

‘'It makes it fun, yeah. You know, we've been in the gun all spring long, maybe we get one under center now, who knows?

Just looking at the depth chart, at tight end, are you going to be OK with John Young not there?
‘'That's a real concern. We had high hopes for John. And (Joe) Fauria has not proven that he can … you know, he's been a little brittle. So we have to figure it out. We might have to move a tackle out there, who knows? We may have to give some things up to get some things done. I think (Kevin) McDermott has done a nice job. You know, he's really a smart guy, and we're trying like heck to see what (Jayson) Allmond is all about. We moved him to tight end. He's 265 pounds, a guy who can run and catch. So we'll have to see where that is. But that's an area of concern. Losing John hurt us.''

Can Allmond catch the ball?

‘'Oh, yeah. Allmond has got all of the physical skills.''

Morrell (Presley) just hasn't grown into that position …

‘'You know, Morrell is an interesting guy, too. I think he he has a chance. He did a great job over the off-season. He gained about 10 pounds. He did a great job in school. He is very motivated to do well. He just needs … we need to find a couple of guys who can play that position and given them every single rep we can give them. Morrell is really a physically talented guy, he just has to hone his skills to play within the framework of what he's doing.''

But is he big enough at this point?

‘'You know, the thing I liked about Morrell in high school, he was an undersized tight end in high school, as well, but when it was his time to block, he worked his butt off. I mean, he would try and try to block you. Without any question, he would block you. The effort was there.''

So you can see him maybe moving back there?

‘'Maybe, if we get guys chipped up.''

(Anthony) Barr at the 'F', the move guy. He looks like he can do a ton of things.

‘'How fast he learns it is the key.''

Do you even invest any time with him at running back, or is he at ‘F' from the start?

‘'I don't think so. We'll put him in a position where he can still run the ball. You know, we didn't show any kind of two-back deal in the spring. We still have that, that we can go to. We can have him and whoever wins the battle at ‘R.'

‘'The battle at ‘R' should be every position on the football team. We should competition at every position on the football team like we do at running back and right now we're not able to do that.''

Even at that ‘F,' though, he can run the ball …

‘'Oh, yeah, yeah. You can line them tight up, have the quarterback, the running back and the ‘F' right there, and you can hand the ball off to ‘R' and fake ‘F' or you can hand the ball off to ‘F' and fake ‘R.' We haven't even got to that yet, but we'll get to that in a hurry.''

You mentioned the running back competition. Those two freshmen, Malcolm Jones and Jordon James, are pretty impressive looking kids …

‘'And when we recruited them we told them we were going to give them an opportunity, and they're going to have an opportunity. Very impressive kids.''

Do they get the majority of stuff at the start of camp? Derrick Coleman and Jonathan Franklin, you know what they've got. So do you throw the freshmen in there and see?

‘'They'll get as much. It will be a four-man race and we'll see.''

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