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UCLA Football Keys to Success: Ditch Spring Practice

Apparently there’s a tradition with the football program that they ditch a Spring practice every year. Though I was at school there four years and have followed the team for much longer, I hadn’t heard of it til now. Perhaps it’s because the team never had much hype or expectations. Or perhaps it’s because of this very tradition that the team sucks, and the two go hand-in-hand. Though it’s old news by now as it happened on Tuesday, I never really got my chance to take a stab at this. What kind of team has a tradition where they skip practice? What kind of loser rebels came up with this? Worse yet, what kind of losers let the tradition continue under their watch? How hasn’t someone put a stop to this?

I remember seeing and reading recently that some of the new coaches were working the players harder. Like guys were bragging about being up and working out/training around 8am or something. I sat there laughing to myself — if they’re bragging about being at the track or in the weight room at like 8am and that’s early, then WTF were they doing before? No wonder the team stunk. I would have thought it was a given that all D-I football teams — especially those aspiring to win their BCS conferences — would be up everyday bright and early, running, lifting, and training on a daily basis. But no, not at UCLA — their traditions aren’t to have weight lifting contests or 40-yard dash contests. Nope. Their tradition is to skip practice. Yup, that’s the attitude — that’s the ticket. No wonder they’ve been so disappointing all this time. And now I think about guys on the team who were winners recently — the Maurice Drews, the Brandon Chillars — and I wonder how these guys let this tradition continue.

How can a team tradition possibly involve not working hard? Is there any wonder why the program has sucked so much recently? I think we just answered the question.

UCLA Football Is Finally Legit

At least it appears that way for the time being. Phone calls were shared and cheers were aplenty late Sunday evening and all of Monday amongst the Bruin crowd. No sooner than the moment Lawrence Tynes kicked his way out of torture were the Westwood faithful already focused on a newer, greater piece of news: UCLA had hired Norm Chow as their new offensive coordinator. What is so great about the hire? It means that within two months, UCLA football has gone from six-win oblivion, to all of a sudden having possibly the best coordinator tandem in all of college football, and no doubt a marquee coaching triumvirate of DeWayne Walker, Rick Neuheisel, and now Norm Chow. I am clearly excited about the news as it gives a fresher, reassuring appeal to a football program which had grown stagnant.

Furthermore, speaking specifically about the Chow hire, I am amazed that it happened. First of all, I was stunned to hear that the Titans had fired him. Why? was my first question. How easy can it be to coordinate an offense with an unorthodox QB in Vince Young who was running on a bad wheel most of the year? Not too easy in my opinion. As Gutty Little Bruins told me, Chow was the sacrificial lamb for all of VY’s sins. Sounds about right to me. Next, I thought Chow was way too high profile to come to Westwood. He had already interviewed for the head coaching position but didn’t get it. He had bigger fish to fry. Yet Chow went from pro back to college — in the same capacity — clearly a step down. Regardless, I’m happy about it.

So, as The Driver emailed in, UCLA now has one of the most accomplished offensive coordinators in college football paired with one of the top defensive coordinators in college football, working under a man who somehow convinced both men to come to Westwood. Oh, the future seems bright. Still, before the Honeymoon begins, I must express my skepticism. For one, can these brilliants chefs make a kosher meal if they don’t have good groceries to begin with? In other words, the signs of success could take a few years. And secondly, say they do have success, how long will Chow and/or Walker stay? Or worse, say UCLA does poorly next year, will Walker regret his decision to stay in Westwood and then skip town as soon as he gets his first bite?

While I don’t have the answers to these questions, I will put my skepticism aside and instead smile about something I haven’t in years: UCLA football. We are back.

And p.s. USC fans, the Chow hire cancels out the loss at Pauley Pavilion. Don’t think I would neglect to mention that loss.

Rick Neuheisel Really Wants You to Buy Season Tickets

One of my buddies who’s currently a student at UCLA’s law school passed on a message to me Wednesday. He got straight to the point, wasting no time:

i just got the most obnoxious phone call
rick ****ing neuheisel
on a broadcast message …
talking about how great UCLA is for sports and academics
and how great the program is going to be

At first he found the message humorous, but after about a minute of the blathering he got annoyed and hung up since he’s a Cal fan. And sure enough, sitting at home today, the phone rang and went to the answering machine. Who was it you ask? None other than Neuheisel with a recorded message expressing optimism about the football program, urging me to get season tickets. FanHouse’s Brian Grummell picked up on this story yesterday, and passed on a link to Bruin Report Online where other UCLA people said they’ve received the call. Considering the fact that many of you have no connection to the UCLA family, here it is for your listening enjoyment. Though I can’t stand recorded spam messages, I like the energy and enthusiasm the football program is now trying to generate. This is just the type of spark we need to revitalize interest in what’s been a dead program.

Karl Dorrell: Duke Football Savior?

I’ve said for quite some time that I wanted Karl Dorrell out as UCLA’s coach. I was happy to finally get my wish this week, but I still maintain that I want Dorrell to succeed, just elsewhere. Well, looks like Dorrell’s opportunity to coach in the collegiate ranks may be coming sooner, rather than later, as SI.com reports:

Former UCLA head football coach Karl Dorrell is drawing interest from Duke University, SI.com has learned.

Duke would like to schedule an interview with Dorrell in the near future, but it is believed that the Blue Devils are still in the process of formally contacting the coach.

Maybe Duke is just drawing upon its common lines with Dorrell — they were two of the three schools to lose to Notre Dame this year (Stanford was the other, as The Driver points out). Perhaps it’s that sort of distinction that unites. As for coaching at Duke football, it’s no easy task. Ted Roof was fired after winning just 6 games in 5 years. Yeah. Those won’t be easy to come by for Karl. Duke football has gone winless three times since the turn of the century. Their last ACC title? 1989 when they were co-champs under Steve Spurrier. That would be some high company, Karl.

UCLA Completes Four Passes, Beats Oregon, Dorrell Lives, Rose Bowl Alive

A few weeks ago, I thought Dorrell had lived his last life. Apparently this cat has twenty of them. Somehow or another, the Bruins beat Oregon, eliminating the Ducks from Rose Bowl contention. UCLA completed four — count em — just four passes in the ballgame. Yikes. Luckily for UCLA, Oregon was in similar quarterback hell, alternating between second, third, and fourth stringers. So what does this all mean? In this effed up world of college football, the Bruins are still alive in the Pac-10 race. They beat USC (yes, I’m laughing to myself), while Arizona knocks off Arizona State, and they’re in the Rose Bowl. Of course, give me a 95 mph fastball and I’m in the majors, you feel?

If UCLA could win a game in which they only completed four passes, why couldn’t they do the same thing against Notre Dame? Maybe Dorrell and the Bruins’ staff wasn’t sharp enough to figure out on the fly that they should just run the ball with a fourth string quarterback rather than let them throw passes and get picked (as Mike Bellotti did). So UCLA will likely finish 6-6, ruining at least one season in the process. Callahan, Morriss, Orgeron, Carr, and Franchione are gone amongst others. Will Dorrell join the group? I think and hope so. The numbers speak for themselves. But I’ll be darned if this guy hasn’t put fans on one hell of a roller coaster ride. And damn, he sure does have far too many lives.

Has Karl Dorrell Lived His Last Life?

Of all the disappointing seasons under Karl Dorrell — and there have been many — this year might be the most excusable. Down to a third and fourth string QB at times would hamper any team, program, and coach. It’s hard enough to win with a backup — but a backup to a backup? Yeah, that’s pretty much game over. So is it justifiable and fair that Dorrell would get fired after a season ruined by injuries? Well, the argument can be made that it was heading towards disappointment with healthy QBs anyway, and that he was set up for failure to begin with, as TJ Simers says. I’ll concede that the harsh academic standards and low coaching salaries makes the job of a UCLA football coach no easy task, but it can be done better than it is.

I’d like to see Dorrell succeed in his career — I really would. I’ve just seen enough of him in Westwood. It’s been five years of mediocrity, and this season can be heading towards 5-7. I’d like to see someone who can run a respectable program that wins on a more consistent basis. Now, why people are so hot on Mike Leach from Texas Tech boggles my mind. What’s so much better about losing 50-45 than 24-20? I’m still trying to figure that one out. Dorrell is not the answer, but neither is Leach. I’m not sure who the proper replacement is, but there’s no question that a change is needed.