Players Point Toward Fresh Start
UCLA will be looking for its first season-opening victory under third-year Coach Karl Dorrell when the Bruins face San Diego State at Qualcomm Stadium on Saturday.
“It’s one of those things where we’re starting to look back and want to go out on the right foot,” offensive lineman Robert Cleary, a fifth-year senior, said. “You don’t want to go out with any second-guess feelings. I know that I’m ready to give it everything that I have and I think the whole team feels that way.”
The togetherness the Bruins feel heading into this week began to take hold with Dorrell’s off-season “Football 101" meetings, which promoted communication among teammates.
“One thing Coach Dorrell noticed was that everybody did not know everybody’s name on the team, including the walk-ons,” junior safety Eric McNeal said. “He had a problem with that, so that’s part of the reason why he had those meetings. At first, I was kind of skeptical, but now I know that it was a good idea.”
This year’s senior class, which includes 11 players who were members of former coach Bob Toledo’s final team in 2002, also did a good job of leading off-season workouts. After watching previous classes talk about making changes but failing to do so on the field, this year’s senior class made a commitment to lead with action.
“We are so far ahead as an offense because of the guys staying around this summer,” said assistant head coach Jon Embree, who directs the Bruins’ plays in practice.
“In terms of knowing what to do, you can see how the one-on-one and seven-on-seven work has helped. Our flow is a lot crisper and everyone understands where they’re supposed to be.”
Added Dorrell: “We have a team that is pretty hungry about proving that a lot of things are different now than the last couple of years. Thank goodness it’s game week finally.”
UCLA did not practice Sunday but will resume this afternoon with a full workout. To get ready for Saturday’s late start, the Bruins will practice at night Tuesday and Wednesday. ... Injured players questionable or out for Saturday include linebacker Wesley Walker (knee), defensive tackle Kevin Brown (ankle), safety Chris Horton (wrist) and wide receivers Marcus Everett (shoulder) and Matthew Slater (ankle).