Bruins plan to be ready for anything
For the past two weeks, “Rocky Top,” the Tennessee fight song, has periodically blared over the loudspeakers at UCLA’s practice field, a not-so-subtle reminder that the Bruins’ season opener was approaching.
The music stopped Thursday -- partly because of a power failure at the facility -- but the Volunteers were not far from the thoughts of those on the field.
UCLA went from theory to practical application in preparing for its Sept. 1 season opener against Tennessee at the Rose Bowl. With that came the need for information.
Tennessee has a first-year offensive coordinator in Dave Clawson and a quarterback, Jonathan Crompton, who threw only 12 passes last season.
“It’s difficult and we’re probably trying to cover too much,” UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said. “But you have to because you’re not really sure what they’re going to come out with.”
The Bruins faced the same problem in last season’s opener against Stanford, which had first-year Coach Jim Harbaugh. Walker and the defensive staff studied tapes of the University of San Diego, where Harbaugh had coached the previous season.
This August, they are getting their fill of Richmond tape, as Clawson was the Spiders’ head coach in 2007.
“We’re gathering up as much tape as possible,” Walker said. “Scheme is scheme. We know there can be differences from last season, but it’s the Southeastern Conference. We know they are going to bring great players and you have to get your guys lined up.”
Babes in Westwood
Coach Rick Neuheisel said that nine incoming freshmen would be part of the Bruins’ game plan against Tennessee.
Tailback Aundre Dean, tight end Cory Harkey, receiver Nelson Rosario and receiver Antwon Moutra will be on offense. Safety Rahim Moore, defensive back Tony Dye, cornerback Aaron Hester, defensive end Datone Jones and linebacker Sean Westgate will be on defense.
Receiver Taylor Embree is also expected to play this season, Neuheisel said, but he has been limited in practice while recovering from a shoulder injury. Embree went through seven-on-seven drills Thursday.
Sloan gets noticed
The search for silver linings has almost been a daily exercise for the Bruins. But one could be found in the concussion suffered by middle linebacker Reggie Carter.
In his absence, redshirt freshman linebacker Steve Sloan improved his standing considerably.
“I think I proved I can play if Reggie ever goes down,” Sloan said. “I was getting reps with the first team and second team. Doing that really got my cardio up, but it also gave me experience. Instead of watching film of someone else playing out there, I was seeing everything first hand. You learn more when you play.”
Twice during training camp, Sloan’s aggressive style angered Bruins running backs, to the point where they threw the football at him after the whistle.
That kind of recommendation by an offensive player can look good on a middle linebacker’s resume.
Neuheisel said that Terrence Austin and Raymond Carter would handle the kickoff return duties. Austin and Ryan Graves will return punts.
As for who will kick off, Neuheisel said that Jimmy Rotstein was “leading that contest, but we’ll see.” Rotstein, a walk-on, handled the kickoff chores last season.
Tackle Micah Kia (broken left hand) suited up for practice, but did not participate in drills. The Bruins still hope Kia will be ready to play in the opener, but Neuheisel was unsure how much practice time Kia would require to get ready.