Line of this scrimmage isn’t all that impressive
UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince will have the first-team offensive line to his parents’ house for Sunday dinner. They won’t lack for a topic of conversation after the Bruins’ scrimmage Saturday.
Prince showed a strong arm. The Bruins’ man-for-man speed is significantly improved, making big plays possible.
None of that matters. The issue remains with the offensive line. Nothing moves forward without them.
And nothing moved Saturday.
The Bruins are going to be able to “run the ball or die trying,” Coach Rick Neuheisel has preached all during camp. The first-team offense had 19 yards rushing in 25 attempts, according to unofficial statistics. The first-team offense had a minus-16 yards rushing against the first-team defense. Prince completed two of five passes for 19 yards with one pass intercepted.
The early reviews were as guarded as possible, as coaches wanted to review the tape first.
But, “I think I was disappointed early,” offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. “They didn’t play like they should have.”
Neuheisel pointed to the future, saying, “Tonight was an example of how much further we have to go.”
Offensive line coach Bob Palcic created monster-like lines at UCLA and Wisconsin before coming back to Westwood, but he came back to a program that had not had an offensive lineman taken in the NFL draft since 1999.
New bodies were brought in -- freshmen Xavier Su’a-Filo and Stanley Hasiak and community college transfer Eddie Williams.
“It was good for the young kids to get in front of those bright lights and get in front of the crowd, get experience against a good defense,” Palcic said.
As for the results, Chow said, “they got better as the game progressed.”
The first team had 35 yards rushing in 20 attempts against the second-team defense, which had converted offensive tackle Sean Sheller at one defensive tackle and Keenan Graham and Iuta Tepa, two true freshmen, at defensive ends.
“I think we had a lot of young guys who had some jitters,” center Kai Maiava said. “We didn’t do as well as we’re hoping we’re going to do. I got to take charge. I felt like I didn’t make all the correct calls out there.”
Neuheisel remained optimistic, saying “If Kevin hit a couple balls that I thought were hittable, I think the offense would be feeling better. It’s OK for them to feel like this because they need to be challenged.”
Price is right
The biggest problem the offensive line had?
“We have hard time against Brian Price,” Palcic said. “That was our biggest flaw.”
Price had two tackles for a loss, deflected a pass and forced Prince into an interception that safety Rahim Moore returned for a touchdown on the second series.
Price did do Prince a favor, pulling up just short on the play that was intercepted. Opposing quarterbacks won’t be so lucky.
“I’m hungry for one,” Price said. “Everyone on this team is hungry. We don’t want to be a 4-8 team anymore.”
Tailback Christian Ramirez suffered what was called a mild sprained ankle in the first series and did not return. . . . Freshman Damien Thigpen returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown and had a 61-yard kickoff return. . . . Courtney Viney returned a punt 94 yards for a touchdown. . . . With kicker Kai Forbath sidelined by a sore leg, Jeff Locke made field goals of 53, 35 and 23 yards. . . . Top recruits in attendance were running back Jordon James (Corona), defensive tackle Wesley Flowers (Fresno Edison), safety Tevin McDonald (Fresno Edison), offensive lineman Sil Ajawara (Rancho Santa Margarita Tesoro), linebacker Josh Shirley (Fontana), linebacker Hayes Pullard (Los Angeles Crenshaw), safety/running back Dietrich Riley (La Canada St. Francis) and safety Tony Jefferson (Chula Vista Eastlake).