Need for speed could give freshmen more time
The effort to spice up UCLA’s offense may mean more time for three freshmen this week.
Receivers Morrell Presley and Randall Carroll and tailback Damien Thigpen lack experience, but they have the one thing the Bruins seem to lack: speed.
Other than tailback Johnathan Franklin, the Bruins have few who have the breakaway potential to create big plays consistently.
Thus far, the three freshmen have been on the learning curve. But Coach Rick Neuheisel’s pronouncement that his team needed more explosiveness makes that trio the logical choice.
“I would love for them to step up,” Neuheisel said. “I’m hopeful we can become a more explosive team. But we can’t force that issue.”
Presley has already found a niche in the offense, and has four receptions, but only for 34 yards. He remains a part of the receiver rotation, but Neuheisel said, “Carroll will be part of the plan.”
Carroll is a two-time California state champion in the 100 meters, but his one reception was for seven yards. He was among the four players suspended one game for violating team rules, which set him back.
But his speed continues to tantalize coaches and he has received more time with the first and second teams this week.
“He brings a lot of quickness, he’s fast,” offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. “He can stretch the field. We need him to play. His understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish has improved. I think that little suspension really hurt him. He’s a proud guy. He has come back more determined than ever to learn the offense.”
Thigpen, meanwhile, remains fifth on the depth chart, but was getting more looks at practice this week. It was an offshoot of his late-game contribution against Stanford in which he gained 28 yards in three consecutive carries in the fourth quarter.
“We thought Damien earned few more chances with the way he played at Stanford last week,” Neuheisel said. “We’re trying to try to keep the RB position as competitive as we can.”
Westlake Village Oaks Christian running back Malcolm Jones committed to UCLA. He is ranked fifth nationally at running back by Rivals.com.
Jones has 870 yards and scored nine touchdowns rushing, while averaging 6.1 yards per carry, so far this season. He gained 1,504 yards, averaging 10.1 yards per carry, and scored 26 touchdowns as a junior.
Jones will enter a crowded, and young, backfield at UCLA. Franklin, the starter, is a redshirt freshman. Derrick Coleman, his backup, is a sophomore. Milton Knox, who is third on the depth chart, is a redshirt freshman. Thigpen’s speed gives him a high ceiling on potential.