LOS ANGELES -- UCLA Bruins coach Jim Mora might have to use some of his NFL connections to help out in practice this week.
The Bruins play the USC Trojans on Saturday and Mora is having some trouble finding scout team players to emulate some of USC's offensive weapons. He pointed out Matt Barkley, Marquise Lee, Robert Woods and Silas Redd as "four guys on their offense that just jump out at you" and is particularly concerned about trying to match up with receivers Lee and Woods.
"Unless we can get Andre Johnson to come out and practice, it’s going to be hard to emulate Marquise Lee," Mora said. "Unless we can get Brandon Marshall to come out and practice, it’s going to be hard to emulate Woods."
Mora has reason to be concerned. He wasn't here last year and claims to have never seen the UCLA-USC game, but Woods and Lee torched UCLA to the tune of 25 catches for 337 yards and four touchdowns in a 50-0 Trojans victory. Mora likes to prepare for schemes instead of individual players, but said sometimes you have to devise something for certain players. The trouble with USC, he said, is that there are so many players who deserve special attention.
"With a team like this, if you don’t put a little extra emphasis on those guys, they can really get after you," Mora said. "The trouble with it is that there’s not one, there’s five. Their other running back, their third wide, their tight end. They’ve got them all over the place, that’s why they’re such a great offense. You’ve got to have some wrinkles in what you do but you still have to stick to the fundamentals of the things that you know best."
USC is currently No. 27 in the nation in total offense with 462.9 yards per game. Lee is second in the nation in receptions (9.8 per game) and receiving yards (144.7 per game). Last year, USC put up 572 yards in offense against the Bruins.
"Last year was a totally different team and we had a bad day," cornerback Sheldon price said. "This year is a new team, we have a new coaching staff and we’re playing a whole new style of defense. I mean, you never want to lose that way, but this year is a totally different atmosphere."
USC quarterback Matt Barkley was 35 of 42 for 423 yards and six touchdowns against UCLA last season. The Bruins can't get Peyton Manning to come in and emulate Barkley for the scout team, so they've handed the reins to freshman Jerry Neuheisel, who has played scout quarterback for most of this season. He's had to emulate Matt Scott of Arizona, Taylor Kelly of Arizona State and Jeff Tuel of Washington State the last three weeks and Mora has been impressed.
"Jerry Neuheisel has been just a star all year on scout team," Mora said. "It’s fun to watch him work and kind of adopt the personality of the quarterback that we’re facing. I think he takes a lot of pride in it and I think he pushes our defense and forces us to be right on it."
And while the Bruins don't have anyone to mimic Lee or Woods, Neueheisel at least fits the bill physically. He is about the same height as Barkely. He also has the same blond hair, though Neuheisel's is more of a bushy look than Barkley's.
"I asked him if he could just cut it down like Matt’s," Mora said.