UCLA turning running backs into receivers

UCLA gave up 2.33 sacks a game last season, 81st in the country and far too many for coach Rick Neuheisel's taste.

The constant presence of opposing defenders in UCLA's backfield wreaked havoc on the Bruins' passing game, leading to an air attack that ranked 116th in the nation at 141 yards a game.

In an effort to circumvent that pressure, Neuheisel and the offensive braintrust plan on utilizing the running backs more as pass catchers this season. Last year, the coaches kept the Bruins running backs in as blockers more often than not and they combined for only 15 catches last season.

"We were asking them to be in protection more often than not and sealing up some of our deficiencies there," Neuheisel said. "Sometimes the easier way to do it is to get them in a place where you’re getting it out of your hands. Certainly the backs will be used in protection and we’re working on that on a daily basis, but we need also to use them as receivers because they take a four-yard checkdown and they can make a big play out of it."

That change in philosophy has been evident early in camp. Earlier this week, the Bruins ran a checkdown drill where all they did was throw underneath. Friday, Kevin Prince was often pretty quick to dump off a pass to a running back rather than take a shot down the field during team drills.

"We’re trying to make sure that we are staying on schedule," Neuheisel said. "So if things are breaking down or we don’t have clear view of a downfield shot then we’re going to check down. We’ll look at the tape to see if he’s premature in doing that, but we’re not going to take sacks. We’re going to do a great job of not getting sacked."