LOS ANGELES -- Watched UCLA's scrimmage on Friday evening, then raced-- or crawled through traffic -- to LAX to catch a flight. Here are some thoughts.
UCLA's season will be determined by both lines. There's plenty of speed and skill and quarterback Kevin Prince looks ready to take a significant step forward, but the lines -- particularly the offensive line -- continue to be works in progress.
That said: The Bruins running game -- dormant the past few seasons -- showed signs of life. For example, on a third and 7 play, Milton Knox converted with a tough run on a draw play. Offensive coordinator Norm Chow said the tailback job is down to three candidates: Johnathan Franklin (nine carries, 37 yards in the scrimmage), Derrick Coleman (9-25) and Knox (7-24). In the fall, a strong recruiting haul of freshmen arrives who immediately will jump into the mix.
The Bruins new "pistol" offense, which features some spread-option elements, has inspired some skepticism, but Prince ran a version of it in high school and he's got good speed -- he ran a 4.53 40-yard dash during testing. There were some intriguing moments, but a couple of bad shotgun snaps surely will concern the coaches. Coach Rick Neuheisel said: "There's a lot of moving parts in this stuff. If we're going to be in this stuff and we're going to say that this is who we are and try to get to that point, we've got to be a heck of a lot better at it than this. If we can't get that done in 15 practices, then we have to ask ourselves if it's prudent to stay in it and that's where we are.''
Backup QB Richard Brehaut went 3 of 11 in the Bruins first scrimmage, but he was much better Friday, completing 11 of 17 passes for 106 yards with touchdowns of 16 and26 yards. Prince was 7 of 11 for 87 yards with a 37 yard TD.
The Bruins are looking for receivers to step up behind Taylor Embree, Nelson Rosario and Josh Smith, who's out with a knee injury. Randall Carroll and Ricky Marvray both had good scrimmages and perhaps made statements. Carroll's grab of a 37-yard TD pass from Prince despite tight coverage from Sheldon Price was the play of the day. Runnerup: Morrell Presley got behind coverage for a 44-yard reception. And Jerry Johnson had a fancy leaping reception on the scrimmage's first drive.
Kicker Kai Forbath will be one of the best weapons in the Pac-10 -- he's darn near automatic. The first-team All-Pac-10 kicker and likely preseason All-American was good on four field goals attempts from outside 40 yards, with a long of 46.
Defensive end Datone Jones had a sack and a tackle for a loss on a reverse. He looks like a potential All-Conference player, along with linebacker Akeem Ayers and safety Rahim Moore. Defensive tackle Nate Chandler, a converted tight end, had two sacks.
There was a scare when center Kai Maiava, who's battling Ryan Taylor for the starting job, went down with a knee injury. He walked off, though, and Neuheisel described the injury has a "sprain."