UCLA football: Coach Rick Neuheisel optimistic as Bruins begin practice
“We have real depth for the first time, which means there will be real competition,” Neuheisel said. “Hopefully, we can parlay that into success.”
The Bruins' first practice was scheduled for Monday at 3 p.m., but Neuheisel and players were already addressing the season during media day. That included questions about Neuheisel’s future as coach.
Neuheisel has a 15-22 record in three seasons at UCLA.
“To tell you the truth, I haven’t thought anything about that this summer,” Neuheisel said. “I can’t let it take my attention away from what I have to do.”
“There is more talent here now than there has been on any UCLA team I have been on,” said tackle Sean Sheller, a sixth-year senior. “Everywhere I look there are guys who can contribute something.”
The Bruins have enough depth on defense where defensive coordinator Joe Tresey can send players in waves.
“Our big thing is ‘next men in,’ ” Tresey said. “You’re not No. 2 on the depth chart, you’re the next guy. We feel that our front seven is that deep.”
Selling that philosophy to players seems to have been easy.
“I don’t know any player who can go full speed eight consecutive plays,” defensive end Datone Jones said. “We’re going to go full speed as long as we can, then it’s the next man in. We are going to have tempo.”
The Bruins will need better fortune along the offensive line then they have had the last three seasons.
“We’re thin there, so we are going to have to stay healthy,” Neuheisel said.
Kai Maiava, who sat out last season after suffering a broken ankle, is a rock at center. Sheller and Mike Harris, who has lost 10 pounds, are expected to be the tackles. Chris Ward appears to be a lock at one guard. Who will fit in at the other guard spot is an open question, at least until Jeff Baca returns from a broken ankle.
-- Marques Tuiasosopo, who played for Neuheisel at Washington, will be an intern on the staff.
Neuheisel had planned for Tuiasosopo to be a graduate assistant, which would have allowed him to work with the quarterbacks during practice. He did not receive a waiver so he could enroll in graduate school.
The NCAA recently tightened the rules on graduate assistants to prevent schools from hiring veteran coaches in that capacity. Tuiasosopo has been out of college for 10 years.
-- Wide receiver Jerry Johnson, who is returning from a broken leg, will go through a limited workout the first week. He said he hopes to be cleared to join the full practice next week.
-- Chris Foster
Photo: Rick Neuheisel. Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport / US Presswire