Good Sports: Football's in Bloom
Published Jul 1, 2008 8:00 AM
The last memory most of us have of UCLA football is a blocked kick in the desert that not only ended the 2007 season, but ended an era as well.
The off-season featured the return of prodigal coach Rick Neuheisel '84, replete with plans to return the program to previous heights and new glories. His first moves won high marks: retaining defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, whose unit engineered most of the highlights of the past few seasons, and luring offensive coordinator Norm Chow, whose résumé includes two national titles with you-know-who across town.
April's spring practice kicked off the Neu Beginning (and Spring Scrimmage at the Rose Bowl in April drew a truly impressive 15,000 fans). Most of the players were loathe to draw direct comparisons to the prior regime, but the new energy and attitude could not be denied.
"We're working a lot harder, a lot faster," said senior wide receiver Marcus Everett. "We're definitely much farther ahead than we were last year."
The hype is rooted in the offensive reputations of Neuheisel and Chow. A list of some of the quarterbacks they've mentored — Aikman, Detmer, Rivers, Palmer, Leinart — is enough to cement their reps. Junior Terrence Austin says about Chow, "When it comes to listening to him in the meeting room and going on the field trying to produce, we try to do everything to perfection, because we know he knows what he's talking about."
"We had a lot of returning players last year, so a lot of things were already established," Austin adds. "This year almost everything is wide open, there's competition at every position. So, everybody wants to compete. (The coaching change marks) a new start because a lot more people are going to get shots to play this year."