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Neuheisel passes judgment on woes

December 01, 2008|David Wharton | Wharton is a Times staff writer.

With a subpar UCLA pass offense facing USC's highly ranked defense Saturday, Coach Rick Neuheisel has a theory about why his team is struggling through the air.

And he says the Bruins aren't alone.

Neuheisel sees across the nation a paucity of young quarterbacks prepared to operate in the pro-style offense that many colleges employ.

"So many of the high school offenses are spread," he said. "They get in the gun . . . so there isn't as much pocket awareness, pocket presence if you will, being taught at that level."

It's a matter of footwork, dropping back from center and knowing how to be in sync with various short, medium and long passes, he said. A late pass can become a turnover.

UCLA starter Kevin Craft played in a spread-style offense at Mt. San Antonio College, where his dad was the offensive coordinator. This season, Craft has completed 56% of his passes for 2,252 yards but has 19 interceptions against seven touchdowns.

Neuheisel believes that Craft and other quarterbacks accustomed to the spread require time to adjust.

"You just have to understand that has to have a real component of the teaching progression," he said.

Team unity

In dealing with the aftermath of his team's loss over the weekend, Neuheisel talked about several morale issues.

The defense played one of its best games this season, holding Arizona State to 122 yards and surrendering only two field goals Friday.

Asked about the continuing possibility of a rift between the defense and offense, Neuheisel talked about players who "take great pride in adhering to the notion that we're a team. One for all, all for one."

He also addressed questions about why the offense is not showing signs of improvement in terms of running the ball and limiting turnovers.

"I don't think there's any lack of caring," he said. "I think there is a great deal of that."

Health matters

Offensive lineman Nick Ekbatani, who suffered a knee injury against Arizona State, is scheduled to have an MRI exam today. He is expected to play against USC.


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