It has been a fantastic recruiting tool that Coach Rick Neuheisel used to see three high school football games in one September evening, and pull off another nightly double late last month.
He was prepared for one more doubleheader tonight in Ventura and Mission Viejo until he was given the "unfortunate" news about his booster-provided helicopter Thursday: Blue Thunder is grounded.
"It's already occupied," Neuheisel said. "I can't get everything done that I had planned. I'm going to leg it."
The Pacoima-based helicopter belongs to Larry Welk, a financial supporter of Bruins football who is better known as the grandson of the late television bandleader Lawrence Welk, Neuheisel said.
The coach was planning a helicopter ride that would take him first to Ventura High to observe the Newbury Park-Ventura St. Bonaventure Southern Section game featuring St. Bonaventure defensive back Patrick Hall, who has made an oral commitment to USC.
After that recruiting salvo at the Trojans, he was going to watch the Loyola-Mission Viejo game that showcases running back Alex Mascarenas, who has committed to UCLA, talented Loyola junior running back Anthony Barr and 6-feet-4, 270-pound defensive lineman John Young.
Neuheisel said he expected to trek to Mission Viejo and send six other members of his staff on playoff duty, "moving around all cities and counties."
Scouting his future
Freshman running back Milton Knox received praise from his coach after a pair of long runs Wednesday, and he was given another chance Thursday to "go live" as Neuheisel allowed the scout team contact in this week before the Nov. 28 game at Arizona State.
"It's the first time I've been hit since camp, and it felt good," Knox said. "I feel I can play. Now, it's just about knowing my playbook. I'd like to start [next year] but even if I'm number two, three or four, I just want to play."
His cause would be helped by a strong recruiting class, something Knox thinks is possible because of Neuheisel.
"He's one of the friendliest people I've ever met, he practices with us, he builds a relationship," Knox said. "It's why I came here: He makes you feel like family, telling us we're all brothers and we'll get this done together. He's charming, and honestly wants to change how we've been doing here, and he has the ability to make those things happen."
For his team's sake, punter Aaron Perez wishes he'd made fewer appearances this season.
The UCLA senior established a school career mark by making the 269th punt of his career Saturday at Washington, and he'll surpass another Nate Fikse standard because his 11,411 punting yards are just shy of Fikse's 11,420.
"I don't know if it's a good or bad thing to punt the most times with the most yards," Perez said. "It'd be nice if we scored more points and I wasn't needed, but when they need me, I'm here to back the other team up. That's what a punter's for, and I think I've done that pretty well."
Defensive end Korey Bosworth (back), linebacker Chase Moline (back) and tight end Cory Harkey (sick) returned to practice and participated in contact drills. Starting defensive tackle Brian Price (hamstring) was in pads, but didn't practice. Price said he's "good" to play at Arizona State.