UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel got to good news quickly enough following the Bruins' spring scrimmage.
"On the bright side, I think the first-team defense is growing fast," Neuheisel said. "They run like a Pac-10 team. They fly around like a Pac-10 team."
The trick now is to give the defense a Pac-10 offense to practice against. That remains the chore, as a herky-jerky performance at the Rose Bowl demonstrated.
Kevin Prince may well be the Bruins' starting quarterback; Neuheisel said an official decision probably would be made this week. But Prince also missed on his first six passes, one of which was intercepted by cornerback Alterraun Verner.
Not that anyone else was doing much better. The offense had 50 yards in the first 44 plays, which included three lost fumbles, one interception and three sacks.
By the end of the scrimmage things were smoother, with Prince finishing 11 for 24 for 134 yards with one touchdown. Richard Brehaut, who enrolled early to participate in spring practice, was seven for 14 for 47 yards with a touchdown.
"I thought they were a little ragged to begin with," offensive coordinator Norm Chow said. "They are young. Initially, I thought the balls were being shotputted. We sharpened up after a while."
Prince, who ran the first team exclusively but said he did not expect a No. 1 quarterback to be named until summer, took the blame for the interception, though Chow said tight end Morrell Presley ran the wrong route.
Chow was hardly protecting Prince. After the first couple of series, Chow said he told Prince, "If this is too big for you, we'll call off the jam. Obviously, he got mad at me, so he started playing a little better."
Said Prince: "That's a little insulting. Obviously nobody wants to go out there and play like I did the first two series. . . . The slow start was discouraging for me, and the coaches as well."
The next step, Prince said, was to take a leadership role.
"We'll be doing seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills that the coaches can't be at," Prince said. "I feel it's up to the quarterbacks to set that up. That'll be the perfect chance to display my leadership."
Neuheisel said the offensive woes were to be expected, given the number of key players who were unable to play. Tailback Christian Ramirez (hamstring), center Kai Maiava (ankle), tight end Logan Paulsen (foot), wide receiver Taylor Embree (shoulder) and fullback Chane Moline (hamstring) did not play.
Meanwhile, on defense . . .
The first unit had the ready-to-go look, though it was on field for 20-25 plays. "We know who they are and we're pretty satisfied," defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough said. "We didn't want late injuries going into the summer."
As he has done all spring, defensive tackle Brian Price pretty much did what he pleased. He had two sacks.
"I have been here a couple years," Price said. "Guys are looking to me to make plays."
Linebacker Akeem Ayers, a reserve last season, seems set at linebacker. "Knowing the coaches have confidence in me makes me play with more confidence," Ayers said.
Neuheisel, explaining the ground rules of the scrimmage to the crowd, said, "We are not going to allow the quarterbacks to be hit. After last season, I am a little sensitive about that."
UCLA was 110th out of 119 NCAA Division I-A teams in sacks allowed last year with 35.