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T.J. SIMERS

Norm Chow and Rick Neuheisel give mixed quarterback signals

UCLA's offensive coordinator and head coach seem to be on a different page when it comes to who should be under center.

October 27, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

Stopped by to chat with the Heisman maker, Norm Chow, after listening to UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel give yet another hilarious but hot-air news conference.

The Bruins have lost four in a row, their quarterbacks haven't thrown a touchdown pass in a month and for the first time in nearly 20 years, UCLA is in danger of not getting a bowl bid in two consecutive years.

And on the back page of the Daily Bruin on Monday, the headline read: "Neuheisel's team falling apart."

I know how much closer the kids on campus are to the UCLA football players, so I asked Neuheisel whether the Daily Bruin was on to something.

"I don't think we're falling apart," Neuheisel said, but it would have been more reassuring had he said, "I know we're not falling apart."

It didn't take long for Neuheisel to start cracking one-liners like this knee-slapper: "I'll be disappointed if the team doesn't" get a bowl bid this year, which probably means going 4-1 down the stretch.

The Bruins head coach then said that he "asked about getting Richard [Brehaut] some playing time."

Now I thought it was the head coach who made such decisions, Neuheisel explaining, though, Chow, the team's offensive coordinator, has always honored his requests in the past.

And, "he didn't say no to this one."

Chow is an expert on quarterback development. He's worked with Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Philip Rivers and Steve Young. But he's apparently forgotten how to draw up touchdown plays for Kevin Prince, Kevin Craft and Brehaut.

"I have a lot of touchdown plays," countered Chow, not surprising, of course, that he would be saving them all for the USC game.

The Heisman maker said he's been working from "five in the morning to 10 every night trying to find a way to get a first down," and if you've watched the Bruins' offense you understand the overtime.

But on a shocking note, Chow said the Bruins are on the right track and have the quarterback to get the job done. He said nothing about having "the two quarterbacks" to get the job done, which made it pretty clear that he and Neuheisel are not on the same page.

"I guess we need to find out which quarterback, although I thought we knew," Chow said, while going on to add, "I know who it is. I still think it is Kevin Prince.

"Now I'm not going against what the head coach has to say here; he's the boss and I've never fought with the head coach in my life."

How about Pete Carroll?

"Disagreements are different from fights," said the former USC assistant. "I think it's important to find out for our program which guys are the best, but right now I think it's Prince."

But Neuheisel said the team will play both Prince and Brehaut against Oregon State, while going on to offer yet one more conflicting message.

"I want our young quarterbacks to play without fear of the quick hook," Neuheisel said, while at the same time setting up a situation where Prince will be jerked at any given moment to play Brehaut.

"It's difficult to predict when," Neuheisel said. "We'll have to see how the guys are doing."

About that headline: "Neuheisel's team falling apart" . . .

The Bruins will be underdogs to Oregon State and USC, and will need to beat Washington State, Arizona State and Washington to go 6-6.

"I still see great things," Neuheisel said.

"Do you also see dead people?" I said.

"I think the future is very bright," he said. "I believe we've proven we can recruit . . . "

The proof so far: Neuheisel is 7-12 in his first 19 games, while Karl Dorrell was 10-9, and Carroll 11-8 at USC.

Neuheisel said he has seen improvement; he's also the same guy who told everyone before the season the Bruins' goal was to win the Pacific 10 Conference. Or maybe I misunderstood, and he was trying to say the goal was to win a Pac-10 game this year.

Chow said the Bruins' troubles this year on offense are simple to define. "We're young."

He said Prince is a freshman, and while a young Matt Barkley seems to be doing just fine across town, his supporting cast provides a distinct advantage.

"I think our guys are playing as hard as they can," Chow said, maybe the worst thing a coach can say after his team has lost four in row. That must mean they're losing because they just aren't any good.

"Last year was the first time in my entire coaching career I had a losing season," Chow said.

The way things are going this year, it will be the first time in his entire coaching career he's had two consecutive losing seasons.

--

TMZ RAN a picture of the Screaming Meanie having lunch the other day with someone it identified as Jeff Fuller, reporting Fuller had been fired by the Dodgers a few weeks ago.

TMZ said Fuller's late mother was an heir to the Pillsbury fortune, already prompting more than one e-mailer to suggest the nickname "Doughboy." Why do people insist on using nicknames?

I also have no idea why TMZ ran a picture of Jamie & Jeff, but I did find Fuller's title interesting.

TMZ identified him as the Dodgers' "director of protocol," a Dodgers spokesman later saying Fuller requested he not be mentioned in the Dodgers media guide at the start of the season.

No idea what a director of protocol might do for a baseball team, although those who have seen him around Dodger Stadium with an ear piece in his ear and stationed behind the owner's box took him for Jamie's bodyguard. I don't believe it would be appropriate at this time to offer any further comment.

--

JUST A hunch, but I wouldn't be surprised if Frank McCourt names Don Mattingly as Joe Torre's 2011 replacement soon -- as a reminder to everyone that Frank is still in control and to divert attention from his personal problems.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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