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The many cooks in UCLA's offensive kitchen

Coach Rick Neuheisel, offensive coordinator Mike Johnson and run-game coordinator Jim Mastro will all have a hand in UCLA's offense on game day.

August 27, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince and Coach Rick Neuheisel talk strategy during a Bruins scrimmage at Drake Stadium.
UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince and Coach Rick Neuheisel talk strategy during… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

On paper, UCLA's offensive chain of command seems to have become a bureaucratic labyrinth that would make any University of California school proud.

Rick Neuheisel will deal with the quarterbacks beyond the occasional sideline-scream sessions. Mike Johnson is the offensive coordinator and a proponent of the "spread" offense. Jim Mastro is the run-game coordinator and a disciple of the "pistol" offense, which the Bruins will run.

Game day communications have that 405-at-5 o'clock potential — something that can make anyone around Westwood cringe.

Making it work, Neuheisel said, will require an "egos be damned" approach.

"This isn't about who gets credit," Neuheisel said. "There will be more than enough credit if we get it right. What will be key is making sure the voices get together and make sure the play goes in without delay."

That's in theory, but in real time?

"We have to practice that," Neuheisel said. "Mike [Johnson] is going be in charge of calling the plays, borrowing from Jim [Mastro]. I'm going to be a guy who is listening to the rhythm of the plays and interjecting between series what I think needs to be part of the next series. Keeping track of how many times we take shots, keeping track of how many times we've done things, posing questions, keeping ideas alive."

And: "Sometimes that will be learning how to shut up so that people can do their jobs when things are going well," Neuheisel said.

The two-minute offense, Neuheisel said, "that's kind of been my baby over the years."

As for game-planning, Mastro said, "we'll do it by committee. Mike is the offensive coordinator. He will rely on me heavily to call the run game and give him run game suggestions."

In the end, Johnson said, "I oversee the offense. I put it all together. I don't think one person does everything. You use people in the area that they are strong and then put it all together.

"It's about how you manage the head coach and understand the expectations he wants. All those things are a part of a coordinator job. Then put it all together and go call the game."

Christian's duty

Kevin McDermott has eased the loss of All-American long snapper Christian Yount, who is with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. McDermott, a junior, spent the last two years watching Yount.

"When you're backing up an All-American, you learn from him," McDermott said.

That included what-if work during games last season.

"On every punt snap, I wasn't thinking 'OK, what would I do in this situation, what would I do in that situation?'" McDermott said.

McDermott gives the Bruins a different look. At 6 feet 5, 247 pounds, he is bigger than Yount.

"He has a long wing span, which is beneficial, blocking-wise," special teams coach Angus McClure said. "He's a more physical guy down field. He runs a little better. If we can get him as consistent as Christian, we'll be in great shape."

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