Dorrell makes a decision … and it’s final

first_imgWhen it came to quarterbacks, Donahue would take his time before naming the starter. He would wait and wait and wait. He would wait for excruciating weeks and months through spring practice into preseason camp before naming his starting quarterback. Not Dorrell. He made it clear at the end of spring – Ben Olson is UCLA’s quarterback. Period. End of discussion. In a read-my-lips statement, he said, “We don’t have a quarterback controversy.” At least not until Olson throws his first interception. Or perhaps misses a receiver on a big third- down pass. Then there will be calls for Patrick Cowan. And perhaps for Dorrell’s head. Cowan is the only quarterback at UCLA with a win over USC, which makes him a rare commodity not just in Westwood but in the nation. But Olson is No. 1 on the Bruins’ depth chart. “Ben clearly was the better, productive player in spring,” Dorrell explained. “So that’s an easy decision to make.” In truth, it is easier said than done. There are those observers who would like to explain that they value beating USC over winning during spring drills. The importance of the Olson-over-Cowan decision cannot be overstated. This is one point where Dorrell agrees with everyone. “Quarterback play is really, really important,” he submitted. This is Dorrell’s critical fifth year because he has yet to demonstrate he is, or is going to be, a top-of-the-line coach. His 29-21 record could be more deceiving than revealing because without a 10-2 third season he is an oh-so-average 19-19. He needs a big season to generate confidence in himself similar to the confidence he has shown in Olson. And a big season is expected with 10 starters returning on offense and 10 more returning on defense. What the coach has done is join himself at the hip with a quarterback. The party line on Olson praises his poise, maturity, grasp of the offense and ability to remain within the framework of the offense along with his accurate, efficient passing. The impression is, and these words will never cross Dorrell’s lips, they trust him more than Cowan and that they are more comfortable with him playing quarterback. There is more than ability, raw or otherwise, in the decision. “You can’t go into the season feeling you’ve got to build the confidence in your quarterback,” Dorrell said. “He needs to know his team is behind him and his coaching staff is behind him so he can continue to develop and grow. That’s what the plan is.” An ancillary factor is the need for the coach to build his own confidence in his starting quarterback. It’s easier to achieve that by artificially removing any competition and concentrating positive energy on the one you have selected. So the decision to go with Olson was cold and calculating. It was a pick-one-guy-and- build-him-up decision. It was a decision Dorrell clearly believes was necessary to get UCLA football, not to mention his career, to the next level. It also was a decision similar to decisions John Wooden made back in the years when he was building and maintaining UCLA’s unprecedented basketball dynasty. “It feels good,” Olson said of the No. 1 role. “You feel like you can do a lot of things you might not have been able to do if you had not been named the starter. It helps a ton.” A new factor entered the equation Monday. Perhaps that should be departed from the picture, at least temporarily. Cowan pulled his left hamstring while scrambling during a two-minute drill. He was on crutches Tuesday. Dorrell must have gone beyond game and practice tapes and had a good look at tea leaves when he made his decision. This eliminates any we-want-Cowan protests going into the opening game a week from Saturday at Stanford. It does not eliminate Cowan from the picture. At least not if he responds to treatment and is good to go again before long. He’s more of a gunslinger than Olson, which suggests he’s the better suited of the two to come off the bench and rally the Bruins. This of course is contingent on Olson faltering and Dorrell deciding to make another decision. A thought from Dorrell resonates. “It doesn’t matter, all the things that have been said, whether positive or negative, it’s about what you can do when you start your season,” he said. It’s about what your team does during the season. It’s about what Ben Olson does during this season. Negative or positive. That’s something else that is perfectly clear. mwsptcol@aol.com160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Karl Dorrell has made one thing perfectly clear as he heads into his critical fifth year as UCLA’s football coach. He is his own man. Red Sanders is the uncontested outstanding coach in UCLA football history. Terry Donahue is No.2 on this list. Dorrell played for Donahue. He was a graduate assistant on Donahue’s staff. Donahue remains a mentor. last_img

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