Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Norm Chow Returns to Los Angeles

Less than a month after being canned by the Tennessee Titans, Norm Chow has returned to the city from which his title of "Offensive Guru" sprang from. Back in Los Angeles, Chow is calling plays, not for USC coach Pete Carroll, but for UCLA's Rick Neuheisel. Chow will replace Jay Norvell as UCLA's offensive coordinator.

The hiring of Chow is the next step in the continuing overhaul of UCLA's coaching staff, beginning with Neuheisel replacing Karl Dorrell, on through Neuheisel's bringing in of former UCLA wide reciever Reggie Moore. These offensive coaches were brought in to fix an offense that finished 2007 ranked 9th in the Pac 10 in scoring offense and dead last in passing offense. The hope is that Chow, who mentored three Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks, will bring a turn around to the weak passing offense.

Here's my thoughts on this. Former mega recruit Ben Olson is jumping for joy right now. The prototypical Olsen posseses all the physical skills needed to be a top flight QB. He compares very favorably to Carson Palmer, who struggled his first few years at USC before Norm Chow was hired as offensive coordinator, before Palmer won the Heisman Trophy his senior year and became the first pick in the 2003 NFL draft.

The UCLA offense isn't in nearly as bad shape as the statistics from last season seem to indicate. They suffered from a brutal rash of injuries to their QBs and RBs. While most of their starting lineup has moved on, these injuries allowed their backups, and next years starters, to accrue valuable experience. RB Khalil Bell was more effective than starter Chris Markey when subbing in for the injured Markey. Bell's 5.6 ypc average is a good sign for Chow's offense, especially when combined with the potential players returning in the recieving corps. WRs Dominique Johnson and Terrence Austin, while nowhere near as good as the WRs Chow had with the Trojans, provide a good dichotomy of skillsets. Johnson is a 6'4" jump ball specialist, and Austin is a 5'11" speedster, who'll make the screen pass a more viable threat. Rounding out the skill position players will be TE Logan Paulsen, a 6'6" recieving threat who'll be seeking to rebound from a dissapointing 12 catch season in which he missed 6 games due to injury.
The weakest point of the offense is the Line. Chow is used to having phenominally talented blockers for his offense to go to work behind. That said, UCLA will only be returning 2 players with significant experience on the offensive line.
The matchups with the current talent is important, but another front that the Chow hiring makes progress on is the failing battle that UCLA has been fighting with USC for the young talent of California. Rick Neuheisel already has a good pitch set up, being able to sell kids on their joining him in reviving UCLA's "Proud Traditions", but now he has a another lure with which to land the big time recruits. Norm Chow has had three Heisman winning QBs under his watch, Ten 1st round draft picks have come out of his offenses, 3 of his QBs are currently starting in the NFL, one of his players is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Chow's resume exudes success for everyone who's willing to join him. Don't forget the fact that his offenses at USC are still fresh in our memory. This is going to be a powerful tool for UCLA's recruiters.
This is an excellent move for UCLA, it'd be a great move for almost any school, but UCLA is particularly well suited for him.

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