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Eric Bieniemy taking a loud and collaborative approach to reshaping UCLA's offense

Keeping tabs on Eric Bieniemy during practice doesn’t require scanning the field. All one has to do is listen.

“If you don’t know the … snap count!” UCLA’s offensive coordinator bellowed to a group of reserve players Thursday morning, adding a few choice words, “get the … off the field!”

Later, when the offensive line wasn’t being as physical as he wanted, Bieniemy erupted anew.

“Put a hat on a … hat, let’s play ball!” he shouted.

Succeed or fail, the Bruins’ offense will not go quietly under its new boss who is back at his old home after having been the team’s running backs coach and recruiting coordinator for three seasons under Karl Dorrell before some of the incoming UCLA freshmen were born.

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Bieniemy said he decided to return to the college game after spending most of the last two decades in the NFL after new UCLA coach DeShaun Foster reached out about the possibility of joining his staff. Selling points included returning to a school he adored and working alongside a coach he had admired since watching Foster run over defenses at Tustin High.

“I thought that was huge, that he would want me to come out,” said Bieniemy, who starred as a running back at Bishop Amat High before going on to play at Colorado and in the NFL, “and I just wanted to jump on the opportunity and come and help DeShaun build the program up to what he wants his vision to be.”

What does Bieniemy want his West Coast offense to be?

He said it would feature a diverse set of run and pass plays without divulging if he had a preference for one over the other. Whatever UCLA unveils in its season opener against Hawaii on Aug. 31 will be a collaborative effort with input from the entire offensive staff and Foster.

“When it’s all said and done it’s our offense, it’s not just anything that I’ve designed,” Bieniemy said. “Yes, I’ve got tons of ideas, I’ve got tons of plays but I want this to be ours, we’re a new coaching staff, so we have to build it together.”

The Bruins will use a fullback for the first time since late in the Jim Mora era, with Anthony Adkins getting the bulk of the work at that position Thursday. At one point, Adkins made a nice catch out of the backfield and bulldozed his way through defenders.

Bieniemy said he planned to install “a good chunk” of his offense by the end of spring, with two of the three weekly practices used to put in new plays and the third serving as a review. Players struggled to digest some of the concepts introduced Thursday, with quarterbacks and receivers badly out of sync. The pace also dragged, with the offense often going 45 seconds or more between snaps.

“Everybody was a little hesitant to go out and do what they were supposed to do, but that’s OK, that’s part of the learning process,” Bieniemy said. “Now we just need to figure out how to play faster but also to make sure we are digesting it and spending the time together working on it so we can come out here and do what needs to be done.”

The next few weeks will be spent evaluating players to assess how they best fit into what Bieniemy wants to do. He’s not on the verge of making any definitive judgments after only three practices.

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“There's been some good, there's been some bad, there's been some ugly from all of them,” Bieniemy said, “but like I said, it's still early. I’m not expecting us to come out and set the world on fire. What I want us to do is just to continue first and foremost, learn how to put consistent behavior on tape. Once we learn how to put consistent behavior on tape, the rest of everything will take care of itself.”

A New Orleans native who moved to Hollywood not long after his 10th birthday and later relocated to West Covina, Bieniemy continually smiled as he discussed a homecoming that involved a return to one of his early coaching stops.

“This feels great, you guys have no idea,” Bieniemy, who will turn 55 in August, said before motioning toward the still-gleaming Wasserman Football Center. “I mean, look at this facility. This facility wasn’t here. … It feels good to be back home. You can’t pick a better place to be than UCLA.”

He’s making those feelings loudly known. All one has to do is listen.

“Very engaged for sure,” wide receiver Logan Loya said of Bieniemy. “It’s just the energy level and it makes you match it, so it’s awesome.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.