“Cheech” charms UCLA

Former SMC lineman stars in UCLA spring game

It was the third quarter and Alexandru “Cheech” Ceachir, a six-five three hundred pound offensive tackle from Moldova, had blood on his football pants and a smile on his face that exposed his new blue and yellow University of California Los Angeles mouthpiece.

Ceachir had just stepped off the field, helmet in hand, in front of over 13,000 loyal off-season Bruin fans at the Rose Bowl this last Saturday, fulfilling a dream of one day playing on the field for a Division I school. But the game was only a scrimmage; his true test as a Bruin will come this fall.

“I just love his physical play,” said UCLA Offensive Line Coach Adrian Klemm. “I love his attitude. He’s eager to please and he wants to learn and do good, and he’s so physical.”

Ceachir, who played football at Santa Monica College last fall, committed to playing at UCLA after switching from his initial commitment to play at Utah last December, and the Los Angeles quarterbacks he will soon be protecting are happy to have him.

“I love knowing that he’s there protecting me because I know that he’s not going to let anyone through,” said former Loyola High School Quarterback Jerry Neuheisel. “He doesn’t speak that much English, but he’s playing his butt off.”

Klemm was “excited” that Ceachir signed a two-year contract to play on the offensive line at UCLA this last February, and believes that UCLA will have a great season with newly appointed Head Coach Jim L. Mora.

“There is a lot of energy here and Coach Mora has brought an intensity that hasn’t been here in a while,” said Klemm. “We want to have something strong here and leave a legacy.”

Neuheisel, an upbeat and positive-styled quarterback, believes that this “legacy” will come to fruition this fall and that if UCLA has a winning season, it will all start with the offensive line.

“I think we are a lot better than people think we are,” said Neuheisel. “I think we are going to surprise some people with how well we are going to manhandle the line of scrimmage this year. I think when it comes down to it there is nobody in the world that can get by our guys. I trust them with my life and I know all the other quarterbacks do too.”

According to a Bruin sports report published in January of 2012, “the Bruins needed a player who could come in and compete for playing time, and one of the first things that offensive line coach Adrian Klemm did when he arrived on the scene was revisit a player he was recruiting when he was at Southern Methodist University.”

This player was Ceachir who played tackle last fall for SMC.

“He was instrumental in our success last year,” said SMC Football Head Coach Gifford Lindheim. “Cheech led the offensive line with his toughness and competitiveness. Obviously when you lose your best offensive linemen to UCLA you have some replacing to do.”

Klemm has a new role for Ceachir this upcoming football season, and that is playing the role of guard instead of tackle.

Klemm switched Ceachir’s position on the offensive line out of “necessity,” but switching positions from tackle to guard hasn’t been easy for him.

Ceachir is finding out that he is at the same level as everybody else in the Pac-12 and will have to work hard to stay at the top of the game.

“I need more work,” said Ceachir. “I am not used to this tempo. It’s a huge difference from everywhere. From practice, to film, studies, exercises, lifting, it’s all a new life. It’s really fast and intensive and there is no one that is special, so you need to work hard to be better then everyone.”

Klemm agreed with the difficulties surrounding Ceachir’s adaption to Division I football.

“Sometimes I can’t coach him on the run like other guys, so it’s a little slower process for him to pick up things because we have to wait until we get off the field to go over certain things,” said Klemm. “There are a few things we need to polish. He has some rough edges in terms of technique and all that, but as we work at that and he picks up on things, I think he’s going to be a really good player.”

The question everyone seems to be asking is, will Ceachir be ready come fall?

“He is just a natural, physical guy but it’s hit or miss with him,” said Klemm. “Some things he understands right now and some things he doesn’t. But I am keeping in mind this is a new position for him and a new system for him and there is a little bit of a language barrier at times.”

Contrary to the popular belief of many, including Klemm, that UCLA acquired a “big Russian bear,” according to a tweet sent by Klemm when they acquired him in February this last year, Ceachir is from Moldova (a former Soviet state between Romania and the Ukraine), and his native language is actually a dialect of Romanian called Moldovan.

But even though his first language is Moldovan, Ceachir has worked hard to understand English in order to fulfill his childhood dream of coming to America to play football, and now that he has his chance to work with his new coaches and teammates, he is quickly winning them over.

“You know what? He’s the man,” said Neuheisel. “I love Cheech. He was a little slow at first, but he’s picking it up better then anyone I’ve seen, and I can’t wait to see him play.”

Ceachir’s excitement at being given the opportunity to play at UCLA bled over to his new offensive line coach and all the friends he was making on the football field.

“Klemm is really good and he knows what he’s doing,” said Ceachir. “He’s tough. He’s explosive. He’s awesome. He is just great and everybody likes him. He is our friend but also our coach in the meetings.”

Perhaps a “tough” coach is what Ceachir needs to keep him at the top of his game and help him rise up to the Division I challenge.

“I feel comfortable,” said Ceachir. “I am going to try and do my best and work hard to show coaches, to prove myself, and we’re going to see what’s going to happen.”