BY DANIEL MOGOLLON
COLLEGE FOOTBALL INSIDERS CO-FOUNDER
2006 RECORD: 7-6; Pac-10: 5-4
Lost Emerald Bowl vs. Florida St. 44-27
LOCATION: Pasadena, California
STADIUM: Rose Bowl (82,600)
HEAD COACH: Karl Dorrell
OVERALL: 29-21 (4 seasons)
AT UCLA: 29-21 (4 seasons)
Most have the Bruins ranked higher, some even in the top ten, but before we get too excited about UCLA returning ten starters on both sides of the ball, we should not forget they were just 7-6 overall and 5-4 in conference play last year. The lasting image is of their victory over USC, however they did take a step back after going 10-2 the previous season. In addition, that stellar defense allowed 29 points to Washington, 30 to Oregon, 37 to Washington St., 38 to California and 44 to Florida St. in the Emerald Bowl. Who are the real UCLA Bruins?
WHEN THE BRUINS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Jay Norvell (1st Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 10
KEY LOSSES: Junior Taylor, Robert Chai, Justin Medlock (K), Raymond Carter (INJ)
Ben Olson was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, but has missed three seasons, one as a redshirt and two more while on a Mormon Mission. Then last season he missed more than half the year with a knee injury. At 6’5”/227 no one doubts his physical ability but one has to wonder what type of effect all that time away from the gridiron has done to a once promising prospect. With four returning starters on the offensive line led by guard Shannon Tevaga along with the addition of talented sophomore Micah Kia, who is set to take over at left tackle, they have the makings of a quality offensive line. What they get out of the skill position players is up for grabs. Marcus Everett has ability, but his 31 catches were good enough to lead the receivers in 2006, while Chris Markey is solid, but unspectacular. He did become the first Bruin to lead them in rushing yards and receptions since 1962, something I am sure new offensive coordinator Jay Norvell does not want to happen again this season. The hope was freshman Raymond Carter was going to bring some explosiveness into the backfield, but he is out for the season.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Shannon Tevaga (SR), 2) Ben Olson (JR), 3) Micah Kia (SO), 4) Chris Markey (SR), 5) Marcus Everett (SR), 6) Chris Joseph (SR), 7) Michael Pitre (SR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: DeWayne Walker (2nd Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 10
KEY LOSSES: Justin Hickman
Ends Bruce Davis and Justin Hickman combined to produce 25 sacks and while Davis (12.5 sacks) returns so does a secondary that finished 74th in the nation in pass defense. Four starters return, in addition to Alterraun Verner, an impact nickel back, so the potential for improvement is there. The strength of the defense is their ability to stop the run. They have all the necessary ingredients, a solid pair of interior lineman, a MIKE in Christian Taylor who plays smart, while covering ground and a potentially explosive attacking threat in sophomore Reggie Carter, who could end up as the top player on this side of the ball. UCLA improved from 113th in total defense and 108th in scoring defense in 2005, to 35th in total defense and 39th in scoring defense last season. If they can make a similar jump then the Bruins could be in business.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Bruce Davis (SR), 2) Chris Horton (SR), 3) Reggie Carter (SO), 4) Dennis Keyes (SR), 5) Alterraun Verner (SO), 6) Rodney Van (SR), 7) Kevin Brown, 8) Christian Taylor (SR), 9) Brigham Harwell, 10) Trey Brown (SR)
The Bruins will likely establish how they do this season with how they handle their out of conference games. Yes, the big games on their schedule are a home game to Cal and their finale against USC at the Coliseum. However, they will be favored against BYU, Utah (on the road) and Notre Dame, three games they should win but could very well lose. If they can not handle those foes, solid but all unranked, why should we believe they will be successful against the two Oregon schools and the two Arizona schools, let alone USC and Cal.
The coordinators: The impact that DeWayne Walker had in his first season as the defensive coordinator is already documented, now can he take them to the next level? It is easier to go from bad to good than good to great. If he does, Walker will become a hot name when jobs begin to open up. The hope in Westwood is that this season, Jay Norvell can have a similar immediate impact as he takes over the offense. There will be changes in scheme and style (more shotgun, quicker pace), so he could be just what the doctor ordered. One thing is clear, either Norvell does not value job security or is immensely confidant, as he becomes the fourth OC under Karl Dorrell in five seasons.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
The talent is there for the Bruins to make a run at intra-city rival USC, but not if they believe they are destined to do so. The schedule has as many as nine games against top 50 teams, so they will not have too many off weeks throughout the season. All the coaches, especially headman Dorrell who has the misfortune of coaching in Los Angeles at the same time as Pete Carroll, will be scrutinized this season. As I said the talent is there, so it is up to them to coach’em up, if they are to avoid another mediocre season.
Check back tomorrow to see who is #21 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown