Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rivals First Class Ranking

Well, Rivals put out their first class ranking today. It is super, super early as we still have over six months to go. But UCLA's fast start to the recruiting season has propelled us into the #1 slot. Some of that has to due with our 21 recruits, which is the most in the nation. The other part is the quality of the class. The Bruins have 13 players who are 4-stars and another 7 players with 3-star rankings. Our average star ranking actually puts us 8th in the nation, so there is definitely a lot of talent headed to Westwood in '08.

The Bruins have been scooping up recruits from all over California, with Aundre Dean being the only out-of-state player. With only four scholarships left to give out, the coaches will have to decide who is left on the short list. Hamani Stevens, who briefly committed to the coaches earlier this month, is definitely a big time target. The Bruins are also looking at Nelson Rosario, who was rumored to be the next in line after Milton Knox verballed. Possibly another tight end and a defensive tackle could fill out the class. Kevan Walker, Dewayne Walker's son, is also potentially in the mix for a scholarship.

Player Profile: Ben Olson

Everyone has heard Ben Olson's story. I think FSN, ABC, and NBC worked it to death last year, giving us a personal history lesson each week. It went something like this: High School phenom, BYU for one season, Mormon Mission, and then UCLA. As far as I'm concerned, all of that is ancient history. Any past accomplishments are long gone and It is all about this season and finally living up to all the hope, hype, and the mountain of expectations that have followed him since his prep days.

Ben is definitely the most talented and skilled quarterback to put on a Bruin jersey since Cade McNown. He is tall, has a cannon for an arm, and the 24 year old is wise and mature. He has all the measurables you like to see at the position and the guy has had NFL scouts watching him for years. Even in high school, people were pegging Olson as a guy who would be playing on Sundays.

Unfortunately for Ben, he's managed to play just five games in the last five years and the rust was very apparent this last season. He got off to a fantastic start against Utah, but it quickly went down hill as he struggled against the lowly Rice Owls and he really never found a consistent grove. The knee injury against Arizona, which was a nasty cheap shot, unfortunately cut short a season where he could have gotten some much needed time on the field. He wrapped up the season connecting on 79 of 124 passes for 822 yards, 5 TDs, 5 INTs.

The one good number from Ben's sophomore campaign was his completion percentage. He landed 64% of his passes, which is exactly what you want to see from your quarterback in a west coast offense. Now, admittedly, that was against some pretty weak competition (Washington, Stanford, Arizona, Rice, and Utah) but if Ben can be as accurate this year then the Bruin's offense will put up a lot more points.

Ben was named the starting quarterback this spring and he'll head into the fall camp, for the first time, knowing he's the number one guy. He had a decent spring practice, but the new offense installed by Jay Norvell means learning a whole new vocabulary and set of plays. Ben seems like a smart guy but there is bound to be a learning curve. Hopefully, Olson can draw on some of what he has learned over the last two years in the west coast offense, to make the transition a little easier. It was his competition percentage and his grasp of the new offense that gave him the leg-up over Pat Cowan this spring. If Ben struggles with accuracy during the season, however, Pat will be waiting to take his place.

New offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Jay Norvell had this to say about Olson, "He's very settled in where he is as a person and very confident in what he wants to get done. Probably the most underrated quality in a quarterback is stability. You need someone mature and stable."

Ben played his prep ball at Thousand Oaks High School. He graduated in 2001, which is a lifetime ago in the college football world. Olson was rated the #1 player in the entire country with both Rivals and Scout both gaving him 5 stars. A Parade All American, He was named to the all-CIF team and given pretty much every national award out there for a quarterback. He was very highly recruited, as you would expect, and he picked BYU over a long list of schools.

After his Mormon mission, Ben was able to re-open his college recruiting. Dissatisfied with the way he was utilized at BYU, he looked around for a new program. He chose a school close to home in UCLA and Ben was almost immediately lauded as the savior of the Bruin football program. He was greeted like a rock star on campus and even earned the short-lived nickname "South Paw Jesus". The hysteria has definitely quieted down over the last two years, but the expectations are still sky high among the fans.

Over his first two years at UCLA, he has been set back by some injuries. He had a small fracture in his throwing hand that limited his minutes early in 2005. He also had the leg injury last year that kept him on the bench for most of the season . Ben does have decent mobility but we'll have to see if the leg injury slows him down in 2007. Drew Olson suffered a nasty leg injury his junior year and he broke school records as a Senior, so hopefully Ben can be just as successful.

In so many ways this is a season of reckoning for the Bruins in general and for Olson in particular. A big year from the southpaw could mean the difference between a great season or a rather average one for UCLA. It is really now or never for Ben to prove that he is that same player that wowed so many fans back at Thousand Oaks. I'm sure nobody has bigger expectations for this season than Olson himself. The only question that remains is will he deliver.

(photo credit: Ghetty Images)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Player Profile: Trey Brown

When you look at Trey Brown, he doesn't strike you as an imposing figure. The 5'9" 185 lb red-shirt senior from Overland Parks, Kansas isn't the biggest or the fastest player in the secondary. However, Brown has emerged as a lock-down corner who has started almost every game during the last three years. He is considered one of the top corners in the conference and he anchors one of the best units on the team.

Trey has started in 30 consecutive games at UCLA and has played in every game since 2003. That's an incredible streak and he is by far the most experienced player on the defense. In my mind, he is the captain of the secondary and his leadership has helped turn them into a formidable and aggresive group.

Trey locks down whatever receiver he is assigned to cover. He led the Bruins last season with 4 interceptions and 9 passes defensed despite the fact that opposing quarterbacks would rarely throw his direction. He also amassed 47 tackles and even got a sack on a corner blitz during the Stanford game. Despite his size he can land a big hit; just ask Arizona receiver Syndric Steptoe, who got knocked for a loop by Brown at the Rose Bowl.

Trey is the son of former UCLA running back Theotis Brown. He camped at UCLA during the summer of 2003 and committed to the Bruins as soon as he was offered. It is always great to see UCLA legacy players stick with the school and make a big impact for their parent's alma mater.

Brown came to Westwood from Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, Kansas. He wasn't well know and his small stature and remote location probably scared off most colleges. He was only given two-stars by both Rivals and Scout despite earning all league honors at both running back and corner. A well rounded athlete, Brown also lettered in basketball and baseball.

He red-shirted his first year as a Bruin but his tough and intellegent play impressed the coaches. In recognition of his accomplishments, he was named the defensive winner of UCLA's Charles Pike Memorial Award for Outstanding Scout Team Player. He started out on special teams his second year but midway through the season he was called upon to take up the starting corner spot.

His sophomore season he had a huge game against Oregon, making 5 tackles and taking an interception 43 yards for a touchdown to give the Bruins their first score. He ended up starting in the final 5 games of the year and, despite seeing only limited action to begin the season, he recorded 46 tackles. Once he earned that starting spot, Brown never looked back. In 2005, Trey continued his streak of excellence. He lead the team in passes defended and also racked up a bunch of tackles. He made a late interception in the 4th quarter against Cal to cap a huge Bruin victory.

With Brown and Horton in the secondary, this unit is going to wreck havoc on opposing offenses. Trey is the old veteran of the group and expect him to pass along his wisdom to future Bruin stars like Alteraun Verner and incoming freshman Courtney Viney. Since Walker's blitzing defense relies heavily on strong defense backs, it is great to know that Trey has his side of the field all locked up.

(photo credit: Ghetty Images)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Milton Knox is a Bruin

Well, everyone was saying Knox might commit soon after fellow teammate Carter decided. Carter gave his verbal this weekend and Knox gave his today. I'm very excited about this latest edition. Milton brings a swagger and a toughness that you don't find in all recruits. This is a huge addition to the 2008 and we're looking at the best Bruin class in a decade.

I think he could be a game breaker and he is definitely built in the mold of Maurice Drew. He isn't very big, 5'8" 192 lbs, but Knox is a tough running back who can break tackles and bust through a crowd. He is an excellent pass catcher as well and, in almost every way, is like a clone of Drew. He doesn't have the top-end speed that Drew brings, but he's very quick with his direction changes and he's every bit as elusive.

Milton will probably set a number of LA city records this year. He is a 3-year starter at Birmingham and he's racked up a ton of yards in his tenure there. He rushed for 2,374 yards and scored 29 touchdowns last year. That effort earned him the Los Angeles City Section Player of the Year award as well as First Team All-State honors. Both Rivals and Scout list him in their top players for 2008 and he has earned 4 stars from both services.

Knox has, by far, the best YouTube video library of any recruit I have ever seen. There are definitely some prolific posters on the video service that love Birmingham High School. Here is just a sampling:
Here is the latest recruiting snapshot ( PDF ) that includes Harkey and Knox. That brings the total number of players to 21 for the class and the Bruins have only a few rides left to give out. The final targets are probably another lineman and possibly a defensive tackle. I'm sure the staff will keep a few slots available for the final big targets in the class.

(photo credit: Rivals)

Cory Harkey Commits

Cory Harkey, of Chino Hills High School, threw his hat into the ring today and joined UCLA's stellar recruiting class. He is a standout player who has received a lot of honors on both sides of the ball. He plays defensive end and tight end for Chino but the Bruins will likely use him exclusively on the offensive side of the ball as a tight end. Cory caught 21 passes for 329 yards and four touchdowns last season. He also racked up 51 tackles and 6.5 sacks on defense.

Only rated 3-stars by both Rivals and Scout, Harkey has a lot of offers up from a number of Western Schools. Both Arizona and Oregon schools had outstanding offers and Boise State was also in the mix. Harkey recently attended one of UCLA's football camps and he was obviously impressed by what he saw. Harkey's commitment takes the Bruins up to 20 for the year.

Final PAC-10 Stats

I'm finally wrapping up generating statistics for all of UCLA's opponents for 2007. I just put up Washington, Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State. I have almost all of the games, except for WSU who is missing a lot of data. Hopefully this next year I can get more game data for all of the schools.

I'm also looking to complete all of the different statistical queries and calculations so I can focus on getting those reports ready for the up coming season. For Husky, Coug, Duck, and Beaver fans visiting the board for the first time, you way want to check out the stats pages for the other PAC-10 teams. You can find those along the right-hand-side of the blog under "Bruin Roar Football Statistics". I also plan to put up a PAC-10 report that shows how all of the teams compare to each other. That should be the final piece of the puzzle and I think make all of the effort really pay off.


Woods is Solid

There have been message board rumors for months discussing the dedication of top-notch safety recruits Rahim Moore and EJ Woods. Ever since they made a verbal commitment to coaches Walker and Dorrell, fans of other schools have been saying those two aren't going to end up in Westwood. The latest rumors focused around two BIG-10 powerhouses, Michigan and Ohio State.

Well, those rumors can now be put to rest. Woods contacted Andrew Friedman of Bruin Blitz yesterday to say he is 100% solid with UCLA and he is ending the recruiting process. Coach Walker is an excellent coach and guys are lining up to play for him. He's been a stellar recruiter and landing Woods and Moore is further proof that he is changing UCLA into a defensive powerhouse.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

High Pressure Tactics

We're still in the month of June, but Karl Dorrell and the coaching staff have given out 19 of the 25 scholarships alloted for 2008. Even if the Bruins take a few early applicants, we're still only looking at 6 - 10 rides left for this class. With the number of free slots dwindling rapidly, it sounds like the staff is stepping up the pressure on recruits to make their commitments official. Brian Dohn reported that the latest commitment, Donovan Carter, wanted to give the Bruins a soft verbal, but the coaches pushed him into making it a solid verbal.

On the one hand, this isn't a bad strategy for the coaches. The recruiting process has accelerated over the last few seasons and if you don't get a guy on board early, he may commit to another school. So far these tactics seems to be working as the coaches have landed a very impressive class. Looking at last year's class rankings as a reference; UCLA's current list of recruits would already be considered a top-10 class, even if they don't land another player.

The other advantage is that the coaches can focus on keeping the guys who have already committed, instead of having to land the bulk of the class later in the year. Coach Walker has already proven he can keep guys with this team as he did a fantastic job last season landing pretty much the entire 2007 class, including fending off late pushes by Pete Carroll and USC. Trying to juggle 25-30 guys has to be a lot easier than tracking 40-50+ high school kids.

A potential downside to this strategy is that recruits might say they are on board, but still keep their options open with other schools. It sounds like Carter might already be thinking along those lines. He had this to say in the interview, “If Oregon is still interested, I would like to go up there because I heard the facilities are crazy. I was talking to Miami, but I don't know about right now. If they're interested, I would love to go there because my mom lives near Florida.''

Some kids might also get turned off by the pressure. It sounds like Hamani Stevens and Carter are a little apprehensive to make such a big decision this early. The big stars aren't going to want to verbal this soon anyways, as they have a lot of schools courting them. It must be a delicate process, trying to convince them to make a decision but not trying to push them too hard that they get turned off. These are just teenage boys, after all, and I'm sure they'll change their minds a few dozen times before it is all said and done.

The other potential disadvantage is that we are burning through the scholarships quickly, so if a big star like Darrell Scott decides he likes the program late in the process, we may not have a ride left for him. It is definitely one of those dilemmas that a staff faces each recruiting season. Do you go with the kid you know or do you hold out for the super star? I think they will keep a few scholarships left, just in case, for those really big names still considering Westwood.

In any case, the 2008 class looks really, really good so the coaches are definitely doing something right. Let's just hope that they land their last few players and keep all these guys sold on the program. There is still a long ways to go until letters of intent are signed in February.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Carter Makes it Official

It wasn't a big secret that UCLA was high on the list for Birmingham linebacker Donovan Carter. His desire to be a Bruin was strong and it seemed like a commitment to UCLA was all but a sure thing. Well, today he made it official, giving a verbal commitment to coaches Walker and Dorrell.

The 6'2" 225 lb linebacker was an early target for the staff. Donovan earned all-City Section honors and he helped lead Birmingham to the 2006 City Section title. He racked up an impressive 130 tackles along with 5.5 sacks last season. He has seen his stock rise over the last month with offers from Arizona, Washington, and San Diego State.

There were rumors that Carter might announce his commitment along with fellow Birmingham High recruit Milton Knox. We'll have to wait and see if Knox follows suit. I'm really high on Knox and think he could be the next Maurice Drew. Anyways, Carter looks like a solid commitment and another nice pickup for the staff. You can see Carter and Knox (along with other Bruin commits Price and Raymond Carter) in action in this video of Birmingham and Crenshaw from last season.

The Bruins have around 6 more scholarships to give out for this class. Here is the latest recruiting snap shot ( PDF ) that includes Carter.

(photo credit:

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Player Profile: Kevin Brown

Kevin Brown, or "the Bear" as he has been nicknamed, is the big man in the middle of the Bruins defensive line. The talented and athletic tackle had a relatively quiet season in 2006, but expect him to explode back into the spotlight this season.

Kevin has a strong motor and peruses the run game relentlessly. He had 24 tackles last year, including 6 tackles for loss and 1 sack. Brown had a good spring practice and it looks like he is finally getting over the ankle injury that side lined him two season ago. Expect his numbers to go way up in 2007 as offenses are forced to double-team Bruce Davis.

Brown finished his high school career at Long Beach Poly before coming to Westwood. He was a standout player on both sides of the ball and he was named to pretty much every single local, district, and state all-everything teams. He was given 4-stars by both Scout and Rivals and considered one of the top lineman in the country.

Kevin bumped around between offensive and defense in his first season as a Bruin. He saw action on both sides of the ball, including a few starts as guard at the end of the season. Originally recruited for defense, he was switched to the offense because of a lack of depth after some injuries depleted the line.

His sophomore year, Kevin switched back to the D-line and he has been there ever since. He started a few times but his real break-out performance came during the SC game at the Rose Bowl. He recorded two sacks and was in Matt Leinart's face for the better part of the game. Big things were expected from him after that game and there was a lot of buzz around the big man going into his Junior year.

In 2005, The Bear was injured at the end of the fall camp. It was a devastating loss to a unit that would see most of its starters on the sidelines by the end of the season. Brown sprained his left ankle and it required surgery that kept him off the field for the entire season. That injury seemed to slow him down a bit in 2006 and staying healthy will be one of his primary goals this year.

It is always crucial to have a solid defensive line and big bodies in the middle can make all the difference. Brown is tipping the scales at close to 300 lbs and along with Brigham Harwell, he should be a monstrous force in the middle of the Bruin front seven. I am excited to see what Brown can do for us this season, and I'm sure opposing quarterbacks will be seeing #75 up close and personal all year long.

(photo credit: national champs)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Hold your Horses

It looks like Karl Dorrell has suffered his first recruiting set back for 2008. Just days after Hamani Stevens committed to being a Bruin, he has reversed direction. Greg Biggins from Bruin Blitz is reporting that Stevens took an unofficial visit to Westwood yesterday and is now saying he is not committed to any school. This was quick on the heels of rumors that Stevens was still seriously considering USC and that an offer from the Trojans might change his decision.

I think a lot of these kids get caught up in the moment during a visit or phone call and they make decisions without really considering all their options. The recruiting process is happening quicker and quicker each year and some players feel pressure to make an early commitment. Stevens obviously likes UCLA and what the coaches have to offer, or else he wouldn't have made that call this past weekend. It is good for him to weigh all of his options first before pulling the trigger. Who knows, he may still end up in the blue and gold before it is all said and done. But I won't be holding my breath.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Scout 100

The scout network released their top-100 players for 2008 yesterday. Three UCLA bound players find their way onto that list:

#41 Rahim Moore (S)
#72 Damien Holmes (DE)
#92 EJ Woods (S)

They also started ranking the players at each position. During that process they shifted around the ratings of a few Bruin commits, including a big bump to Huntington Beach quarterback Nick Crissman. I've updated my 2008 recruiting snap shot ( PDF )to reflect all the latest changes. This class is looking better and better each week as Bruin commits and prospects continue to see their stock rise before the 2007 season.

Player Profile: Shannon Tevaga

It wasn't a sure thing that Shannon Tevaga would be back this year. He flirted with jumping to the NFL before the last draft, but decided another year in Westwood would be a good idea. Shannon is the star on the offensive line and the big man from Paramount has the size and skills to play at the next level.

When asked about the decision, Shannon stated that earning a degree and the opportunity to play with his brother, Sonny (who is a red-shirt freshman this year at UCLA) were the key reasons he came back. An experienced and durable player, Tevaga will be a key anchor on a re-shuffled offensive line this year. Karl Dorrell had this to say about Shannon's contribution to the team:

"Shannon has a chance to be one of the better players in our conference next season and his experience will be an asset to our offensive unit. Another year of college experience will benefit him in the long run."

Tevaga started all 13 games last year barely missing a snap. He also started all 12 games in 2005 and 6 games in 2004 and that makes him the most experienced lineman at UCLA this season. Tevaga has proven to be a dependable and consistent leader on the line during his tenure as a Bruin. Tipping the scales at 313 lbs, Shannon is also one of the biggest lineman suiting up in the blue and gold this season.

Shannon came to Westwood from La Mirada High School. He was a hot prospect after his senior year, and he was given a rating of 4-stars by Scout and 3-stars by Rivals and both services considered him one of the top guards in his class. He was offered scholarships by a number of PAC-10 schools but ultimately picked UCLA because it was close to home and his family. He was selected all-CIF first-team as an offensive lineman and first-team all-area as a defensive lineman. Tevaga was selected to the prestigious Long Beach Press-Telegram Dream Team.

Coming into his final year at UCLA, Shannon has been getting a lot of attention and praise. He has been named to a number of pre-season all-conference teams. The Sporting News and Lindy's magazine both put Tevaga on their second team all PAC-10 squads. He also is expected to be picked up in the NFL draft at the end of year, with some services projecting him to go in the second round.

With a number of players switching positions on the line this year, Shannon will be asked to anchor the unit and lead them to victory this season. Football games are won and lost in the trenches and Tevaga is a big and gifted athlete that the Bruins will run behind a lot this year. I expect a lot from him in 2007 and, after 31 consecutive starts, Shannon has proven he can consistently deliver.

(photo credit: national champs)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Bruin land Big Time Lineman

The last couple of offensive lineman to commit to Karl Dorrell and UCLA have been head-scratchers. Jeff Baca was a known commodity but Jonathan Martin and Conor Bradford were virtual unknowns. Heck, I still haven't even seen a picture of Bardford. But the latest commit to join the ranks was well known and heavily recruited. Hamani Stevens has been a big target for the Bruins for a while and the 6'4", 290lb giant from Hemet gave an oral commitment to the staff this weekend.

Stevens had a great showing at the recent Nike camp and was named the top offensive lineman for the day. He has received offers from a number of PAC-10 school including both Oregon Schools, Washington and Arizona. USC was even showing some interest in Hamani and he was invited to one of their camps.

Hamani can play on both sides of the ball and he was an all-CIF Central Division Selection as a defensive tackle and a First Team All-State underclass selection in 2006. He is probably more talented as an offensive lineman and the Bruins have targeted him as a guard or center. Stevens is in Rivals top-250 recruits for 2008 and the service gives him 4-stars and ranks him 11th in the country among offensive guards. He looks like a great pickup and is definitely the best lineman to commit to the blue and gold this year.

(photo credit:

Drew Olson - Week 10

In Drew's senior season at UCLA, he lead the Bruins to four exhilarating come-from-behind victories. He rekindled some of that magic on Friday in his 10th and final game with Amsterdam. He threw two touchdown passes, the second with less than three minutes left, in the fourth quarter to squeak out a thrilling victory over the Berlin Thunder 21-20.

It looked like Drew wasn't going to end on a good note. He wasn't having a particularly good game and that was punctuated with a nasty interception that he threw into the end zone that was returned 101 yards for a touchdown. Entering the 4th quarter his team was down by 13 but he stayed cool and put together two awesome drives that ended with a 20 yard TD pass and another 22 yarder for a score.

Drew went 16-28 for 243 yards. He also threw two picks and two touchdowns. It is always good to go out a winner and Drew proved that he still has the ability to pull out a victory, no matter how poorly the game is going.

(photo credit: NFL Europe)

Friday, June 15, 2007

2008 recruiting snapshot

I put together this image, which has ever player that has currently committed to UCLA for 2008. It has the star rating and the position rank from both of the major scouting services ( and along with their measurables. One thing I really like about it is the players are laid out, roughly, by where they would play on the field. It gives you a pretty good sense of how the coaches are building an entire team this recruiting season and not just stocking up on good players at a few positions.

You can click the thumbnail below to get a full-size view of the image. It is fairly long, so your browser may scale it down when you view it. Make sure you put your mouse over the full-size image and use the expand view icon to see it at 100% resolution. You can get a PDF of the image here.


Drew's final game in Europe

Drew Olson's final game of the NLFE season will be broadcast tomorrow at 10:00am on the NFL network. He has spent the last 9 weeks traveling around Europe (well, Germany and the Netherlands anyways) and the former Bruin is wrapping up his campaign this week against a hapless Berlin team. Should be a good show and lets hope Drew leaves on a positive note.

There were some very impressive quaterback performances this year in NFL Europa. The league is known for developing some good NFL QBs including Kurt Warner and Jake Delhomme. Hopefully the time Drew spent at Amsterdam will give him a leg-up on the competition when he gets back to the States. He'll have to fight for his job as Heisman winner Troy Smith will be joining the Ravens this year.

Warner didn't exactly light up the stage when he was in Europe but he went on to be one of the most successful quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen. Maybe Drew can follow in his footsteps. He's off to a good start, playing on Warner's former team. I don't know if the first Mr. Olson will be back next season or not, but here is to a great first professional season and hopefully many more to come!

(photo credit: sportsline)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

What Brown can't do for you

It was reported last night that backup offensive tackle Justin Brown has left the football team. He missed the spring practice because of academic issues and it doesn't look like he is coming back for the fall. There doesn't seem to be any information on him transferring to another program or if he will stay at UCLA to finish out his education.

Justin is a gigantic figure standing 6'6" tall and weighing over 270 lbs. He hasn't seen any minutes over his first two seasons at UCLA and the former Long Beach Polly tackle was buried deep on the depth chart for the coming season. Playing time may have been an issue, but with so few details, it is impossible to know for sure.

We wish Justin the best of luck with his education and any future endeavors.

(photo credit:

Player Profile: Christian Taylor

In a year where the defense improved by leaps and bounds, there probably wasn't a player who stepped up more than Christian Taylor. A former walk-on, he emerged as a critical leader and key member of the defensive. In recognition of his accomplishments, he was named co-winner of UCLA's Captain Don Brown Memorial Award for Most Improved Player.

Christian is a red-shirt senior this season and he will be the starting middle linebacker for the second consecutive year. Despite being hampered by an ankle sprain the majority of last season, Taylor played in all 13 games and only missed one start. He was all over the field, recording 83 tackles (2nd on the team), 4.5 sacks (3rd on the team) and 13.5 tackles-for-loss (3rd on the team).

As the Mike linebacker, Christian is the signal caller and the defensive leader. Taylor is a film junkie and he brings a lot of planning, study, and intelligence to his position. He isn't the biggest or the fastest player on the field, but he plays smart and is rarely out of position. He has a great nose for the ball and always seems to be in the middle of every play.

Another intangible that Taylor brings to the game is a sense of confidence and aggressiveness. He talks a lot of trash on the field and he is always trying to get into the head of his opponent. He never backs down and he isn't intimidated by anyone and you can see proof of that by the little scuffles and pushing matches he finds himself in after heated plays. The swagger he brings is contagious and I believe he helps fire up his comrades on defense.

Christian transfered to UCLA after attending the Air Force Academy. He wasn't offered a scholarship, but made the move to Westwood anyways and walked onto the team. He sat out a season, per NCAA rules, but he immediately proved that he was capable of playing for the Bruins. He was named the scout team player of the year and awarded a full scholarship after the 2005 fall camp.

Taylor got to play for the first time 2005 and he wasted no time in making a big impact. In just his second game, against the Rice Owls, Christian recovered a fumble and ran it back into the end zone for a touchdown. He went on to play in all 12 games that year, including a start against the Trojans and significant minutes in the Sun Bowl where he lead the team in tackles with 12.

Taylor was involved in a key 4th down stop against the Trojans this last December. Along with Alteraun Verner, Taylor hist running back CJ Gable for a huge loss to give the ball back to the Bruins. You can see a clip of that hit in this highlight video of the game. I tell you, watching that never gets old.

Christian did an outstanding job last season and he looks poised to have a huge senior campaign. He spent most of last season with a bum ankle, so it will be great to see what he can do while healthy. I expect big things from this defensive captain and I know he will deliver.

(photo credit: view images)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

OL recruit Bradford is a Bruin

Dorrell and company landed their 3rd offensive line commit for the 2008 class, Connor Bradford of Palmdale. Apparently, he had a good showing at UCLA's 1-day camp and was offered a scholarship. The Bruins are showing no signs of slowing down this recruiting season . They have landed 4 commits in just the last week and 18 since February.

There doesn't seem to be much information out there about Connor. He wasn't on the radar of many of the recruiting services. He is a big kid, standing in at 6'5" but only 264 lbs. I'm sure he'll be looking to add some more bulk to that tall frame this year. His coach, Jeff Williams, relayed this information to UCLA beat writer, Brian Dohn, in a phone interview.

"He's got outstanding potential,'' Williams said. "He's probably one of the most mobile offensive linemen we've had here in a long time, and we've had some pretty good ones. And he can run real well. He pulls real well. He gets out on blocks. Just an outstanding young man.''

It sounds like Bradford would project to offensive guard, but could play tackle after he adds on more weight. At this pace, Dorrell may hand out all of his scholarships before the season kicks-off. I'm sure the coaches will leave a least a few open slots for some of the elite recruits still considering the blue and gold.

The Two Deep

The post-spring depth chart was recently made available, and I was impressed by how much experience and talent will be available this year. I thought I would be interesting to spend a little time and write about the guys backing up the starters this season.

It seems like for the first time in years, the Bruins have capable players at almost every position in the two deep. Even with a ton of starters returning this season, a lot of the backups have game-time experience under their belts. There will also be some fresh and talented faces stepping up this season for the first time.


Quarterback: Obviously, Pat gained a lot of experience last year, playing in more games then the current starter, Ben Olson. He's a solid backup and his scrambling, throw-on-the-go style is a nice contrast to Ben's more traditional, pocket passing skills. Considering how closely the two have competed over the last year, I feel confident that Pat could step right in if called upon.

Wide Receiver: You always want a deep stock of receivers to help in the rotation and give guys a breather after big plays. The Bruins have a nice batch this season with a mix of speed, size, and hands. Ketchum and Dominque Johnson are backing up Marcus Everett at the split end position. Ketchum was in the regular rotation in 2005, catching 11 passes and scoring 1 TD his freshman year. Johnson red-shirted last year, but the coaches raved about him on the scout team. He could be a big play maker this season. Both are big, tall targets.

Behind Brandon Breazell are two very capable and exciting players. Joe Cowan lead the team in receptions in 2005, but sat out last season with a knee injury. I Expect him to push for the starting spot and play a lot of minutes. Terrance Austin is the fastest receiver of the lot and he'll be utilized to help stretch the field. Both him and Breazell give the Bruins a deep threat that was not used much in 2006.

Another interesting update on the receiving corp is that Osaar Rasshan is being moved from quarterback to wide out. I think that is a smart decision, as Osaar probably wouldn't ever crack the two-deep at QB. I have always liked his speed and athleticism and I would love to see him get involved in the offense in some way. I definitely smell a trick play or two with Rasshan in the mix.

Tight End: Dorrell has used a rotation at the tight-end spot for years, and I expect Sneed and Moya (listed 2nd and 3rd respectively) to find plenty of opportunities to get on the field this year. Moya was the starter last season, before breaking his leg against Oregon, and he played a bit in 2005 as well. Sneed was just moved to the position last year, but the former defensive end made some huge plays, including a spectacular touchdown catch against Notre Dame.

Offensive Line: There isn't experienced depth here at every spot, but there are some familiar names behind the starters. Alexi Lanis, who started 12 games last year, has been moved behind Micha Kia at the left tackle spot. Lanis was out of shape this spring and he lost his starting spot to Brian Abraham. Now he is behind Lanis and the sophmore will obviously do well if called up to start. Nick Ekbatani, listed behind Sutherland at right guard, is a JC transfer who has played quite a few downs at the collegiate level. He saw some playing time last year in a limited reserve role. The Center position gives me some concern, because even starter Chris Joseph has limited experience. We'll have to hope he stays healthy or someone else can step-up into that spot.

Running Backs: The tail back and full back positions are two areas where I think the Bruins lack quality depth. There is a significant drop-off form Chris Markey to Kalil Bell, though I did read that Kalil had a good spring camp. I don't know if Crenshaw star Raymond Carter can be an every down back his freshman year and Moline is really only a short yardage specialist. Behind Pitre is pretty much a bunch of walk-ons or guys that have shifted positions. Trevor Theriot did a decent job covering for Pitre this spring, but it will be hard to replace one of the best blocking-backs in the PAC-10.


Defensive Line: This is probably the deepest and most experienced unit on the team right now. Just typing that warms my heart, considering the problems we've had on the line in the past. Chane Moline, who was pressed into a starting role his freshman year, is a regular contributer at the tackle position. He's gotten bigger and stronger over the last two years and I think Moline has grown into a capable backup who can hold his own. Jess Ward also saw time in the rotation last year. He probably isn't ready to be a starter yet, but I think he could do a decent job if Harwell was unable to play. High School standout, Brian Price, might also be available to put in some minutes this year if called upon.

Kenneth Lombard and Tom Blake are in the reserve role at the end position. Lombard played in 11 games last season (starting in 2 of them) and he played in all of the games in 2005. He's coming back from knee surgery but should be ready to go for the season. Ken is a versatile athlete and he could play at all four defensive line spots if required. Tom Blake is a transfer from UC Davis and he impressed the coaches this spring. He will push Dragovic for minutes this season and likely find a permanent spot in the rotation.

Line Backers: John Hale, who has started at both middle and outside linebacker the last two years, is behind Christian Taylor now. I think that is a good switch as Hale will likely be the starter in 2008 at the Mike spot. Hale pushed Whittington at the outside position for most of last year and even started the last few games. Kyle Bosworth saw time on special teams in 2006 and filled in at middle linebacker for a few games. He had up-and-down performances and I don't know if he is ready to be an every-down guy, just yet.

Secondary: The defensive backs and safeties at UCLA this season are probably the most talented unit of the bunch. I don't think anyone doubts that Alteraun Verner is a future super-star for the Bruins and I know the coaches will try and get him on the field as much as possible. Michael Norris is back from a knee injury that sidelined him for all of 2006. He doesn't strike me as a player who will compete for the starting spot, but Walker said that he had a good spring camp and he does give the unit some depth it lacked last season.

Bret Lockett is backing up Chris Horton at the strong safety spot. Lockett played the nickle free safety spot last year and he saw quite a few minutes in the secondary. He also saw time on special teams and I think he adds solid depth behind Horton and Keyes.


Injuries are an all too familiar reality in football. You are almost guaranteed to have a few starters forced to the sidelines each year and having a solid group of athletes in your second string is crucial for the success of a program. I'm happy to see that the Bruins have a very good two-deep this year with only a few positions where the backups are inexperienced or not ready to take the starting role.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Fullback from Fullerton is a Bruin

UCLA added another running back to its 2008 class, Derrick Coleman of Fullerton. He is a big and powerful athlete, weighing in at 223 lbs on a 6'0 frame. Scout clocked him at 4.6 in the 40-yard dash, which is pretty quick for a guy of his size.

Derrick finished his junior season with 2,340 yards rushing on 220 carries with a whopping 37 touchdowns. He averaged 180 yards a game and 10.6 yards a carry. He managed all of that while splitting the running back duties. This year, he will be the primary ball carrier for Troy.

As a junior at Fullerton Troy, Coleman was the Freeway League MVP, the CIF-SS Division Player of the Year on Offense and was a second team all-Orange County selection. Also a second-team all-state selection.

In an interview with Scout's Western recruiting analyst Brian Huffman, Derrick described the recruiting process before the Bruins offered.

“Almost everyone contacted me from the Pac-10, or came to my school, and so did Boise State,” said Coleman. “USC came, with Pete Carroll himself, UCLA, Oregon State, Utah State, Boise State, Oregon and Washington State, and those are just who I’m remembering.”

Derrick had this to say about his speed and development, “My best time is a 4.53, which I think is good with my size,” said Coleman. “I’m pretty quick on my feet. I still have a whole other year of ball to play and I’m getting stronger and faster.”

Coleman probably will line up at UCLA as a fullback, which is a position he has played at Troy. Though Coleman thinks he could also take on the tailback role as well.

“Since we run the Wing-T, I’m a fullback, but I guess you’d consider me a halfback,” said Coleman. “I could play tailback and I could be that 25-30 carry a game guy.”

Here is a highlight video of Derrick in action. (You'll need to have the latest version of QuickTime to view it)

Derrick is the 17th player to commit to UCLA this year. The Bruins will probably take somewhere around 8 to 10 more commits in this class.

(photo credit:

New OL from the OC

Well, it looks like Karl Dorrell is going to land the bulk of his 2008 recruiting class before his team even plays a down in 2007. The Bruins added two more commitments to an already stellar recruiting class yesterday. The first is a highly touted lineman from south Orange County.

Jeff Baca, a big left tackle from Mission Viejo, decided to become a Bruin yesterday after UCLA's one-day camp on Saturday. Baca will likely come to Westwood and play the guard position. He isn't huge, by offensive line standards, 6'4" and 265 lbs. Expect Jeff to try and add some bulk his Senior season for the Diablos.

Baca had this to say about his play and his goals for his senior year: "I am not sure how I would describe myself. I am more of a finesse player but there is no doubt about it, I like to get after it. I want to work on my strength. I am pretty strong but I want to keep getting stronger. I want it to be the right weight and I also want to work on getting quicker feet at the next level."

Baca has been highly recruited this year, receiving offers form a number of PAC-10 schools including Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, and Arizona. The talented lineman earned all state underclass honors last season. Jeff looks like another solid commitment to this class, which is adding great depth and personnel at every position.

UCLA doesn't usually get too many kids out of Orange Country but Baca and fellow commit, Derrick Coleman, both play ball behind the orange curtain. A good sign as the area is rich with division 1 football talent. Baca is the 16th player to commit to the Bruins so far this year.

(photo credit:

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Cal and Stanford Statistics

I've loaded up new statistics for the California Gold Bears and the Stanford Cardinal for 2006. For Bear and Cardinal fans who are new to this blog, you can check out stats for the other teams along the right hand side of the website under "Bruin Roar Statistics". I'm hoping to finish loading data for the rest of the PAC-10 teams, Notre Dame, Utah, and BYU before the end of the month.

On a side note, since we are talking about Cal and Stanford, this year is the 25th anniversary of "The Play". It is, hands down, the greatest and most exciting finish to a college football game ever.

I love this video, from an ESPN classic broadcast, because it shows the Stanford field goal before the kickoff and the aftermath on the field after the amazing kick-off return. I had forgotten that John Elway put together an amazing drive, starting deep in Cardinal territory with less than a minute left, to get into field goal position. They kick the field goal, with 4 seconds left on the clock, to take the lead and presumably win the game. That's when all the fun begins.

There are so many cool things about the video. Joe Starkey, the famous broadcaster, is awesome in his description of the events as they unfold. After Stanford scores, he gives a prediction that Cal "pretty much has to run it back to save the game". After a bunch of laterals, including a miraculous over-the-shoulder pass by Mariet Ford, Kevin Moen runs the ball into the touchdown to win the game. The play is immortalized forever with a picture of Moen crashing into a Stanford band member in the end zone after he scored.

I can't describe the play any better than Starkey did in his original broadcast: "Oh my God, the most amazing, sensational, traumatic, heart rending... exciting thrilling finish in the history of college football! California has won... the Big Game...over Stanford."

Drew Olson - Week 9

Drew and the Amsterdam Admirals took on the Cologne Centurions this week. This was the team that absolutely crushed Amsterdam two weeks ago. Despite jumping out to a 10-point lead in the first half, the result was the same for Drew's crew. They struggled moving the ball and the receivers could not hang with Cologne's secondary.

It was another poor week for Olon's passing game. His receivers couldn't find any separation and pass after pass was knocked away. The game was summed up when Drew was intercepted late in the 4th quarter on a tipped pass that was returned 70 yards by Cologne. I'm not sure of his final numbers but lets just say they weren't any good.

Next week will be Drew's final game for the Admirals for the year. The Admirals are playing against the only team with a worse record, Berlin, so maybe Drew can go out with a bang.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Well that was Quick

It was announced today that Angus McClure was named the new Tight End coach for the Bruins. This news comes just days after the resignation of former Tight End and Special teams coach John Wristen. Brian Dohn mentioned on his blog that Wristen had been looking for a new position since the end of last season. Since this announcement came so quickly after the resignation, Dorrell must have been looking for a new coach for the last few months.

McClure comes from the University of Buffalo. He used to work with offensive coordinator Jay Norvell at Nebraska, so he was probably recommended for the position. Angus was the Offensive line/run game coordinator at Buffalo and the Tackle and Special Teams coach at Nebraska for two years. Before his time with the Corn Huskers, McClure played a major role at Sacramento State University where he served as assistant head coach and offensive line coach. While at Sacramento State from 1997-2003, McClure helped the Hornets set 52 NCAA Division I-AA, Big Sky Conference or school records.

Safeties coach Gary DeLoach will continue to coach the special teams, a role he has had since before spring practice.

(photo credit: University of Buffalo)

Player Profile: Chris Horton

We'll switch to the other side of the ball this time and look at another New Orleans native in Chris Horton.

Horton will be playing in his 5th season with the Bruins, and the red-shirt senior has emerged as a true super star in the secondary. Chris led the defense with 95 tackles last season and added 3 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles. He was named to the all PAC-10 second team and is poised to be one of the best strong safeties in the country this year.

Horton is a big and physical and he has all of the skills you like to see in a strong safety. He is a powerful hitter who careens headlong into ball carriers, stopping them in their tracks. Here is a video of Horton forcing a fumble after laying a huge lick on Notre Dame running back Darius Walker.

Its hard to believe that Horton only made his first start at the end of the 2005 season against USC. This last year he looked like a chiseled veteran, starting all 13 games and almost never missing a play. He spent years behind an NFL-caliber safety in Jarrad Page, but Horton has the size and skills to be an even bigger asset to the Bruin secondary.

What might be even harder to believe, given all of the recent accolades, is that Horton was not highly rated coming out of De La Salle High School in New Orleans. He only garnered 3-stars by Scout, and 2-stars by Rivals, but that didn't deter schools like UCLA, Arkansas, and Clemson from pursuing the hard-hitting athlete.

Chris spent the first few years at Westwood playing on the special teams units and as a backup safety. He red-shirted his first season, but came off the bench to make some huge special teams plays in his second year for the blue and gold. The one play I remember vividly is Horton blocking a punt against the Trojans. He also blocked another punt that year against Arizona for a safety.

In 2005, Chris spent the first half of the season recovering from a wrist injury he suffered in the fall camp. To this day, Horton is still bothered by the injury and he admitted in an interview that it sometimes hinders his ability to make interceptions.

"When the doctor tells you your wrist is a career-threatening injury, and I made it past the stage the doctors said I wouldn't make it past because I don't have to wear that cast anymore, I'm happy," Horton said. "As long as I'm out on the field, I'm happy."

In the off season, Horton was named to the Play Boy All American team. Lots of experts are putting him on their All American watch lists and I think he'll have a huge Senior season in the UCLA secondary. With a new offense again this season, the Bruins will rely on their defense to keep them in games. Chris will play a very critical role in helping to craft the Bruins into a team that can compete for the conference crown. Since he just recently finished his classes, he should be 100% focused on football.

(photo credit:

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Late Addition to 2007 Class

Wow, lots of recruiting news in the last few days. It was reported in the Daily News that wide receiver Ben Bruneau, from Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks, will be playing on the team in 2007. Bruneau will walk-on the team this fall after completing his Senior year at Notre Dame. Ben said he signed with the Bruins in April but wanted to keep it quiet while concentrating on his last high school track and field season.

He reminds me of Matt Willis, who was also a track star that walked onto the football team a few years ago. It is always great to get fast, athletic players at the wide receiver position and Ben looks like a great athlete. He competed in a number of state track meets this year and helped Notre Dame win a team title.

Bruneau wasn't highly recruited out of high school, but I think he kind of slipped under the radar. He moved to California from Florida after his Junior year, and with recruiting services being the way they are, they may have just lost him in the shuffle.

TE Coach Wristen Resigns

Karl Dorrell announced yesterday that UCLA tight ends/special teams coach John Wristen has resigned to pursue an opportunity to become a college head coach.

“It looks like John has the chance to be in the mix for the head coaching position at Colorado State University/Pueblo, which is his alma mater,” said Dorrell.

“John wants to put all of his efforts into trying to land that job. We agreed that in order for him to focus all of his energies in that direction, it would be best for him to resign so he can be in Colorado to pursue that position.”

“I would like to thank Coach Dorrell and the UCLA family for my opportunity here at UCLA,” said Wristen. “It has been a wonderful experience but the chance to pursue the head coaching position at my alma mater is an opportunity I can not pass up.”

Wristen was only at UCLA for one year, but he helped coach place kicker Justin Medlock to an All American season. Before coming to Westwood Coach Wristen spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Colorado. During that time, the Buffaloes won four Big 12 North championships and the 2001 Big 12 title

This means that Dorrell is going to have to go out and quickly get a tight ends coach before the fall. Safeties coach Gary DeLoach had been sharing the special teams duties with Wristen since before Spring Practice, so that aspect is covered.

We wish the best of luck to coach Wristen!

(photo credit:

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Bruins land first Lineman for 2008

It was a big day in recruiting for the Bruins. Not only did Rivals gush over the current UCLA commits, naming 12 of them in their top-250, but the coaches received their first commitment from an offensive lineman.

Jonathan Martin, from Harvard-Westlake, verbally committed to being a Bruin today. Martin who is 6'7" and weighed in at 270 lbs as a Junior, will be a huge body on the Bruins line. He most likely projects to offensive tackle, which will be a position of need (like most positions) in 2008.

Jonathan has been aggressively recruited over the last few weeks and he has seen his stock rise considerably this spring. Along with an offer from UCLA, Martin had offers from Utah, Ole Miss, and Utah State. There was talk that California was also prepared to offer him a scholarship.

Martin was offered by the Bruins two weeks ago and it made a big impact on him.

"Coach (Bob) Connelly from UCLA came by and watched our practice. Afterwards he offered me,” said Martin. “I went to one of their practices and talked with him and Coach Dorrell. They are all really cool. They’re definitely my number one choice right now."

Martin mentioned that is was UCLA's early interest in him, and the steady dialog he has had with the coaches, that made the Bruins his favorite. Kudos to coaches
Connelly and Dorrell for discovering this giant lineman before everyone else jumped on the band wagon.

This brings the total number of commitments for the year to 15.

(photo credit: Scout)

Rivals 250

Last Tuesday, the Rivals network released their top 100 players for the class of 2008. A number of players, who are committed to UCLA, made it into those rankings. This week, they have expanded their criteria to include the top 250 players in the nation. Almost every recruit that has committed to the Bruins for 2008 is on that list! This is definitely shaping up to be a huge recruiting class for coach Dorrell and probably one of the best Bruin classes in almost a decade.

We already knew that two UCLA bound safeties, and a talented receiver, were already on the list. Moore (ranked the #1 safety in the nation), Woods (#3 safety), and Bateman (#17 receiver) were already in the top-100.

#43 Rahim Moore (S)
#90 EJ Woods (S)
#93 Kemonte Bateman (WR)

These other UCLA committed players found their way into the top 250:

Uona Kavienga (LB)
Aundre Dean (RB)
Anthony Dye (DB)
Aaron Hester (DB)
Damien Holmes (DE)
Datone Jones (DE)
Jerry Johnson (WR)
Antwon Moutra (WR)
Nick Crissman (QB)

A very impressive group of players you must admit. It is definitely heavy on defensive positions and we can thank coach Walker, and his amazing transformation of the defense, as a key reason these players are choosing the Bruins. It is great to know that the coaches are building a solid foundation on defense that will last for years to come.

There are also some great skill players on offense including Texas running back Aundre Dean and Huntington Beach quarterback Nick Crissman. Let's just hope that they can keep the momentum going and continue to build on this already impressive recruiting class.

Monday, June 4, 2007

White is Back in Blue

Brian Dohn recently reported that former Bruin linebacker, Tony White, has been added to the staff as a graduate assistant. He will be working in football operations. I'm not exactly sure what his duties will entail, but it is always fun to see a former player back in the program.

White played for the Bruins from 1997 to 2000. He bumped around between middle and outside linebacker and even played a little special teams. He started his final 3 seasons and was a key leader of the defense during his time in Westwood. Tony played on the last Bruin squad to make a Rose Bowl back in 1998.

Tony went to the Canadian Football League after he graduated from UCLA. He played for both the Calgary Stampede and the Ottawa Renegades during a 4-year tenure in the CFL. After being released in 2005, He spent a little bit of time teaching and coaching at St. Genevieve High in Panorama City, California. In 2006, Tony was signed as a free agent with the Kansas City Brigade of the Area Football League. He never played in the AFL and was placed on the refused to report list earlier this year.

Welcome back Tony!

(photo credit:

Drew Olson - Week 8

Before this season, I didn't normally watch NFL Europa games. I'm not a big fan of the professional leagues and usually only watch the pros to see former Bruins in action. I have to admit, though, I've gained an affinity for the Amsterdam Admirals since Drew has been their starting quarterback. Usually, I don't care much if the team wins, just as long as Olson looks good; but this week I found myself getting excited as they raced down the field to try and score in the final seconds. It was a thrilling week full of crazy plays, bundles of points, and a wild finish.

This wasn't a particularly good week for Drew. He connected on 25 of 47 passes for 258 yards and 2 touchdowns. Those numbers sound pretty good, except when you also note that he threw two other touchdown passes... to the wrong team. In both halves, Olson threw passes that were intercepted and returned for touchdowns.

It was ultimately a difference maker in the game as Drew and the Admirals came up just short of winning this week: 38-41. He almost got them back into it by leading his team on a scoring drive in the final seconds of the 2nd half. He even managed to connect on this miraculous 2-point conversion where he somehow found a receiver, throwing back across his body, as he was knocked out of bounds. All of it was for naught, though, as the Admirals couldn't recover the ensuing on-side kick

Drew had a weird week where good passes would get dropped by his receivers and some bad passes would get bailed out by pass-interference calls. He struggled again with accuracy on long passes and that slowed down the Admirals effort to get back into the game. Consistency has been a problem all year and this game was almost like a microcosm of the season. You just never know what type of play you'll get from him each week or even each possession.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Player Profile: Chris Markey

I thought I would spend a little time during the summer and write a series of articles about some of the marque players who will be wearing the blue and gold this year. What better way to kick off the series then by starting with a guy who has marque built right into his name... Chris Markey!

Chris will be a true senior this year and this is his second season as the starting tailback for the Bruins. Markey started all 13 games last season and he has a been a very durable and dependable player in the backfield. He lead the team in rushing yards and receptions last season and the running back was named UCLA's co-MVP along with an All-Pac-10 honorable mention. He will likely be a key component in the offense for 2007.

I would call Markey a meat-and-potatoes kind of running back. He isn't going to blind you with his speed or knock you over with his size, but he is a durable, consistent, blue-collar kind of player. He has good hands and is a solid and dependable receiver coming out of the backfield.

I was surprised, at the end of last season, to see that Markey had racked up over 1,100 yards with an average of 4.9 yards a carry. Those numbers were good enough to rank him 4th in the PAC-10. It didn't seem like he was always an impact player each game, but he consistently contributed to the offense and he compiled a pretty impressive set of stats along the way.

One number that wasn't so hot, was the number of touchdowns Chris scored. He had an anemic two touchdowns for the whole season. That's an almost unbelievably low number considering that he had 227 carries and 35 receptions. The Bruins definitely missed the big play making ability that Maurice Drew brought to the position in 2005. This year Markey is going to have to step up his game and find a way to take the ball to the house if UCLA is going to compete for the conference title.

Chris came to Westwood from Jesuit High School in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was not a highly rated recruit after his Senior season at Jesuit (both Rivals and Scout gave him 3-stars), but he was named the Louisiana Class 5A State offensive MVP and the New Orleans City Player of the Year. Chris was a star athlete in high school and he competed in Track and Basketball ,earning all district honors in both of those sports.

Markey had his first breakout game during his freshman year when the Bruins faced the Ducks up at Eugene, Oregon. Chris was the 3rd string tailback at the time, behind Maurice Drew and Manuel White Jr. When Drew injured an ankle the prior week against Washington State, Markey had a chance to prove he could be a star on offense. He racked up 131 yards on the ground, and also lead the team in receptions with 84 yards, and his stellar performance propelled the Bruins to an upset victory.

His sophomore season would also provide an opportunity to get into the spot light, this time in the Sun Bowl against the Northwestern Wildcats. Maurice Drew was injured again, this time early in the game. Chris, and 3rd string running back Kahlil Bell, picked up the running responsibilities and both ran for over 100 yards that day. Markey averaged almost 7 yards a touch, and he was named co-MVP for the game. Here's a great highlight video of the 2005 Sun Bowl, which includes Markey putting together a 50 yard scramble.

In his first two years at Westwood, Markey was responsible for kick returns. Against San Diego State, his sophomore year, he had a spectacular return. He caught the ball on the 5 yard line and he juked and jived his way through a swarm of defenders. The greatest part was the two stiff arms he threw at the end of the drive that absolutely planted the Aztec players to the ground.

His Junior year, he put on a running clinic against the Rice Owls. The prior week, the Bruins hadn't run the ball very well, and Markey was challenged by coach Dorrell to prove he could step-up as the starting tailback for the Bruins. He amassed a career high of 208 rushing yards and he averaged almost a first down (9.0 yards) every time he touched the ball.

At the start of this year's spring practice, Chris injured his foot and he missed almost the entire camp. The injury wasn't serious and Markey was kept out of practice as a precautionary measure. He should be back and ready to go for the fall camp and the start of the season.

This should be a big year for the Louisiana native. With a new offense and a rusty quarterback at the helm, the Bruins are going to depend on their experienced senior tail back to help carry the team at the start of the season. He's been a consistent and dependable back in his time at UCLA, but now Chris needs to show that he can be a big play maker as well.

(photo credit: Seattle PI)