Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Calm Before the Storm

We're one month away from the start of the 2007 season and less a week before the start of training camp. It's that quiet time right after summer workouts and 7-on-7's end and the players start two-a-days in the fall camp. It is an exciting time for college football fans and, just like Christmas Eve, we're all itching with anticipation to see what awaits us in the coming weeks.

Here are some reports, from the illustrious DeaconBlue (aka DejaBlue), on UCLA's informal 7-on7 drills that were conducted in July. These are typically against community colleges but sometimes out boys would play themselves.

July 24 - UCLA 11 on 11 game against themselves.
July 19 - UCLA 7 on 7 against Compton Community College
July 17 - UCLA 7 on 7 against themselves.
July 12 - UCLA 7 on 7 against Azuza Pacific.

The games are informally organized and no coaches are present. It gives the players a chance to run through the play book a bit (which is crucial with the new Norvell offense this season) and also stretch some legs and work on timing and such. It also gives some of the new freshman a chance to get their feet wet before the fall camp. It is hard to read too much into the drills as they are not the same as game-time conditions (no pass rush, run option) but it can give you a sense of how sharp the players are going into training camp.

Rick Kimbrel, of Bruin Blitz, had this assessment of some of the summer practices. By all accounts this team is eager to get some pads on and start laying some hits on somebody. With a ton of seniors in the lineup, there also seems to be a sense of urgency with this year's team. They know the pressure is on to achieve and they have no doubts that they can deliver.

Speaking of the fall camp, it starts next Monday. Here is the complete schedule:

  • Monday, August 6 - 3:00-5:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, August 7 - 3:00-5:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, August 8 - 3:00-5:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, August 9 - 3:00-5:00 p.m.
  • Friday, August 10 - 9:45-Noon (First day of full pads)
  • Saturday, August 11 - 9:15-11:30 a.m. and 3:30-5:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, August 12 - 9:15-11:30 a.m.
  • Monday, August 13 - 9:00-11:15 a.m. and 3:30-5:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, August 14 - 9:00 -11:15 a.m.
  • Wednesday, August 15 - 9:15-11:30 a.m. and 7:30-9:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, August 16 - 9:45-Noon
  • Friday, August 17 - 9:15-11:30 a.m. and 3:30-5:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, August 18 - 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Scrimmage at Drake Stadium)

I'm hoping to get out there for a few of these, just to get some first-hand observations of this year's team. I'll definitely relay my experience back on the blog. Exciting times!

Monday, July 30, 2007

First 2009 Verbal

Man, I thought it was tough digging up information on our 2008 commits. Try finding info on 2009 guys! Well, that's what I just did for the first verbal commit from that class, Marlon Pollard. He is a WR/CB from Valencia High and the 6'0", 160lb junior-to-be committed to the program today. It looks like he'll play corner for the Bruins.

In addition to football, Pollard runs on the track team and competes in the long jump. He sounds like an athletic kid with some good hops. I'm sure he'll be jumping over receivers for balls when he plays for the blue and gold. His 40 time is 4.6 seconds but with two more years in high school, I'm sure that time will improve.

One of the benefits of UCLA quickly signing the bulk of it's 2008 class so early is they can start working on the 2009 kids. It looks like that is already starting to bear some fruit. It is so hard to tell if these kids are going to be impact players this early, but the coaches must have seen something they like with Pollard.

(photo credit: scout.com)

2007 Preview: Oregon State

At the end of September, the Bruins will be heading up to Corvallis Oregon for the first time since 2002. The Beavers made believers of their fans last season, winning 10 games with thrilling victories over USC and Missouri. This team returns a lot of talented players on both sides of the ball with the only question mark at quarterback. Our boys will definitely have their hands full in this difficult road game.

The Bruins coasted to victory last year and in 2005 but this year will be a very different story. Taking on a very good Oregon State team on the road will not be easy and this looks like a trap game for our boys. The Beavers are much better than UCLA's four previous opponents and they have star athletes at a lot of positions. I think there are four key games that will determine if the Bruins have a successful seasons and this is one of those games. If the Bruins can come away with a victory then it will be a very good sign for the rest of the 2007 campaign.


The Beavers have to replace former UCLA-transfer, Matt Moore, at quarterback this season. Moore definitely had some up-and-down games at Oregon State, but he did lead this team to 10 victories and the #24 passing attack in the nation last year. Now, against UCLA, he was pretty miserable. In his two performances from 2005 and 2006, he accounted for 2 touchdowns and a whopping 5 turnovers (2 interceptions and 3 fumbles). If Moore's replacement can cut down on the bad decisions and hang onto the ball then the Beavers will be much more difficult for the Bruins to beat.

After the spring game, no clear leader emerged at the position. Sean Canfield, a red-shirt sophomore who was Moore's backup last season, is the tentative leader at this point. The 6'4" Canfield was the heir-apparent coming into camp, but he didn't really impress during the spring. Lyle Moevao is the other option and the big, scrambling JC-transfer brings a totally different dimension to the offense. There is a possibility that both could be used in a dual-quarterback system. We'll have to wait until training camp wraps up to know for sure.

The Beaver running game is powered by Yvenson Bernard. I wouldn't say he was exactly "under the radar" last year as a lot of teams knew he was a good back. But Bernard did emerge last year as a player you have to account for in your defense scheme. Bernard has put up two thousand-yard seasons and he is a first-team all PAC-10 selection. It's curious, though, that the Beavers only had the 8th best rushing attack in the conference in 2006. Some of that comes from Bernard having so many touches, which inflates his totals. He racks up some big numbers but his averages are, well, pretty average. When you look at his all purpose yard average, he ranks behind Chris Markey and most of the other conference backs. The Bruins did an excellent job containing him last year, 54 rushing yards on 16 carries, and stopping him this time will be even more crucial with an inexperienced quarterback at the helm.

The good news for Bernard and Canfield is they have one of the best (if not the best) offensive line in the PAC-10 blocking for them. They are experienced (one 3-year starter, and two 2-year starters) and left guard Jeremy Perry is the best guard in the conference, easily earning first team PAC-10. Center Kyle Devan is the leader and anchor of the line and Roy Schuening rounds out a very talented core to this squad. Kevin Brown and Brigham Harwll will definitely have their hands full in the middle. The only new face is Junior Tavita Thompson, at left tackle, who has been a backup for years. He'll face the quick and agile Bruin ends, so he might be a point of attack for the UCLA defense. If the Bruin D-line gets out muscled by this group then things could get ugly real quick up in Corvallis.

Canfield will have an experienced set of receivers at his disposal this season. That includes Sammie Stroughter, who is arguably one of the best receivers in the conference. Brandon Powers returns at the slot back position and he'll look to improve on his 445 yards and 1 touchdown form last season. The Beavers will need to replace their tight end and sophomores Howard Croom and John Reese are the likely candidates for the job. Both were used sparingly last season in primarily blocking roles. The Bruin secondary will need to bring their A-game and not let this group make any big plays, while likely committing Horton to help stop the Beaver running game.


The Beavers rely on a traditional 4-3 front, but the key to the Oregon State defense is their line backing crops. They may not be as athletic and strong as the Trojans, but this group does an excellent job in all aspects of the game. They are an experienced trio of seniors and the OSU coaches will ask them to be big play makers all season long.

Derrick Doggett, the speedy outside linebacker, was all over the field last season recording 5 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 85 tackles. Now in his 5th season up in Corvallis, Doggett has emerged as a force on this team. Co-captial Alan Darlin is the strong presence in the middle and Joey LaRouque brings some more talent and experience to this unit. The Beavers are deep at the linebacker position and they will likely rotate players during the game. In the past, the Bruin offense has relied heavily on screens, dragging tight ends across the field, and little dink-and-dunk passes to move the ball. That might prove difficult against this squad. They have a knack for finding the ball and are excellent in short-route pass coverage.

In front of the linebackers is an experienced and solid foursome. Three seniors will likely start with Curtis Coker and Jeff Van Orsow back in their familiar spots. The other senior, defensive end Dorian Smith, lead the team in sacks last season. He won the starting spot by the end of the season and his contribution helped spark a struggling defense. Abraham and Kia will definitely have to step-up to keep the pressure off of Ben. The second string for the Beavers is also full of juniors and seniors, so this group is very deep and our O-line will likely see a lot of fresh legs throughout the game.

Unlike the previous four opponents, the Beaver secondary is experienced and stocked full of upperclassman. They do lose a key member in strong safety Sabby Piscitelli. He was the emotional leader of the secondary and his 5 interceptions lead the team. His replacement, Daniel Drayton, was the nickle back last year, but he has some big shoes to fill. The rest of the unit is solid and very experienced. Keenan Lewis and Brandon Hughes are 3-year starters and Al Afalava rounds out the group at free safety.

The Beavers held UCLA to a season low 12 competitions last year. If it wasn't for a huge 45-yard TD pass to Marcus Everett and some key turnovers, we may not have scored more than a few field goals. I expect this defense to be highly motivated and eager to get some revenge for the last two defeats down in Pasadena. Ben is going to have to make some plays if the Bruins are going to reliably move the ball this time around. The Oregon State defense is very aggressive and they can be vulnerable to big plays.

Special Teams

The Beavers have, arguably, one of the best special teams units in the entire conference. They return every single player, save one, from their kickoff, kick return, punt return, and punt coverage units. They were excellent in all 4 areas last season and special teams coach, Bruce Read, was rewarded for his leadership with a job in the NFL.

Alexis Serna is back kicking field goals and he is solid from all over the field. He won the Lou Groza award his sophomore season, which is kind of like the Heisman for kickers. He'll be automatic for the Beavers from close range, so our defense will have to keep him as far away from our end of the field as possible.

Sammie Stroughter is back on punt return and he'll look to add to the 3 touchdowns he scored last year. Perez will have to get better at directing his punts as we don't want Stroughter to get anywhere close to fielding one against us. That could hurt our defense as punting out of bounds tends to lose you some net yards. Needless to say our punt coverage can't afford to make any mistakes.

The Verdict

This game just smells bad to me. The Beavers have lots of talented players on both sides of the ball and one of the best special teams units in the conference. It will be played on the road, where UCLA has struggled the last few years. The Beavers have defended the Dam well recently including that crazy shoot-out victory over USC last season. Matt Moore probably did more to hurt Oregon State in their last two games against UCLA then help. If his replacement can just hang onto the ball then the rest of the team should be pretty difficult to stop.

With Norvell installing a new offense, I have a feeling we'll struggle at times in some of the early games. The first four opponents have some weaknesses we can exploit and our defense will keep us in those games no matter how poorly the offense performs. In this game the margin of error will be much smaller and a big mistake on special teams or an untimely turnover could cost us a victory. I think we could drop an early road contest and this game looks like it will be the one. If Ben performs well and the offense gets clicking then we absolutely have the potential to win. At this point, however, I have a feeling this is our first defeat of the season.

CalPoly's Prediciton: UCLA defeat. 4-1 (2-1).

Beaver Bulletin

Recruiting rankings for the last 4 years (Scout.com is the first number, Rivals.com is the second):

2007: #40, #47, 33 commits
2006: #41, #43, 30 commits
2005: #51, #47, 19 commits
2004: #34, #26, 26 commits

2006 statistical rankings (National ranking is the first number, PAC-10 rank is the second):

Total Offense : 45, 6.
Scoring Offense: 36, 4.

Rushing Offense: 81, 8.
Passing Offense: 24, 4.

Total Defense : 59, 6.
Scoring Defense: 54, 4.

Rushing Defense: 29, 3.
Passing Defense: 46, 3.

Game info:
September 29. Time and TV package are still TBD.

More Reading
(photo credit: Ghetty Images)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Punter Says Yes to Bruins

Ah, finally something else to talk about besides police reports.

Jeff Locke, the #3 punter in the 2008 class, made a verbal commitment to the Bruins today. According to his biography at Max Preps he averaged 43.3 yards per punt last year as a Junior. He also holds down place kicking duties in high school and his strong leg booted 39 of 59 kick-offs for touchbacks. Locke is being highly recruited from schools all over the country. He had offeres from Nebraska, Georgia Tech, Wisconsin and a number of PAC-10 school.

I was thinking that a punter might be on the list for this class. The Bruins under Karl Dorrell have always placed a strong emphasis on special teams and scholarships are routinely used for kickers, punters, and even long snappers. With Perez graduating in 2009, this gives Locke a chance to red-shirt and get ready for Division-1 play. He looks like a really great kicker and he should be booming punts for the Bruins for years to come.

Here is the latest recruiting snapshot with Locke ( PDF ).

Theft and Guns and Drugs, Oh My!

So, the latest drama in the Scott case is that a "large amount" of drugs was discovered in the area where he was arrested. One of the sheriff's involved in the case, Leonard Rivas, had this latest update:

"We're still trying to make contact with who lives in the house," Rivas said. "We have not been able to do so."

Rivas said no allegedly stolen property was found in Scott's car, or on any of the suspects. They were all arrested outside of the residence in the 11600 block of Pioneer Boulevard.

"We saw some property on the ground, but we don't know if it was just there, or brought out of the house (by the suspects)," Rivas said.

This must have been the dirtiest yard in all of Norwalk! It was littered with guns, drugs, and personal property. That or something fishy was going on and whoever owned the guns and drugs ditched 'em as the cops rolled up. It doesn't sounds like Scott was the one who had this stuff with him, according to the version of events that Scott's attorney, Milton Grimes, relayed to the LA Times:

"Scott never went into that house; he did not know of anything untoward"

Detailing Scott's recap of the minutes before the arrests, Grimes said the three men drove to the home of DeAlba's cousin, and a male came out of the house and briefly talked to DeAlba before going back inside.

Later, DeAlba also entered the house, looking for his cousin.

"[DeAlba] walks back outside, yelling for his cousin, police pull up, and they get Eric out of the car," Grimes said. "DeAlba admitted he took something from the house. I'm not sure what the items were."

Considering that they can't find anyone at this house, and there were no drugs, guns, or stolen possessions on anybody at the scene, I have a feeling that the charges will eventually be dropped. It is sounding more and more like Scott was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I know Scott has a troubled background and, if this version of the story holds up, then it is too bad that he is getting dragged into somebody else's crap. On the flip side, if Scott is going to hang out with people who are involved in "untoward" business then he has to know that this type of trouble could happen. It is hard to make that break and I know he has a lot of ties with Crenshaw kids who might not have followed the straight-and-narrow path. Still, you're a coach at a major D-1 school now. You can't get caught up in something like this.

I'm all for second chances and I think the coaches took a chance with Scott when he was hired. In all fairness, though, if UCLA and Karl Dorrell didn't have a full picture of all his past legal troubles then that isn't cool. I know the University and the program don't want their image tarnished and this type of negative press is never a good thing. Even if Scott didn't commit any crimes in this situation, the fact that he has a criminal past (even if they were misdemeanors) , is now branded in the minds of fans, families, and future recruits.

I guess we'll have to wait and see what comes from this situation. For now Scott is still on paid leave and his future with the program is unclear.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Latest on Scott

Well, there's a lot being written about the Eric Scott arrest but very few facts are surfacing.

The LA Times has this to say about the incident.

LA County Sheriff Sgt. Craig Harmon said, "A neighbor saw the three suspects on the porch of a single-family home, then saw them force their way in. When deputies arrived, the three were seen walking from the location, and were found with property from the house they admitted to taking."

Here is a totally different account from Rick Kimbrel over at Bruin Blitz.

The home of the alleged burglary is, we are told, actually the residence of DeAlba's cousin. A neighbor saw DeAlba and Williams walking around the house and phoned the police. When the police arrived, they questioned DeAlba and Williams. Scott was waiting his Mercedes Benz for his two former players and when he saw the police talking to them, he joined the conversation to try and sort things out. The reason for the arrest is they couldn't find DeAlba's cousin.
The Daily News has a similar account from their sources.

Sources said DeAlba's cousin lives at the house, and when the group stopped by to pay a visit, DeAlba walked around the property in search of him. Sources added Scott remained in the car until police arrived, and was arrested only when he exited the car in an attempt to learn what was happening with DeAlba, 23, and Williams, 23.

"We're actually still trying to figure this thing out ourselves," Sheriffs Sgt. Leonard Rivas said. "We have no victim. They're charged with burglary, but it's still an ongoing investigation. We're still trying to figure it out ourselves."

Rivas said a handgun was also found on the property. The handgun was not registered to Scott, DeAlba or Williams, and it was unclear whether the gun belonged to a resident of the home, he added.

Maybe I'm biased with my middle-class suburban background, but I don't think the cops would just arrest someone and charge them with felony burglary because they happened to be milling around in front of someones house. At the very least it would be trespassing. They must have taken something out of the house, right?

It was also brought to light that Scott has had four prior arrests from 1994 and 2005 and he pleaded guilt on two of those charges, both misdemeanors. One was a concealed weapons charge and the other was for disturbing the peace. The gun charges originally started out as felonies but his lawyer got them reduced to a misdemeanor after he challenged the legality of the search the cops performed.

Brian Dohn also reported that UCLA may not have know about all the prior arrests. That's probably true considering they were misdemeanors and you typically only have to report felonies on a job application. Still, makes you wonder if Guerrero or Dorrell do background searches on candidates they are hiring. It always amazes me how the press can dig this information up in just a few hours, but it catches the employer off guard.

Karl Dorrell announced yesterday that he put Eric Scott on administrative leave until the facts are all sorted out.
“I have decided to place Eric on administrative leave while the matter is being investigated,” said Dorrell. “We will continue to gather information regarding the case and will make a determination on Eric’s status at the appropriate time.”
Dorrell added some comments this afternoon at PAC-10 media day.

"One of my assistant coaches I put on administrative leave yesterday, given an allegation against him that is out there...we can't really comment much about what has happened, but I'm the type of guy and coach that the players and coaches are held accountable at UCLA....we're gonna' find out more about that case and those issues...I'm going to act as the receivers coach, if it ever gets to that point. It's not going to affect this team, and our expectations of this program this year....I'm very optimistic about how this outcome [the Scott situation] will be uncovered."
If the Bruins do lose Scott as a receiver coach that probably isn't that big of a deal for the team this season. As coach Dorrell stated, he can take over the job. Dorrell was a receiver coach in the NFL. The bigger hit is the job Scott has done in recruiting this year.

It sounds like there might be some misunderstanding from this whole thing and coach Scott got caught up in a bad situation. However, you expect more from a grown adult, especially someone in a position to influence young players. Even if the charges are dropped this is a black eye for the program.

We're Number 3! We're Number 3!

So the PAC-10 media poll came out today. This is where members of the media that cover PAC-10 teams like Brian Dohn and Scott Wolf, get a chance to vote for who they think will win the conference. No surprise that USC gets all of the first place votes. They look very formidable this year. The Bruins come in 3rd just behind the Bears.

1. USC (39) . . . . . . 390
2. California . . . . . 323
3. UCLA . . . . . . . . 305
4. Arizona State . . . 242
5. Oregon State . . . . 237
6. Oregon . . . . . . . 226
7. Arizona . . . . . . 162
8. Washington State . . 115
9. Washington . . . . .. 98
10. Stanford . . . . . . 47

Not a big surprise there. A lot of pre-season magazines have put us either 2nd in the conference or 3rd. Sporting News and Lindy's say #2 and I think Athelon and a few others say #3. From my perspective, it will be a battle for second place this year and our game against Cal at the Rose Bowl this year could be the deciding factor.

Jason over at What's Bruin Dawg has all the details on what was said at the event.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

WR Coach Scott Arrested

CBS has reported that Wide Receiver coach Eric Scott was arrested for residential burglary last night. More details are coming but this was taking form the arrest report:

“He was brought to Norwalk station and booked on residential burglary and bonded out,’’ said Tera White, the LASD’s station watch commander. “Deputies were called (to a house). It was a call for service. It wasn’t an observation on deputies’ part. They were called there by neighbors.’’ White said two other men, Jesus DeAlba and Timothy Williams, were also arrested.

These are felony charges and Scott was released on a bail of $50K. If you go to the LASD website and search for Eric Scott, you'll get the details of the arrest. It is possible that Scott was involved in some type of property dispute or he was helping one of the other men move items that were in dispute. The arrest time was in the early morning, as he was booked at 12:30 in the afternoon. That doesn't sound like someone robbing a house but with so few details at this point, it is hard to say.

Scott has had a big impact on recruiting and he has helped UCLA land some of the top recruits in the 2008 class. It is uncertain how this will impact the decisions of those recruits to attend UCLA. Coach Scott could face a suspension or be fired all together if the allegations prove to be true. This could leave the team without a wide receiver coach for the fall camp and possibly the season.

2007 Preview: Washington Huskies

After their road trip to Salt Lake City, the Bruins come back home to take on a rebuilding Washington Husky squad. Every year this seems like a tough game for UCLA and last September a victory just slipped though our hands. The Huskies will be breaking in a new quarterback and have some key players to replace on both sides of the ball. Regardless of the personnel, this is a team the Bruins cannot take lightly. Head coach Tyrone Willingham still has a lot of work ahead of him but this program seems to be headed in the right direction.

Last year the Bruins struggled in the red zone and scoring touchdowns was particularly difficult against the Huskies. Finishing drives was an area of focus for UCLA this spring and I'm sure Norvell will have our team much more prepared this fall. The Bruin defense also had a hard time containing Isiah Stanbeck and the athletic, scrambling quarterback has finally wrapped up his career in Seattle. I'm sure the coaches are expecting a very different outcome in Pasadena this year.


A name you'll hear a lot this season is Jake Locker. He is the highly touted red-shirt freshman who has been tagged as the starting quarterback for the purple and gold. A lot of expectations have followed this youngster from his prep days and the future of Husky football, and maybe Willingham's career, ride on his shoulders. He'll be playing at the collegiate level for the first time this year and he'll still be pretty raw in the 4th week of the season.

Locker is a dual threat quarterback. He has very impressive 4.6 sec speed, so the Huskies may run him even more than Stanbeck. He also has a very strong arm and was recruited as a baseball player when coming out of high school. Stanbeck caused all kinds of problems for the Bruins last year, so Walker will have to prepare his squad to keep this scrambler in check. Jake ran a wing-T in high school and he still has a lot to learn before he's ready to take on division-1 college football. Expect a lot of delayed blitzes and formations designed to confuse this inexperienced quarterback.

If Locker falters then Carl Bonnell, who is back from shoulder surgery, would be his replacement. He's been in the system for a long time but the senior quarterback struggled in place of Stanbeck last season. Willignham didn't even give Bonnell the opportunity to compete for the starting position, anointing Locker as the starter before the spring practice. Obviously, the coach doesn't have a lot of confidence in Bonnell to carry the team.

A star running back didn't really emerge for Washington last year, so losing Kenny James probably isn't the end of the world. Louis Rankin will be the main guy this time around and the inconsistent back will definitely look to capitalize on the big game he had against Washington State to wrap up the 2006 season. J. R. Hasty, who was academically ineligible last season, was hyped coming out of high school, so he could also provide a spark to a running game that has floundered in recent years. The stiff Bruin run defense should be able to contain this group and that will likely force Locker to carry most of the running load.

The Huskies finally have a big play wide out in Marcel Reece. He had a big game against the Cougars and is looking to have a break-out season in 2007. He looked good during the spring and it looks like he has his weight down and his mind focused on football. They do lose their biggest target in Sonny Shackleford and he'll be hard to replace. He absolutely killed the Bruins last time and I'm sure Rodney Van and the other defensive backs are glad they don't have to worry about him this season. The other receivers are question marks. Senior Anthony Russo had a hard time hanging onto the ball in 2006. Johnie Kirton is back at the tight end spot and the former running back is still making the transition. The other tight end is Micheal Gottlieb. Neither were a big target in the Husky offense last season.

The Husky offensive line loses two guards but they are replacing them with two big bodies. Morgan Rosborough is somewhere around 375 lbs and Casey Bulyca tosses in another 320 lbs of his own. Center Juan Garcia is the leader of this group and a lot will be asked of them this season. Protecting Locker and giving him some running lanes will be a key to Washington's strategy on offense. UCLA's D-line will be giving up some weight to the Dawgs but the speed and athleticism of our guys should be able to put some pressure on the QB. I'm sure we'll have an active rotation in the middle to keep our guys from getting worn down by these big uglies.


The Husky defense will see a lot of new faces this fall as they have to replace 5 of their top 6 tacklers. While that might cause most teams some concern, the Husky defense was pretty bad last year. Some fresh blood might be just what the doctor ordered. Washington will run a traditional 4-3 again this season, relying on their line to carry the defense.

The D-line is definitely the strongest squad on this side of the line of scrimmage for the Huskies. They get back 3 starters, including defensive end Greyson Gunheim, who played through a knee injury last season. He's receiving a lot of pre-season praise and the 6'5" senior will definitely need to be contained by our O-line. The other end, Daniel Te'0-Nesheim, looks to be another threat with a strong motor. If Kia and Abraham can keep these two under wraps then Olson should have a field day with the rest of the Husky defense.

The linebacker corps will introduce some new faces, with only senior Dan Howell back. Donald Butler and E.J. Savannah are young but they saw some minutes last year. The two sophomores will be asked to take up starting positions this season for the first time and there will obviously be a learning curve there. There is some talent in this group but not a lot of experience. They will likely rely on the D-line to help put a lot of pressure on Olson.

For the fourth straight week, the Bruins will face a team with some big questions in the secondary. Free Safety Jason Wells is back and so is Roy Lewis, but the other defensive backs have very little experience. This was a squad that was very maligned last season and they'll probably struggle again this time around as well. One name that Bruin fans might recognize is Byron Velega (now known as Byron Davenport). The former UCLA corner transfered to Washington and he could play some nickle back or even start at corner for the Huskies. Hopefully a play maker will emerge in our receiving corps in this game and give Olson a deep threat target. The Bruins should have an advantage here.

Special Teams

The Husky special teams unit is also being revamped this year. True freshman Erik Folk is being targeted to take over the kicking and punting duties. He'll replace Sean Douglas, who was an excellent punter for the Dawgs, and Washington's special teams might be another area where this program struggles. In addition to the kicking, the Huskies will replace their punt returner and the kick return spot also looks like it is up for grabs.

The Verdict

On paper the Huskies don't seem to match up well with UCLA. They lose their big play makers on offense and bring on board some inexperienced, but talented, replacements. The Huskies have an X-factor at quarterback but he'll still be raw when they come to Pasadena and I don't think Locker can carry the team by himself. This is a program that is still rebuilding and they are probably another year away from being a serious threat. This Dawg has some bite, though, and the Bruins better be ready for a gritty opponent.

For whatever reason, this is always a close game and I don't think this year will be any exception. The Bruin defense should suffocate the Husky offense, so it might be a low scoring affair. I'm sure our boys will be licking their chops at the prospect of getting revenge after the tough loss in Seattle a year ago. A thin Husky defense coupled with all the returning talent at UCLA will be too much for Washington to overcome. Throw in home field advantage for good measure and you can chalk this one up in the win column.

CalPoly's Prediction: Bruin Victory. 4-0 (2-0)

Washington What's What

Recruiting rankings for the last 4 years (Scout.com is the first number, Rivals.com is the second):

2007: #29, #36, 27 commits
2006: #35, #35, 22 commits
2005: #55, #66, 13 commits
2004: #22, #19, 22 commits

2006 statistical rankings (National ranking is the first number, PAC-10 rank is the second):

Total Offense : 74, 8.
Scoring Offense: 76, 8.

Rushing Offense: 69, 7.
Passing Offense: 66, 8.

Total Defense : 95, 9.
Scoring Defense: 85, 8.

Rushing Defense: 66, 8.
Passing Defense: 102, 8.

Game Info.
September 22. Time and TV package are still TBD.

More Reading

Sunday, July 22, 2007

2007 Preview: Utah Utes

The Bruins take on another Mountain West opponent in the 3rd week of the season when they head up to Salt Lake City to play the Utah Utes. This team is the mirror image of the BYU Cougars; they lose a lot of defensive players but bring back a pretty good offensive unit. The Bruins shut them down last year at the Rose Bowl and our guys will definitely be looking to take care of business again this time around.


The key to the Utah offense is the spread and they'll be asking returning junior quarterback Brian Johnson to run the show this season. Johnson was spectacular in 2005 until he suffered a torn ACL late in the season. He missed all of 2006 rehabbing his knee but he is back and ready to play. Since a key component to the spread is a mobile quarterback, the biggest unanswered question is how fast can Johnson run on his bum leg? Utah coach Kyle Whittingham says Johnson is back to 100% and just as quick as ever. We'll have to wait until September to see if that is really true.

The running back position looks a little shaky. One good piece of news for Utah is the return their leading rusher Daryl Poston. The former USC Trojan got a seventh year of eligibility and he'll be in the backfield at some point this season. Poston didn't put up very good numbers last year, only 550 yards and 5 touchdowns. The often injured back isn't very big but he brings some good speed. Poston broke his foot this spring, so if he isn't ready to go this fall then the duties may fall to Matt Asiata who was playing at the junior college level last season. Neither back is a threat to knock of a big run and the Bruins stingy defense will likely force Utah to keep the ball in the air or put the ball in Johnson's hands on the ground.

The receiving corps is an experienced group that returns it's top six players. None of them really stood out as play makers last year and this squad will look to improve a lot this season. Marquis Wilson made the most out of the passes sent his way, including knocking off a 57-yard touchdown run against BYU. I'm sure Walker will bring Horton up to key on the quarterback in rushing downs, so the corners will need to lock down their assigned receivers without much assistance. I definitely think that the experienced Bruin secondary is up to the task.

Like the Cougars, Utah bring back a very talented and large offensive line. The Utes do lose an all conference tackle in Tavo Tupola, but the other spots are solid. Tupola's replacement is 6'7", 320 lb junior Dustin Hensel and he'll have his hands full with the UCLA ends. Jason Boone and Robert Conley anchor this line and both look to have big seasons and compete for all conference honors. They'll have a lot of pressure to protect Jonson, as he'll be the major cog in the Utah offensive machine. The Bruin defensive line will have some big bodies to move with this lot but expect Davis and Dragovic to bring a lot of speed and pressure from the outside.


Utah loses a lot of players from a defense that wasn't all that great in 2006. The biggest departure for this unit is all-everything defensive back Eric Weddle. He was all over the field during his career at Utah, including playing running back and even a little quarterback. His versatile, athletic talent will be sorely missed this season and the Utes really have nobody who can take his place. They'll be running a traditional 4-3 again this season.

The other big departures were 300 lb defensive tackles Paul Soliai and Kelly Talavou. They were both all conference selections and sophomore Kenape Eliapo and senior Gabe Long will literally have some big shoes to fill. It was the defensive line last year that caused the Bruins fits in their running game. This time around things should be different as the new UCLA line should have an easier time pushing around this squad. The Bruins will need to prepare and drill against a D-line that likes to stunt.

The strongest squad at Utah is their talented trio of line backers. They have a nice mix of speed, size, and strength and all three bring a lot of experience back to the position. Joe Jiannoni was the leading tackler last season and he cements the squad. Seniors Malakai Mokofisi and Kyle Brady are on the outside and bring some big play making ability. This group will likely be busy if their defensive line isn't able to take on the experienced UCLA O-line.

Again, Ben and the offense will be facing a team with some deficiencies in the secondary. Free Safety Steve Tate got picked on last year as teams tried to stay away from Weddle. He was up to the challenge but he is nowhere near as imposing a player. Brice McCain is back and the fast corner has great cover skills. He is a lot like Trey Brown; a little short at 5'9" but he has a real head for the ball. There is a mismatch in height, though, and Joe Cowan could have a big day with his 8 inch height advantage. The other spots are going to be filled with new faces and some guys switching positions. If Ben can heat up like he did last year, then he should be able pick apart the Utah defensive backs.

Special Teams

Junior Louie Sakoda was one of the best punters in the country last year landing 52 punts inside the 20 yard line. He also was the place kicker last season and he'll be handling those responsibilities again this time around. He doesn't quite have the leg and accuracy on longer kicks, but he was money from inside the 40 yard line.

Utah will need to replace their punt return guy but kick return specialist, Brice McCain, is back and he had a good 22.5 yards per attempt.

The Verdict

There's no doubt this game will be much closer than the last meeting. Utah has some potent offensive weapons, excellent specialists, and they'll be back on their home turf. The Bruins haven't faired well on the road recently, so this game will be a good mental challenge for this team.

The Utes have an inexperienced defensive line and the Bruins should run well against this team. The secondary has some holes and Ben and the receiving corp could make some big plays in the passing game as well. Utah's biggest strength, their spread offense, will run smack dab into the Bruins experienced, athletic, and quick defense.

Ultimately, I think the talent gap, an imposing defense, and an improving offense will be too much for a rebuilding Utah team. There are just too many holes in the Utah defense that, even with their star defenders last year, still got lit up by Ben Olson. This one is going UCLA's way, but it probably won't be a run away win.

CalPoly's Predicition: UCLA Victory. Record: 3-0 (1-0)

Salt Lake Scoop

Recruiting rankings for the last 4 years (Scout.com is the first number, Rivals.com is the second):

2007: #66, #71, 24 commits
2006: #60, #55, 25 commits
2005: #71, #59, 19 commits
2004: #68, #61, 22 commits

2006 statistical rankings (National ranking is the first number, MWC rank is the second):

Total Offense : 41, 3.
Scoring Offense: 33, 3.

Rushing Offense: 54, 4.
Passing Offense: 34, 2.

Total Defense : 43, 4.
Scoring Defense: 37, 3.

Rushing Defense: 22, 2.
Passing Defense: 78, 5.

Game info:
September 15, 3:00 pm Pacific Time. Televised by Versus (aka The Outdoor Network).

More Reading

(photo credit: Ghetty Images)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

2007 Preview: BYU Cougars

BYU had a stellar 2006 season. They finished with 11 victories, won the Mountain West Conference, and laid a beating on the Oregon Ducks in the Las Vegas Bowl. They ultimately finished the season ranked 15th in the AP poll, harking back images of those high-flying Brigham Young squads of the 80's and 90's. The bad news for the Cougars, and good news for us Bruins, is that a lot of the players that made last season so successful have graduated and moved on.

The BYU coaches have to replace most of their big names and almost the entire offense this season. They have some talented players in the wings, but they're going to have to gain some experience before they're truly ready to compete with top-25 programs. The Bruins couldn't have asked for a better time to take on this team, as we get them in the second week of the season here at the Rose Bowl.


The Cougars have so many holes to fill on offense, I hardly know where to begin. They lose their star quarterback, their leading rusher, their 3 leading receivers, the starting right tackle and their starting tight end. In fact, BYU returns only one player at a skill position, Matt Allen (WR), who started in 2006. It would be hard to replace two or three key players, but they will have to replace pretty much every offensive weapon they had in their arsenal.

The biggest loss for the cougars is all conference quarterback John Beck who was picked in the second round of the NFL draft. He threw an astonishing 32 touchdown passes and racked up almost 3,900 yards last season. He finished his career as the 2nd most prolific passer in BYU history, which says a lot considering how many great quarterbacks have come out of Provo. It will be extremely difficult for his successor, Max Hall, to come even close to those numbers.

Hall is a transfer from ASU and his story is very similar to that of Ben Olson. Big talent, spent one year at Arizona State, went on a Mormon mission, and now he is back in Provo and tagged as the starter. He hasn't played a down in 3 years, so you know the rust is going to take some time to shake off. Expect Walker to send a lot of delayed blitzes and different packages to try and confuse and shake the inexperienced quarterback.

The other big name the Cougars need to replace is running back Curtis Brown who set the mark as BYU's all time leading rusher. An excellent rusher, Brown lead the team on the ground and put together a 1000 yard season. He was almost a bigger threat receiving the ball as he racked up 500+ yards in receptions to complement the rushing yards. Taking his place is junior Fui Vakapuna who had 92 carriers last year for 445 yards. He's been dinged by injuries and spent the better part of last season with a bum ankle. We'll see how much that will slow him down against UCLA. He is a big bruiser coming in at 234 lbs and has decent hands. This is his first year starting at tailback and he'll be facing one of the best run defense in the nation with the Bruins. If Hall struggles, I don't think the Cougars will find much help in this department.

The receiving corp losses a big target in tight end Jonny Harline who packed his bags for the NFL this spring. They also have to replace the top wide receiver from last season, McKay Jacobson ,who is off on a mission this year. The good news for the Cougars is they get back a talented receiver in Austin Collie. He was the MWC Freshman of the Year back in 2004 before he departed on his mission. He'll have to shake off some rust and get back into football condition this summer and fall. The Bruin's experienced and talented secondary should be all this group of receivers can handle. UCLA has arguably the best foursome of any team on BYU's schedule.

The one squad that isn't feeling the pinch from graduation and mission work is the offensive line. They get back four players from a unit that propelled BYU to the 4th best offense in the nation. Sete Aulai, a 6'0" 290lb senior, will anchor the line at center. He is an all-conference player and a leader on the team. The other big uglies are pretty darn big. They're all around 320lbs each and they look to be one of the best group of lineman in the MWC. UCLA gives up a lot of size to these guys, so the speed of the defensive ends will be crucial if we're going to pressure Hall. We'll also need to use a rotation of players to keep quick, fresh bodies on the field. That will prevent our guys from being worn down by this mammoth offensive line.


Things look a lot better on the other side of the ball for BYU fans. The cougars return 7 players with some really athletic and talented guys in the mix. The Cougars moved to a 3-4 last season after using a less orthodox 3-3-5 back in 2005. The 3-4 works if you have good linebackers and BYU has some very good ones. Against that defensive configuration, running the ball can be easier; however, blitzing linebackers can come from all directions and that can cause a lot of confusion for the quarterback. Ben got thrown-off last season when the Bruins played the Rice Owls because they used a defensive scheme with a lot of DBs and LBs. The Bruin O-line will need to be well prepared and make sure they don't miss their blocking assignments.

Up front the Cougars have a lot of young faces. All three lineman are sophomores but Russell Tialavea and Jan Jorgensen were starters last season. Jorgensen is the biggest threat here as he was a Freshman all American and recorded five sacks last season. Containing him will be a priority for Bob Connelly and the revamped Bruin line. The Bruins are also going to need to establish a running game as there is a natural advantage at the line of scrimmage with only 3 down lineman. This threesome isn't huge, so our guys should be able to move them around.

Really, the biggest obstacles in the BYU front seven is the line backers. Two senior linebackers, Bryan Kehl and Kelly Poppinga, are fast and strong. Poppinga is pretty beefy tipping the scales at close to 240lbs. He is also switching from outside to inside to give some experience and size in the middle and he should make that transition fairly easily. Junior David Nixon is also a returning starter and he was a big contributer all over the field last year recording 37 solo tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. The big loss was star linebacker, and defensive leader, Cameron Jensen who graduated last year.

The Cougar secondary is chocked full of experienced Seniors but this was a unit that struggled at times last season. They return a good free safety in hard hitting Quinn Gooch. The corners are not a strong spot and I think UCLA can take advantage in this area. Former walk-on Ben Criddle started last year as a junior, but he stands at 5'11" and a mismatch exists there with 6'5" receivers like Joe Cowan, Ketchum, and Johnson. He is also coming off an ankle injury that sidelined him for the Las Vegas Bowl. Kyle Buchanan will likely be the other corner and he will be taking on the starting role for the first time this year. He is an impressive athlete but he also has seen a lot of injuries in his tenure at Provo. Expect Jay Norvell to call in some deep passes to try and stretch and test this secondary.

Special Teams

Like the offense, the special teams unit will see a lot of new faces. They lose their starting kicker and punter and red-shirt freshman Mitch Payne will be taking on both of those duties this year. If their offense can't get the ball into the end zone then a lot of pressure will come down on Payne's shoulders. The other big loss is punt returner Nathan Meikle who helped rank the Cougars second in the MWC in return yards. That was a big boost to their offense and they will have a hard time replacing that kind of productivity.

The Verdict

BYU looks like a solid team and they have some young, talented players taking over the reigns this season. I'm sure most Bruin fans will write them off as just another team from a non-BCS conference, but I think the Cougars could make some noise this year. They have excellent coaches, an awesome offensive line, and a tradition of winning.

All that being said, I can't see too many scenarios where BYU can beat the Bruins. They just have too many players to replace on offense and special teams and they lost a couple key defensive players as well. If this game was being played at LaVell Edwards Stadium in November it might be a totally different outcome. However, it is being played in September at the Rose Bowl, a place where the Bruins have gone 12-1 over the last two seasons. Considering that UCLA has a large number of returning starters and a formidable defense, I think that's a pretty good recipe for a Bruin victory.

CalPoly's prediction: UCLA victory. Record: 2-0 (1-0)

Cougar Calculus

Recruiting rankings for the last 4 years (Scout.com is the first number, Rivals.com is the second):

2007: #42, #56, 27 commits
2006: #46, #67, 25 commits
2005: #53, #63, 18 commits
2004: #55, #79, 28 commits

2006 statistical rankings (National ranking is the first number, WMC rank is the second):

Total Offense : 4, 1.
Scoring Offense: 5, 1.

Rushing Offense: 53, 3.
Passing Offense: 4, 1.

Total Defense : 38, 3.
Scoring Defense: 10, 2.

Rushing Defense: 31, 4.
Passing Defense: 65, 5.

Game info:
September 8, 3:30 pm Pacific Time. Televised by Versus (aka The Outdoor Network).

More Reading
(photo credit: Ghetty Images)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Recruiting Snapshot

I had some problems with my free file hosting service this last week, but it looks like they have been resolved now. Here is the latest recruiting snapshot ( PDF ) that includes Nelson Rosario. The 2008 recruiting class is ranked #2 on Rivals (we slipped below Notre Dame) and #3 on Scout (behind Texas and ND).

Who is Chris Meadows?

The Bruins have been participating in 7-on-7 practices for about a week and one player in particular has been generating some buzz. His name is Chris Meadows and he's been turning some heads this summer. If you're scratching your head and wondering, "Who is Chris Meadows?", well you aren't alone. I did the same thing. So who is this guy and what can he bring to the team this season? Here's the low down...

First some numbers. Chris measures in at 5'11" with a forty time of 4.5 sec. Apparently the kid has some hops with a 40" vertical and a natural athletic ability. He was listed on the official UCLA roster as a defensive back, but it looks like Mr. Meadows will be playing some wide receiver this season.

Meadows played his prep ball in Redondo Beach where he spent time at pretty much every position (QB, RB, DB, and WR). He was the Ocean League MVP as a junior and an all conference guy his senior season. He's been blessed with a ton of natural talent and he has superior body control. Here's a video of Chris making an amazing, 360-degree, leaping interception in the pouring rain. Meadows had 1,500 all-purpose yards of offense and 80 tackles and 4 interceptions on defense his senior season for Redondo.

He visited UCLA but an offer never came from the coaching staff. He eventually picked Idaho over scholarship offers from Montana and Sacramento State. It looks like Chris really wanted to play for the Bruins, so he transfered from Idaho and spent the 2005 season at West Los Angeles Junior College. He played wide out for the Hustling Oilers where he had 36 receptions for 680 yards and 6 touchdowns. After one year at the juco level, he walked on to the team and he'll be looking to make a similar impact for the Bruin receiving crops this year.

DEJA (aka DeaconBlue) stated in his practice report that Meadows has been juking defensive backs and making circus catches in the 7-on-7 games. If he can bring that kind of play making ability to the team during the season then he'll definitely find a spot in the regular rotation. The UCLA receivers were criticized last year for not having anyone step up and make the big plays last season. Maybe Meadows can give this team the spark they have been missing. So keep an eye out for #30 in the blue and gold this year.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

2007 Preview: Stanford Cardinal

First-year coach Jim Harbaugh makes a big jump from I-AA San Diego to the PAC-10 and it appears he's injected a least a little enthusiasm and hope into a program that has hit the skids over the last few years. Harbaugh has an almost herculean effort ahead of him as the Cardinal finished last season 1-11 and dead last in the conference in almost every statistical category. UCLA blanked Stanford last year in Pasadena and the Bruins will be looking for a repeat performance to open up the 2007 season.


Fifth-year senior T.C. Ostrander will take over the signal calling from NFL-bound Trent Edwards. He's seen plenty of action during his career in large part because Edwards was often used as a tackling dummy by opposing defenses. Ostrander did manage to lead the Cardinal to their only win last season, though that was against a Stanbeck-less Washington team.

Ostrander hasn't been particularly impressive when he's played, but new coach Jim Harbaugh has said he's pleased with him. He was 72 of 158 (46%) with 3 TDs, 5 INTs, and QB rating of 94.3 last season. Not particularly good numbers, but Ostrander does have 3 more months to prepare for his season debut.

Since Edwards couldn't stay healthy behind an awful offensive line, it makes you wonder who is behind Ostrander on the depth chart. If he goes down, it will either be junior Tavita Pritchard or redshirt freshman Alex Loukas. Neither was terribly impressive this spring and both are very inexperienced and raw. Injuries probably won't be a big factor for the game against the Bruins, as long as Ostrander stays healthy in the fall camp.

Coach Harbaugh will be very active on the sidelines this season. The former NFL quarterback will play a primary role in developing the game plan and will call the plays on Saturday. I'm sure he'll also spend plenty of time with Ostrander, trying to coach up the senior. He was successful at the University of San Diego and we'll have to wait and see if he can spark an offense that was moribund last season.

The one bright spot on offense is the return of healthy receivers Mark Bradford and Evan Moore as well as 2006 leading receiver Richard Sherman. Ostrander will have a pretty good trio of pass-catching targets that have enough talent to play at the next level. Of course, he'll need enough time to actually find his receivers, which is something the offensive line couldn't provide Edwards last season.

Senior Mark Bradford was the top target for Edwards in 2005 and was looking to have a break-out year last season before getting hurt in Stanford's game against San Jose State. Moore looks like he has been hurt a lot in his career and I'm sure both red-shirt seniors will be focused on staying healthy this season. Expect Trey Brown and Rodney Van to have their hands full, especially with the 6'7" Moore. Both corners are giving up almost 10 inches and Ostrander will likely try and isolate Moore and play a little jump ball.

Running back Anthony Kimble lead the team last year with 470 yards rushing and the Senior will look to improve on those numbers. Toby Gerhart is also back and I'm sure Cardinal fans are hoping the big back from Norco will be a future star on the Farm. He broke his arm playing baseball this year and that might slow him down during the football season. The Bruin front seven shouldn't have much of a problem containing the run game.

The offensive line was down right awful last season. They gave up an astonishing 3.82 sacks a game, which ranked them 114th in the country in sacks allowed. Bruce Davis and company were constantly in the Cardinal backfield last year and they had Edwards running for his life most of the game. Stanford returns four of those lineman this season, which may not be a good thing. Even with all of their playing experience, they still looked terrible during spring practices, particularly in the spring game, where they gave up seven sacks. Expect UCLA to be just as successful at pressuring Ostrander come September 1st.


As bad as the offense looks, there are just as many questions, if not more, on the defensive side of the ball. Scott Shafer, an up-and-coming defensive innovator who revived the unit at Western Michigan, is being counted on to do the same thing at Stanford. He has an uphill battle ahead of him this season.

The Cardinal will be switching to a more conventional 4-3 defensive front from the 3- 4 they ran last season. In some ways that will help them cover for some peronsell loses that will hit a team already lean on talent. The defense lost it's three best players from the worst unit in the Pac-10. That included their only standout player, Michael Okwo, a first-team All-Pac-10 linebacker.

Besides Okwo, Trevor Hooper and Bo McNally were the other two leading tacklers and both safeties will be missed from the secondary. The best candidate at the free safety spot is sophomore Austin Yancy who was a backup receiver last year. That's a telling sign of how hard up Stanford is for athletic players. Ben Olson definitely has the arm strength to stretch the field and I think Norvell will try and take advantage of this thin secondary.

Last year, the Cardinal gave up 211 yards rushing per game. That's an embarrassing number and that was with Okwo in the lineup. They are going to have to find a way to slow down opposing running backs this year if they are going to stand a chance at winning any games. Sophomore linebacker Clinton Snyder and nose tackle Ekom Udofia look like promising players who could help revive this unit down the road.

In the spring game, the defense looked decent, but you expect the defense to be ahead of the offense when a new system is installed. We'll have to see how they perform in the fall and if any new stars can emerge. Considering the recruiting hand-cuffs that the Stanford administrations has put on the program, I won't be holding my breath. The Bruins have an athletic advantage at almost every position.

Special Teams

Senior Derek Belch has passed Aaron Zagory in the kicking competition this spring. Zagory was inconsistent last year, connecting on 8 of 13 field goals with a long of 37 yards. Stanford will likely struggle getting the ball into the end zone, so a solid field-goal kicker is a must. It doesn't look like they have one just yet but incoming freshman David Green, from Mission Viejo High School and the top-rated prep kicker in the country, could be just what the doctor ordered.

The kick and punt returners last season were pretty bad as well. The longest punt return all year was 20 yards (UCLA averaged more than that in 2006) and the kick return wasn't much better. There isn't exactly a lot of speedsters on the roster to take over these duties but running backs Jason Evans and Tyrone McGraw will be given the opportunity.

The Verdict

A Bruin victory is pretty much a no brainer. UCLA returns way to many players and they will hit the ground running in the season opener. Stanford is just beginning to rebuild their team after an atrocious 1-11 season and they will eventually be a much better team... just not this year. The only question that remains is the margin of victory and that will be a barometer of how good this Bruin squad will perform this season.

It is a road game, and UCLA has struggled outside of the Rose Bowl in recent years. It will also be the first game under Norvell's offense, so it is hard to know what to expect from our boys. Considering how well Olson did against Utah in the season opener last year, I think he could have a repeat performance up on the Farm. I'm guessing a comfortable Bruin victory is in the works, but don't expect a blow-out. Stanford has just enough players on offense that if Ostrander starts clicking they could put up some points.

CalPoly's predicition: UCLA victory. Record: 1-0 (1-0).

Cardinal Facts

Recruiting rankings for the last 4 years (Scout.com is the first number, Rivals.com is the second):

2007: #36, #51, 11 commits
2006: #38, #53, 19 commits
2005: #38, #41, 16 commits
2004: #46, #57, 14 commits

2006 statistical rankings (National ranking is the first number, PAC-10 rank is the second):

Total Offense : 118, 10.
Scoring Offense: 118, 10.

Rushing Offense: 115, 10.
Passing Offense: 95, 10.

Total Defense : 97, 10.
Scoring Defense: 108, 10.

Rushing Defense: 117, 10.
Passing Defense: 60, 7.

Game info:
September 1, 12:30 pm Pacific Time. Televised nationally on FSN.

More Reading
(photo credit: Getty Images)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

7-7 Drills

Ed Note: This is posted with permission from DeaconBlue at BruinGold.

Given the choice between being a responsible citizen, keeping an important social obligation, or busting on out to Spaulding Field to attend the first 7 on 7 workout yesterday afternoon, I did what any red-blooded Arroyo Pyscho would do & played hooky from real life.

My answering machine was SMOKING when I got home, but I ignored it & hunkered down to clack out a practice report. Don't expect a whole lotta X's & O's. Rather, consider this a whistle wetter, a few lightweight observations on a few hours spent catching up with old buds & digging some pigskin slinging around Spaudling Field.

Since I rarely begin a practice report without some allusion to prevailing atmospheric conditions, I should mention that competition vs the Oilers of West LA College commenced under pearly skies. Immediately upon discreetly plunking open my notebook & jotting down a few stray notes, a HUGE shadow suddenly loomed over me, which looked suspiciously like a suspicious Chris Horton when I gazed up. Indeed the senior safety perfectly played the role of both senior leader & enforcer, by making damn sure I wasn't one of those internet geeks. Once I assured him I knew the right people, who knew the right people, he released his hand from my throat & told his teammates to give me my pants back.

While I'm sure the usual suspects are wondering whether Ben Olson or Patrick Cowan looked better, I couldn't honestly tell you. Nor do I care at this point. Both had their moments, hitting some nice medium & deep balls. I can't say that Chris Forcier throws the prettiest spiral I've ever seen. But he's a very cool kid, seems comfortable out there & is accurate despite, (wth all due respect), the wobbling delivery, today anyway. It's never wise to judge anybody on one day's efforts. I'm guessing he was a little tight at his first official gig as Bruin & over gripping the stone.

But speaking of athletic QBs, I can say that Osaar Rasshan will make one KICKASS WR. Dude has prototype size, nice jets, fluid moves & a surprisingly fine set of paws. Other players confirmed he has been snagging stone VERY WELL all summer. When I asked him if he had any experience playing WR, he mentioned that he played WR as a frosh on the varsity at Garey HS in Pomona. As for any hard feelings about making the switch to WR, he was all about helping UCLA football. Speaking of which, he got open often, didn't drop a ball thrown his way & made some nice snags with decent technique, (hands fully extended), while showing the usual freakish athleticism.

Another lesser known, ex HS QB, who has made a few position switches in the past few years also caught my eye on numerous occasions today. True story time... A few years ago I met a young man, at a UCLA camp who was DESPERATE to see his nephew (or was it stepson?) get a shot at playing for UCLA. He actually handed me a highlight video & asked me to do ANYTHING I could to get it to the coaches. I managed to get his video seen by the right people, but it produced no offer.

Me, I was impressed with the prospects extremely quick feet & learned that he ran the fastest shuttle time at the Stanford Nike Camp. He played QB at Redondo Union High School by default, simply because he was the best athlete on his team. But it seemed that his Division 1 future lay at DB. Long story long, UCLA didn't offer, but Idaho did. So he ended up committing to the Vandals.

Well recently he transferred to UCLA as a walk on. I PROMISE, before camp is over you will definitely her a little bit about a smallish, white WR at practice, just flat out JUKING the shorts off of one DB after another & making circus catches with his 40 some inch vertical leap & say WHO THE HELL WAS THAT???? It will be walk on WR Chris Meadows, #30. Think Andrew Baumgartner with considerably more raw talent.

It's always tough to tell too much from any one practice, let alone an informal short & T shirt 7 on 7 type dealio vs a local JC squad, albeit vs one of my alma maters WLACC. But FWIW, (to this longtime practice regular), it is obvious that UCLA's overall talent level is picking up considrably. As is the confidence level & focus of the team.

These Bruins clearly have A BLAST hanging out together, talk a ton of smack & get along famously. But on the business side of the deal, there is no shortage of fire in the belly. It's AWESOME to see Trey Brown, Chris Horton, Moochie, Rodney Van, Alteran Verner & other elders schooling talented youngsters like Courtney Viney, who is smallish, but stout & VERY MUCH a cling on type DB & PLAYA. Generally the team elders were all taking the cubs under their wings & dispensing high caliber Div 1 wisdom. As for any proverbial corners turned, I'm perfectly comfortable to let the upcoming Pac 10 season determine that.

All in all, it was fantastic to be around UCLA football, rap with a few players & kick it with a select few friends, who know & love the game. I can tell you that every player I spoke to is confident about the coming season & itching to get cracking in August. I spoke with several players, including one young man, I've always enjoyed. Being an offbeat breed of cat myself, I appreciate the quirkiness of kickers like Aaron Perez. He has always been bright, engaging & forthright with me. He mentioned that he knows all about BRO & the rest of the cyber sites, but no longer surfs the net, because its easy for all the crapola folks say to get into your head.

Perhaps I shouldn't have told him about the C+ grade some internet guru gave Perez on the upcoming year. But when I did, he shrugged, smiled & said wihtout hesitation: "I'm confident." You know what... So am I. I don't care what any of y'all say. Despite a few question marks, I feel GOOD about the upcoming season. Stay tuned for further observations on all thangs Bruinesque. I hope this little ditty finds you all well. Me, I can't wait for the first CRACK of pads come Fall to reverberate in Beautiful Downtown Bruinville...

Be Cool, Keep Da Faith & Rock On...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

2007 Preview: UCLA Bruins

I'm kicking off a new series of articles for the blog. Over the next 6 weeks, I'll be previewing all 12 of UCLA's 2007 opponents and how I think we stack up against them. Look for a new article every Monday and Thursday (or thereabouts). To start off the series, I'll first take a look at our own team and talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the latest edition of Bruin football.

UCLA has a ton of returning starters (10 on offense and 10 on defense) and a very experienced and deep roster. This is really a make-or-break season for Karl Dorrell and the UCLA football team, as 2008 is sure to be a major rebuilding effort. The schedule is setup for a run at the conference crown, and the Bruins could be playing for a BCS birth for the first time in a decade.

The team was inconsistent last year, producing some incredible victories (Oregon State, USC, and ASU) and some ugly loses (FSU, Cal, and WSU). The Bruins led most of their games going into the 4th quarter, but saw some of those leads vanish as they faltered down the stretch (UW, ND, and FSU). Hopefully a wiser and more experienced group of players can put together a full 60-minutes of excellence on the field in 2007.


Despite returning almost ever player this season, there are still a lot of question marks surrounding the offense. This unit was a liability last season as both Ben and Pat struggled to move the ball. They were particularly ineffective in the red zone and that was a key area of focus during the spring. Unfortunately, they looked awful in the spring game and they still have a long way to go before being ready for the first game up at the Farm on September 1st.

Like most years in the Dorrell Era, we're starting off with a new offensive coordinator. Jim Svoboda was fired for his conservative play calling at the end of the 2006 campaign, and Jay Norvell, who was the Offensive Coordinator at Nebraska, is taking over the reigns. This will be Norvell's first season calling the plays and he looks ready to bring some changes to an offense that only ranked 7th in the conference last season.

The Bruins will be running the west coast offense again under Norvell, but with more of an emphasis on the shotgun. Jay has also introduced a more verbose and complex vocabulary for this team that will take some time for them to learn. In the spring there was an emphasis on speed and tempo, so expect them to get to the line faster and have fewer delay-of-game penalties and wasted timeouts. Norvell is also introducing single back sets with stacked wide outs. It should be a more pass-oriented and wide open offense this year, something that has been sorely missing the last few seasons.

Ben Olson is back behind center and the big southpaw will finally come into the fall tagged as the starting quarterback. Olson has all the physical skills to be an NFL quality quarterback, he just hasn't been able to showcase them during his time in Westwood. He still has a ton of rust to shake off, only starting five games in the last five years. How Ben performs this year will be a huge factor in the success of this team. If the game can slow down for him and he can get comfortable in the pocket then expect this squad to improve immensely over the 56th ranked passing offense last season.

The offensive line saw a reshuffle in the spring, with a number of players shifting positions. Chris Joseph was shifted to center after starting 13 games last year at guard. Micah Kai, the talented and physical sophomore, will take over as the starting left tackle. The right side of the line has Shannon Tevaga and Noah Sutherland. The squad as a whole really struggled in the spring and they couldn't keep the Bruin's second-string defense off of Ben and Pat during the spring game. Hopefully a few months to absorb the new offense and a good fall camp will solidify this unit. They definitely have a lot to prove this season.

The receiving corps underachieved last year and I'm very glad to see DJ McCarthy and his hockey-style lineups gone from the program. New receiver coach Darrell Scott will be re-introducing a merit-based rotation that will keep our best players on the field and let them build a rhythm. Scott will have a nice mix of size, hands, and speed at his disposal.

While the wideouts look solid and balanced this year, they lack some of the game breakers of the past. We get back Joe Cowan from injury and he'll be adding some depth to this unit. Marcus Everett is a great route runner and has excellent hands and Brandon Breazell brings some speed. At this point, nobody really sticks out as someone who can change the course of the game and hopefully someone will step-up and claim that role this season. This group as a whole will need to make-up for a lackluster 2006 campaign.

Paulsen and Moya are back at the tight end spot. Neither is going to set the world on fire, but they should be a solid pair and give the Bruins a receiving threat in the seams. Some football analysts think that Paulsen could be a sleeper on this team who is poised for a big year. He looked good filling in for Moya after the Oregon game.

The final piece of the puzzle is the running game led by Chris Markey and fullback Michael Pitre. They did a solid, if unspectacular, job last year and a lot more will be expected from them this time around. There is a significant drop-off from Chris Markey to Kalil Bell, though I did read that Kalil had a good spring camp. Chane "the train" Moline is back as a short yardage specialist. The X-factor is Crenshaw star, and true freshman, Raymond Carter. There is a lot of hype around this speedster and he could find himself in the regular rotation by the end of the season. The running backs are going to have to find a way to score more touchdowns this year and break off some big plays.


The other side of the ball could not be any different. With Walker at the helm for his second season, and 10 returning starters, the Bruin defense is a known quantity. The squad grew by leaps and bounds in 2006 and they should be poised to have a huge 2007 campaign. They run a traditional 4-3 defense with a lot of zone and safety blitzes that leaves the corners on islands.

The strongest unit on the team is the talented foursome in the secondary. They return a lot of experienced players and some very hard-hitting and talented athletes. Walker's style of defense calls for a lot of man-on-man coverage, so these guys will carry much of the burden of this team. They are anchored by lock-down corner Trey Brown who has started the last 30 games. Chris Horton also brings a hard hitting mentality to his run-support role as a strong safety. Sporting news ranks them as the best secondary in the PAC-10, even ahead of USC's talented group.

The linebackers, once thought to be a liability, emerged as a tough and effective unit under Christian Taylor last year. Reggie Carter is one of the only underclassman starting this season and he should see a big improvement this year, with a full season under his belt. Whittington and Hale also bring experience and talent to round out the linebacker position. They aren't the biggest squad, but a lot of smarts and the leadership of Taylor makes them very formidable.

That leaves us with the defensive line, which is the only unit to lose a starter from last season. Bruce Davis is the star on the line and it is hard to believe that two years ago he was considering moving to tight-end and even leaving the team. Expect him to face a number of double teams this year. Kevin Brown should finally be over his ankle injury and he looked sharp this spring. Harwell and Brown have both bulked up in the off season, so maybe our undersized line won't be so undersized after all. The only mystery is the other end spot opposite Davis. Dragovic, who started early in 2005 before going down with a knee injury, will have to step-up and replace the productivity of Justin Hickman. It will be a big task as both Davis and Hickman had 12.5 sacks each last year.

Special Teams

This is the one area where the Bruins could really see some problems. Gone is the automatic Justin Medlock to the NFL and Kai Forbath is taking over. He struggled a lot this spring missing some easy ones from up close. Walk-on Jimmy Rotstein could take his spot if his struggles continue into the fall. In either case, the Bruins will have to find a way to get into the end zone a lot more regularly to take the pressure of these newcomers.

Perez is back for his 3rd season and he has improved his accuracy and distance. He nailed some big punts last year, including that booming 60+ yard shot against USC to seal the victory. The punt return role is still a work in progress but it looks like Ryan Graves has the job for now. Terrance Austin could take his spot back in training camp. UCLA will need to improve a lot in this area to help give the offense an extra boost.

We'll be starting over on kick returns as Williams and McGee, who both saw time on KR duty last season, are gone from the team. That might be a good thing since the Bruins ranked 6th in the conference last year barely getting over 21 yards a return. With the new NCAA rules moving kick-offs back 5 yards to the 30 yard-line, we'll probably see fewer touch backs. This a phase of the game where UCLA cannot afford to struggle. It looks like a host of players are auditioning for the job, including Alteraun Verner and Terrance Austin.

The Verdict

I think this is a team that can achieve double digit wins, but it will require the offense to really improve under Norvell. There's plenty of talent and depth on both sides of the ball and a ton of seniors in the lineup. Players tend to see their biggest growth from their junior to senior year (think Drew Olson and Marcedes Lewis) and I think this team has the potential to be very good.

The Bruins have a tough schedule this season, with the PAC-10 looking like one of the toughest conferences from top-to-bottom in the country. The good news is that most of the difficult games are at home (California, Oregon, ASU, and Notre Dame) with just a few brutal road trips (OSU and USC). The offense will still be on the learning curve with Norvell's new system but a relatively easy early schedule (Stanford, BYU, Utah, Washington) should give them enough time to find their sea legs.

The big question marks are still on offense. We can pontificate all day about single back sets and spread packages, but it really all comes down to the confidence and competence of the quarterback. UCLA has a great defense that will keep us in each contest, but games will be decided on how well Ben Olson performs. He had flashes of brilliance last season, but also spent many games looking lost and shaken. I do expect some improvements but I wouldn't bet the house on Ben turning out a Heisman worthy year. Hopefully he can improve his game in time for a brutal November and December schedule.

Bruin Briefs

Recruiting rankings for the last 4 years (Scout.com is the first number, Rivals.com is the second):

2007: #36, #35, 11 commits
2006: #20, #17, 22 commits
2005: #24, #26, 21 commits
2004: #24, #34, 26 commits

2006 statistical rankings (National ranking is the first number, PAC-10 rank is the second):

Total Offense : 71, 7.
Scoring Offense: 64, 7.

Rushing Offense: 63, 4.
Passing Offense: 56, 6.

Total Defense : 35, 2.
Scoring Defense: 39, 4.

Rushing Defense: 9, 1.
Passing Defense: 49, 4.

More Reading
(photo credit: Getty Images)