Sunday, August 31, 2008

Zachary Zywakoski

I feel like we're in elementary school, our name is Zachary Zywakoski and the teacher is taking roll call... alphabetically. Dude, being the last team to play on the opening weekend sucks so bad. I've watched four days of college football and I'm STILL waiting to watch our Bruins. The anticipation is killing me! Can't wait for tomorrow.

Open. Open. Open. Open.

The Washington Lockers

I watched a couple of games on Saturday, but the one I looked forward to the most was Washington vs Oregon. Let me just say this, both teams (and Oregon played their 3rd string guy for most of the game) have pretty darn good quarterbacks. But Jake Locker is a stud. That dude can flat out play. I feel bad for him, though, being stuck on that team with that coaching staff. He might be competing for a national championship somewhere else, but at Washington he is running for his life every down.

Locker was basically the entire offense on Saturday. There were drives where he would gain almost every single yard, either running or throwing the ball. He had receivers dropping wide open passes. The freshman running back was getting something like 1.5 yards a carry. Add in a center who could barely get the ball back to him in the shotgun and the whole thing was a disaster. A complete and total disaster. I just hope Jake can make it through his college career intact because he could be a real player in the NFL.

After reading their fan's message boards, it reminded me of UCLA message boards this time last year. They are in complete melt down mode. That program needs to fire Tyrone Willingham ASAP. They've hit rock bottom at this point. Four years into Willingham's tenture and that team was absolutely attrocious. They were starting true freshman all over the place and they looked completely lost. There is no excuse for a coach to have that kind of situation in year four.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Cardinal Lick the Beaver

Wow. I thought Stanford would be better this year and Oregon State worse. But wow. Harbaugh and company survived a thrilla up on the Farm. I think it will be a very, very competitive year in the PAC-10.

Apparently Oregon State misses Yvenson Bernard. They were all pass on Thursday night. Meanwhile, Stanford was running the ball well behind Gerhart. I think our chances against both teams is improved now, especially if they stay fairly one dimensional of offense. Neither defense looked very good.

On a side note... thank god football season has started! Is is Monday yet?!?!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ten Years Too Late

In a little over a week, the UCLA Bruins will take on the Tennessee Volunteers in front of a nationally televised audience. In 1998, the Bruins were hoping for the same scenario. Back then, an undefeated UCLA squad had a clear shot at playing Tennessee in the first ever BCS championship game. Unfortunately, a hurricane and a phantom fumble call ended that date with destiny before it could even be penciled in. It's been a decade since these two teams were supposed to play each other, and it has been a bumpy ride for both schools, to say the least.

It was a sunny December morning at the Orange Bowl and the Bruins were in town to play a makeup game against the Miami Hurricanes. Earlier in the year, hurricane George caused the game to be canceled but UCLA opted to have the game replayed later in the season. Going into that weekend, there were three undefeated teams including UCLA, Tennessee, and Kansas State. If the Bruins could take care of business that day then they would have a legitimate claim to appear in the Fiesta Bowl and play for the national title. As fate would have it, the Wildcats would lose to an underdog Texas A&M team that Saturday, leaving the door open for a Tennessee and UCLA title showdown.

Of course, things wouldn't work out for the Bruins either. That team was all offense and no defense and the Hurricanes racked up a ridiculous 689 yards by the time it was over. Cade McNown and Brian Poli-Dixon feuled UCLA's top-rated offense to 43 points but a bogus fumble call in the fourth quarter, with UCLA rolling down the field for another score, would lead to the final Miami touchdown.

UCLA has practically vanished off the national stage since that fateful game against Miami ten years ago. After having a nation's best 20-game win streak, the Bruins haven't come close to matching their success from that season. No conference championships and more 6-6 recods than you can shake a stick at. UCLA hasn't been to a BCS bowl game in nine seasons and the rise of USC across town and the emergence of California and Arizona State as national players haven't helped the Bruins claw their way back either.

Things haven't been all the great for Tennessee as well. The Volunteers of the late 90's were a powerhouse program. They only lost five games from 1995 - 1998. Along the way they picked up some hardware including three bowl victories, two SEC championships, and that first ever BCS National Championship. It's been all downhill since then. They've won their division a few times, but no conference championship and not even a sniff at a national championship game. They even had a losing season in 2005.

The good news for both schools is that the future looks brighter than the past. The Bruins are on their second new coach since 1998, and Rick Neuhiesel has the charisma, passion, and coaching staff to return the Bruins to the top of the PAC-10. Tennessee, behind long time coach Phil Furmer, posted a 10-win mark last year and a return visit to the SEC championship game. Good things are expected in Knoxville this season and the Orange clad fans are eager to a return to their glory days as well.

Finally the Bruins and Volunteers will have their date with destiny. It comes ten years too late for the UCLA faithful, but maybe some football demons can be exorcised during this game. I think ten years in purgatory is payment enough for whatever offense we committed against the football gods so long ago. It may not be a victory for the Bruins, but it just might be the first step on the long road back up the mountain.

Other Fun Facts:
  • UCLA and Tennessee have played 13 times in their history. The Bruins are 4-7-2 against the Volunteers.
  • After San Diego State (21) and Pittsburgh (14,) UCLA has played Tennessee more times than any other active, non-conference foe.
  • The last time these two teams played, in 1997,Tennesse won. The Bruins then went on a 20 game winning streak.
  • The 11 year gap from the last time these two teams played is the longest break since the series began in 1965. Before then, the teams averaged a game every 3 years.
  • Tennessee has a lifetime 14-11-3 record against the PAC-10.
(photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Tennessee Depth Chart

All right. The first depth chart of the season. It is still early and I'm sure the offensive line will be jumbled and reassembled a half dozen times before kick off on Sept 1st, but there are still some interesting surprises on here.

First up is Taylor Embree being named co-first string at split end. Embree has been drawing rave reviews since the spring. His sure hands and ability to make circus catches must have impressed the coaches as well. We'll see how much time he gets with the bigger and more experienced Johnson and Everett ahead of him. I'm sure the other freshman like Moutra (who was a favorite target of the QBs during the practice I watched) and Rosario will get some minutes as well.

On defense it looks like John Hale has won the starting Sam linebacker spot. Not a huge surpirse there but there was some chatter that Ayers could pass him up. Same holds true for Norris and Hester for that open corner position. Good to know that our freshman LBs and DBs are pushing the older guys for playing time.

I was a bit surprised to see Ray Carter's name on KOR. I probably should not have been, as many coaches like to use the backup TB in that role. I'm really looking forward to watching Carter this year. I think he can be a really special guy. On that same note, I was a bit disappointed that Aundre Dean didn't make his way further up the depth chart. I'm guessing that Moline being ahead of him is simply because he'll be used on short yardage situations. I believe that Dean can really make an impact for this team.

Otherwise the chart is basically unchanged. The O-line is in such a state of flux, there is no point in even commenting on it. I'm sure that lineup will be different by the kick-off and will likely change by half-time anyways. I have a feeling that Savage will play a lot of minutes along with Reed and Kia. The other spots are a mystery to me.


SE 19 Dominique Johnson (6-3, 207, So.**) (3) or
82 Taylor Embree (6-3, 186, Fr.)
83 Nelson Rosario (6-5, 207, Fr.) or
2 Ryan Graves (6-1, 171, Sr.**)

LT 73 Micah Kia (6-5, 297, Jr.) (8)
69 Brandon Bennett (6-4, 317, So.**)
78 Brett Downey (6-7, 256, Fr.)^

LG 75 Nick Ekbatani (6-5, 294, Jr.**)
77 Darius Savage (6-4, 350, So.**)
52 Jess Ward (6-4, 277, Jr.**) (6)

C 58 Micah Reed (6-3, 314, Sr.**) (8 at OG)
57 Jake Dean (6-4, 294, So.**)

RG 55 Sonny Tevaga (6-5, 339, So.**)
66 Scott Glicksberg (6-4, 290, Sr.**) (1 at TE)
76 Austin Hill (6-3, 285, Fr.)^

RT 68 Nate Chandler (6-5, 271, Fr.**)
65 Mike Harris (6-5, 304, Fr.**)

TE 86 Logan Paulsen (6-6, 257, Sr.) (13)
15 Ryan Moya (6-3, 234, Jr.**)
87 Cory Harkey (6-5, 247, Fr.)
89 Adam Heater (6-5, 265, Jr.**)
98 Jeff Miller (6-5, 251, So.**)

QB 3 Kevin Craft (6-4, 195, Jr.**)
8 Chris Forcier (6-3, 189, Fr.**)
11 Osaar Rasshan (6-4, 220, Jr.**) (3)
14 Kevin Prince (6-2, 212, Fr.) or
18 Nick Crissman (6-3, 205, Fr.)

FB 31 Trevor Theriot (6-0, 239, Jr.**) (6)
45 Tobi Umodu (5-11, 230, So.**)
39 Tyler Tuiasosopo (5-11, 218, Fr.)

TB 36 Kahlil Bell (6-0, 219, Sr.) (5)
20 Raymond Carter (6-0, 202, Fr.**)
42 Chane Moline (6-1, 232, Jr.) (1)
30 Aundre Dean (6-0, 207, Fr.)

FL 9 Marcus Everett (6-1, 201, Sr.**) (1)
4 Terrence Austin (5-11, 161, Jr.)
88 Antwon Moutra (6-2, 183, Fr.) or
85 Jerry Johnson (6-4, 205, Fr.)


LE 56 Tom Blake (6-4, 255, Sr.**) (8)
91 Reginald Stokes (6-3, 243, So.**)
99 Justin Edison (6-4, 240, Fr.**)

DT 92 Brian Price (6-2, 300, So.) (5)
90 Jerzy Siewierski (6-2, 285, Jr.)
74 Nathaniel Skaggs (6-4, 294, Sr.**)

DT 93 Brigham Harwell (6-1, 280, Sr.**) (2)
50 Chase Moline (6-1, 241, Sr.)
61 Andy Keane (6-2, 276, So.**)

RE 55 Korey Bosworth (6-1, 244, Jr.**) (3)
85 David Carter (6-5, 261, So.**)
96 Datone Jones (6-4, 238, Fr.)

SLB 12 John Hale (6-4, 227, Sr.)
40 Akeem Ayers (6-4, 234, Fr.**)
17 Chinonso Anyanwu (6-4, 213, Jr.**)

MLB 51 Reggie Carter (6-1, 220, Jr.**) (8)
43 Steve Sloan (6-4, 232, Fr.**)

WLB 54 Kyle Bosworth (6-1, 233, Sr.) (7)
21 Sean Westgate (5-11, 202, Fr.)
53 Joshua Edwards (6-1, 229, Sr.**)
41 Mike Schmitt (6-1, 223, So.**)

LC 22 Michael Norris (5-10, 180, Sr.**) (1)
9 Aaron Hester (6-1, 189, Fr.)
26 Andrew Abbott (5-10, 170, Fr.)^

SS 3 Rahim Moore (6-1, 176, Fr.)
6 Tony Dye (5-11, 190, Fr.)
2 E.J. Woods (6-0, 199, Fr.)

FS 27 Aaron Ware (6-0, 196, Jr.**)
20 Glenn Love (6-4, 200, Fr.**)
31 Garrett Rubio (5-10, 190, So.**)^

RC 1 Alterraun Verner (5-11, 177, Jr.) (11)
7 Courtney Viney (5-8, 150, Fr.**)
26 Andrew Abbott (5-10, 170, Fr.)^


PK 25 Kai Forbath (6-0, 196, So.**) (13)
49 Jeff Locke (6-1, 198, Fr.))

KO 37 Jimmy Rotstein (5-11, 173, Jr.**)^ (13)

P 17 Aaron Perez (6-4, 225, Sr.**) (13)
39 Danny Reese (6-3, 180, So.**)^

LS 52 Christian Yount (6-1, 257, So.) (13)

H 17 Aaron Perez (6-4, 225, Sr.**)

PR 4 Terrence Austin (5-10, 165, Jr.)
2 Ryan Graves (6-1, 174, Sr.**)

KOR 4 Terrence Austin (5-10, 165, Jr.)
20 Raymond Carter (6-0, 202, Fr.**)

( ) indicates number of games started in 2007 season
**indicates utilized redshirt year
^ indicates non-scholarship player


QB 7 Ben Olson (6-5, 236, Sr.**) (5)
WR 10 Gavin Ketchum (6-5, 206, Jr.**) - illness
SS 25 Bret Lockett (6-1, 210, Sr.) (1) - suspension
OT 60 Jeff Baca (6-4, 289, Fr.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bears Going with Two Quarterbacks?

Interesting story on ESPN. Looks like Cal might be platooning their quarterbacks this season. But for the opener, Kevin Riley (last years' backup) is getting the starting nod over senior Nate Longshore.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My First and Last Practice

So, I've been away a lot lately. Good for me personally but bad for the blog. But today made a trip to Westwood to see my first practice of the season. It was the very last practice of the season and now the team heads into seclusion to prepare for the opener.

Nothing special happened. The team wasn't in full pads and there wasn't any major injuries. I'll have thoughts on it later, but my first impression is that this offense needs a lot of work. They have a very long way to go if they want to compete with Tennessee in a week and half. In the 7-on-7 and 11-0n-11 drills the QBs made a lot of bad throws. The running game wasn't good mainly because there were no holes made by the O-line. Nothing surprising if you've been following the team all camp but I confirmed it with my own eyes today.

Michael Norris had a really good day. Made some nice plays, downed a punt inside the ten, had a nifty interception in the end zone where he took the ball almost literally out of Marcus Everett's hands. That kid has a lot of heart and he plays really intense. I always think he looks good in practice. It is just too bad that he doesn't have the size or skill to match.

On a separate note, Frank Gantz Jr (the special teams coach) is a riot. He yells and gets in the face of his players. I could hear him all the way across the field. He was giving the kickers grief during the last set of drills and I couldn't help but chuckle.

I also noticed that this staff curses a lot more than the last one. They are much more vocal and don't tolerate mistakes. I like it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Is Bigger Better?

When it comes to offensive lineman, the fans love to see size. Bigger guys mean a better line, right? Well, not necessarily. The position known for big, ugly, bearded fat guys has been getting a makeover around the NCAA. With the advent of spread offenses and lighter, quicker defenses, the offensive line on many teams is morphing into a leaner, meaner, and more athletic group. That doesn't mean that everyone is going small. Some teams still like to load up their line with the biggest, baddest guys they can find. So which way will Bob Palcic go with this latest group of Bruins? Let's check out the options.

With less than three weeks before the start of the season, Palcic is still experimenting with his starting five lineman. Compared to last years team, this group is smaller and lacking a lot of experience. Here's a look at the weights of the major players in the 2007 line and those projected to play (or be backups) in the 2008 offensive line:

UCLA Bruins 2007 Roster.

Kia: 299
Lanis: 319
Reed: 310
Irvin: 308
Joseph: 289
Sutherland: 296
Abraham: 315
Average: 305

UCLA Bruins 2008 Roster.

Kia: 299
Reed: 310
Savage: 333
Ekbatani: 281
Glicksberg: 257
Harris: 305
Chandler: 252
Average: 291

Because of injuries and lack of depth, the Bruins are forced to play some smaller guys this season. The number drops mainly because of Glicksberg and Chandler, both former tight ends, joining the squad. While this unit is younger and less experienced than the 2007 group, it is also much more athletic. I could see Palcic drawing on some of these more athletic players to form a smaller, but quicker squad.

The Big Line

The advantages of a big line is that the guys can ware down the defense. The offensive lineman always has the advantage over his defensive counterpart because of two facts: 1) he knows which way the playing is going and 2) he can give up ground. This means that the offensive lineman can force the defender to expend energy trying to move him, all the while directing him away from the ball carrier. The bigger the body, the more energy the defender has to exert. Over the course of four quarters, the defender tiers out and the offensive lineman can push him around easier.

If Palcic wants to go with the big bodies, he has a pretty sizable group. Reed (310), Kia (299) and Savage (333) are already pretty big. Especially Savage, who has a big frame and a powerful upper body. If he switches out Glicksberg (257) for backup Sonny Tevaga (338) and replaces Ekbatani (281) with Harris (305) then the average weight hits an impressive 315. Harris injured his ankle on Sunday but he could be back if the sprain heals well. Tevaga has been overweight and out of shape since he came to Westwood, but he has worked hard to improve in those areas and he should be close to being ready to play. These big boys don't have the most experience or athleticism, but they'll wear down an opposing defense with their sheer bulk.

The Athletic Line

The flip side of that massive group is a leaner, more nimble and athletic squad. This is especially true for tackles. Bruce Davis showed that a smaller defensive end, with more of a linebacker-like body, can wreck havoc in the backfield. A big slow tackle is an offensive line coach's nightmare mismatch against a quick defense. A smaller, quicker tackle actually matches up better and he can provide a better pass defense. That's especially true when the quarterback is a dual-threat athlete who can take off running up the middle.

Nate Chandler is still undersized this year, but nobody else on this line has more athleticism. If he can put on some more weight and a bit more and strength (to get closer to 280) then he might be just the right guy for the job. Glicksberg is also a leaner and quicker lineman, who could be a solid pulling guard. Put Lanis (299), Reed (310), Glicksberg (257), Ekbatani (280), and Chandler (252) in there and you have a very fast and agile squad barely tipping the scale at 280.

Is Bigger Better?

The right mix of guys depends on a lot of factors and we could see this unit rotating in different players if the starters don't produce. As a whole, this group does lack size and even if we go with the more athletic lineman, you would like to see them add more weight and strength. Chandler will be very good in a year or two and next season the Bruins get Kai Maiva (the Colorado transfer) who already weights around 300 lbs.

Palcic will likely have to work miracles to make the line productive this season and its scary how little depth there is in this squad. But the good news is that they are very young with Reed being the only senior. Bigger might not always be better, but experience is always better. After a year in Bob's hands, you know this line will be much, much better.

Monday, August 11, 2008


This strikes fear into my heart. Yikes!

Olson's Career is Over

So, the reports are that Ben Olson is out for 8 weeks with a re-broken right foot. But believe me... that's it for Ben. He won't return. It's been a tumultuous career for the big southpaw but injuries and inconsistency were the major themes of his college days. Ultimately, this is the final punctuation mark for the Dorrell era as Karl's biggest recruit ended up making virtually no impact for the Bruins.

This is the exact same injury that put Ben in crutches back in April. He rested for almost 3 months before getting back out to practice. You have to figure it will take him at least that long this time around. That puts him back in practice in November, and with the broken foot he won't be able to stay in shape and it will take him a while to get back into playing form. That leaves him with almost no games left. If Craft or Forcier (or anyone for that matter) is even remotely productive while Olson is gone, the coaching staff won't put Ben back in there. So believe me, this is it for Ben.

If you count up all the games where Ben Olson hasn't played since high school, the number is shocking. Olson graduated from Thousand Oaks high school in 2002. He red shirted his first season at BYU, so that's 12 games there. His two year Mormon mission adds in another 24 games. In his first season at UCLA, he fractured a thumb and was sidelined early. Drew Olson took over and had a fantastic season with Ben only played in garbage time for two games, so he sat out 10. In 2006, he started the first five games but suffered a knee injury against Arizona that cost him the remaining 7 games. Last year, Olson was only available to play in 6 games. That's a total of 59 games since 2002 where Ben hasn't played. That doesn't even count the games he'll miss this year, which will likely be all of them.

You got to feel bad for Ben, but it's almost better that it happened this way. UCLA needs to move on and the last vestiges of the old regime are now finally gone. This will be a building year for the future of Bruin football and the sooner the next quarterback can get some snaps and experience the better.

2008 Preview: Tennessee

With the return of Rick Neuheisel to Westwood, all eyes will be on the Bruins this September as they take the field for the first time under his leadership. It's fitting then that the inaugural game will be broadcast on Monday Night Football, at the greatest football stadium in the country, against one of the nation's best teams. The Tennessee Volunteers enter the 2008 campaign ranked in the top-20 and they'll be a gigantic test for UCLA.

The Volunteers have been known for their strong running attack in years past and this year should see a return to that tradition. Arian Foster put together a 1,200 yard season last year and the Volunteers have another pair of talented backs behind him. Foster also has five returning starting lineman to run behind. The good news for the Bruins is that our run defense will be a real strength. The defensive line is solid and Price and Harwell will be a dangerous duo in the middle. It will likely be a grind it out battle in the trenches and the Bruin's depth will be sorely tested.

The rest of the Tennessee offense is a bit of a question mark. With a new offensive coordinator, a new quarterback, and a whole new offensive philosophy, it is hard to know what this team will look like in the fall. If the Bruins can put up a sturdy defense against the run then they might find some success by forcing Jonathan Crompton to throw. The Junior is coming back from off-season surgery and he has only played limited minutes in his career. He does have a very talented receiving corp at his disposal and our young secondary will have a baptism by fire on Labor Day.

Last season the Volunteers were average as a team defense but they have some talented players including one of the best safety tandems in the country in Eric Berry and Demetrice Morely. Without an establish offensive line, it's hard to see the Bruins putting up a strong passing attack against this team. It is likely that Chow will put the ball in the hands of his running backs to carry the day. Linebacker Rico McCoy will be one to watch as he is the top returning tackler on the team and a likely all SEC player. Also, defensive end Robert Ayers will challenge the young offensive line and look for the Volunteers to send a lot of blitzes against Craft to rattle him. I think UCLA can exploit some seems in the Volunteer defense with Moya and Paulsen getting involved in Chow's scheme.

I think this game will be closer than it might appear on paper. UCLA has always played well at home and you know the players and fans will be pumped for the start of the Neuhiesel era. At the end of the day, I think Tennessee's experience and depth will be a bit too much for the Bruins. I can see our offense struggling at times and Craft and the offensive line probably won't be able to put up many points. That means the game will hinge on how well the Bruin defense can stop the Volunteer offense. The X-factor in all of this is turnovers and the play of the two new quarterbacks. A big fumble or a timely interception could spell victory for one of these teams.

I'm calling this one for Tennessee. CP's prediction: UCLA defeat: 17 - 10.

(Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fire the Lawnmower Man

Ben Olson re-injured his foot on Saturday. USC's starting quarterback Mark Sanchez dislocated his knee cap last week. Pat Cowan tore his ACL back in April. That's four QB injuries to three different players in three months... all with zero contact. I say fire the lawnmower man.

It should come as no surprise that Ben Olson is hurt. The big southpaw has missed more games thans he's made during his time at UCLA. Apparently he hurt his foot on an almost identical play to what put him in crutches back during the spring. They'll find out this week if the injury will sideline him for his senior season or if there is any chance he can put on pads again this season.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Year of the Freshman

There was a lot of hype around UCLA's last two recruiting classes. Both the '07 and '08 classes were chalked full of four and sometimes five star talent. This season, we should see many of those players, both red-shirt freshman and true freshman, taking the field. The early reports out of the fall camp point to this being the year of the freshman.

When Aundre Dean and Rahim Moore committed to UCLA, they were considered the crown jewels in an already rich recruiting class. Coach Neuheisel obviously saw their talent early on and he has both players taking lots of reps in practice. In particular, Moore looks like he could have the inside track on the strong safety position. According to Brian Dohn:
Moore said he was not having trouble picking up the basic defenses UCLA is running. "I'm not lost,'' Moore said. "I'm actually coming along pretty good. I'm in my learning process right now where every day I'm still learning. I've been running with the 1s, and the pace has been fast, but I'm used to it since the summer.''
Dean likely won't unseat Kalil Bell as the starting tail back, but he'll probably see a lot of playing time anyways. Dean has the physical stature well beyond his years and he doesn't look like a true freshman. The guy is big and strong and he'll be a powerful running back. The sooner Dean learns the offense, the better, and I can see him developing into a significant contributer for the Bruins this year.

Behind Dean is a whole host of other new backs. Raymond Carter, Derrick Coleman, Johnathan Franklin, and Milton Knox will also put on pads for the first time and fight for minutes as well. I don't see Franklin or Knox playing a whole lot this year, barring injuries ahead of them in the depth chart, but having them red shirt will be good for the program in the long run.

The other new recruits are showing some sparks on offense as well. Receiver Nelson Rosario made a spectacular finger tip catch at the end of Thursday's practice. He beat out fellow freshman Anthony Dye who has been working a lot with the two sets of practices coach Neuheisel was running the first few days of camp.

On the defensive line, Dantone Jones impressed PE beat writer Kevin Pearson with his size and strength:

Among the more physically impressive freshmen is defensive end Datone Jones, who checks in at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds. Jones, a Compton High grad, looks like he has tree trunks for legs and just looks different than most freshmen tend to look.

"He has an NFL body," defensive tackle Brigham Harwell said. "He'll be a great Bruin here. I look forward to watching him and seeing what he can do."

Jones is currently listed as a defensive end, but he could morph into a tackle as he continues to grow and develop. I can easily see him getting into the two deep at end this season and pushing Bosworth. Senior corner back Michael Norris is also going to get a lot of pressure from red-shirt freshman Courtney Viney, who was impressive in the spring game, and true freshman Aaron Hester. The secondary is pretty thin to begin with so the more guys we can get into the mix the better.

It's easy to get excited about the new faces, but we also have to take some of these reports with a grain of salt. With the lack of success over the last few seasons, it is natural for us fans to latch onto any new player who is full of talent and promise. All of these kids could turn out to be outstanding players for UCLA, but each one has a long way to go in their careers. They'll make mistakes, drop balls, get burned in coverage, and miss a tackle or two, or ten. They are still young and they still need to develop both physically and mentally. The college game is much faster paced than in high school and the PAC-10 if chocked full of future NFL talent. It won't be an easy season for them, but it does give you a warm fuzzy feeling that the future of UCLA football looks bright.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Comment Moderation

Sorry, but I've been getting comment "spam" from those damn bots out there. I'm going to try a few things to eliminate that. Sorry for the inconvenience.

2008 Preview: UCLA Bruins

Rebuilding... It's a term you'll hear a lot this season. After losing a bevy of seniors and most of the starters from last season, UCLA will be forced to play a lot of new faces this fall. Considering how average this team has been recently, that might not be a bad thing. With a new coaching staff, a new offensive scheme, and a new attitude, the 2008 season should be considered an opportunity to gain some experience for the future.


The Bruin offense has had its share of struggles the last few seasons. This year should be no different, with one big exception... the man calling the plays from the press box. Norm Chow takes over the reigns as offensive coordinator and a simpler, leaner, and more effective playbook is now in the hands of the players. We can't expect Chow to work miracles in his first season, but the play calling on game day should be markedly better.

Let's start with the bad news first. The offensive line is a patch work group with very little experience. Micah Kia and Micah Reed are the only returning starters from last season and Reed is a former walk-on moving from guard to center. With the loss of Sean Sheller during the off season to an ATV accident, this unit went from dangerously thin to running on rails. Mike Harris, Nate Chandler, and Nick Ekbatani will battle to replace Sheller wiht Ekbatani likely backing up a number of spots along the line. New coach Bob Palcic will also rely on defensive line convert Darius Savage and former tight end Scott Glicksberg to round out this unit.

It's not that the offensive line is without talent. Savage and Kia both have the potential to be NFL caliber lineman. Nate Chandler will be intriguing as a converted tight-end who has great athleticism. They just lack experience, in some situations size, and there is very, very little depth here. The Bruins absolutely can't afford any injuries during the season. If this squad can improve and gel as the year progresses, then they Bruins stand a chance of winning some games.

The QB situation went from bad to worse when Pat Cowan and Ben Olson suffered injuries during the spring. Pat is done for the year and Ben is slowly coming back from surgery on his right foot. Olson wasn't exactly known for his mobility before his injury and he could be in trouble this year with an offensive line that will likely force him to run often to avoid the pass rush. I've basically given up on Olson ever becoming a productive quarterback for the blue and gold. Too many injuries and too much time has passed since his stellar high school days.

Olson is tagged as the starter, for now, but how many of us think he'll make it through the whole season? That is why all eyes are on junior college transfer Kevin Craft. I don't think Craft will be the savior signal caller this team needs. Most reports are that his arm strength isn't that good. He had a so-so spring game. I don't think the Bruins are going to win a lot of games with Kevin at the helm, especially with a suspect offensive line. But given the alternatives, he might be our best bet. Forcier is way too raw. The incoming freshman are complete unknowns. Unless Olson does a complete 180 from his prior stints behind center, then the quarterback spot looks to be a liability again this season.

The running back position, on the other hand, looks intriguing. Some reports coming out of the summer 7-on-7 drills, state that Kalil Bell might be back with a vengeance this fall. I'm sure the status of his torn ACL will be a popular topic in the weeks leading up to the season, but if he is anywhere near 100% then the Bruins should have their starting tailback. Bell was poised to have a 1000 yard season in 2007 before going down with a knee injury. I think this could be his time to shine.

The full back spot should morph this season into a more versatile role. With Pitre not getting a 6th year of eligibility, the Bruins will turn to smaller, but more athletic, replacement. Chane Moline is being targeted as a hybrid back who can switch between full back and a short-yardage tailback specialist. Trevor Theriot is also back in the mix and he has good hands.

The other running backs are all fresh faces, but that's a good thing for the future of this team. With Christian Ramierez academically ineligible this season, that pretty much guarantees that Raymond Carter and Aundre Dean will be seeing some significant playing time. It's going to be hard for this group to gain many yards behind an inexperienced line, but the experience they gain will pay dividends down the road.

The Bruin receiving corp has been a much maligned group the last few seasons. It doesn't help that the quarterbacks have been terribly inconsistent, but this squad hasn't produced a real super star either. This year looks to be a good mix of experience and freshman talent. Dominique Johnson emerged as a reliable receiver at the end of the last campaign and he could become a go-to target in the red zone. Marcus Everett is back and he'll also be a constant, if not particularly flashy, contributer. Terrance Austin and Gaving Ketchum will add depth.

Some of the true freshman could jump right into the rotation as well. Antwon Moutra has already started generating a buzz during the summer. He has break away speed and at 6'3", he could be another J.J. Stokes. Nelson Rosario also draws favorable comparisons to Stokes and his massive wing span will scoop up any passes sent his way. It looks like this group has some big upside over the next few seasons.

The Tight End position was one of the few offensive units that had depth coming into the season. It's ranks were raided by the coaching staff when Chandler and Glicksberg were both moved to fill in gaps along the offensive line. However, he remaining players still form a very talented group. Ryan Moya is back in the lineup after missing last season due to injury and personal issues. Logan Paulsen will be the other big target and he's been named to the Makey award watch list. Freshman Corey Harkey will also see minutes this season. Expect Norm Chow to work the ends into the game plan more this season.


The Bruins have been a defensive team the last few seasons and that should continue under 3rd year coordinator Dewayne Walker. He'll have a lot of open positions to fill this season and expect coach Walker to utilize many of the incoming freshman, especially in the secondary. UCLA may not have the dominant defense it had the last two season, but they have the potential to be a very good squad.

The deepest and most talented unit on the team is the defensive tackle position. Brigham Harwell and Brian Price could be one of the best duos in the conference and possibly the country. Some of that depends on how well Harwell comes back from a season ending injury last year. When Harwell was healthy, he was considered one of UCLA's best tackles, at least until Brian price put on the blue and gold. Price was a freshman all American last season and he's NFL bound for sure. Jeff Ward, Jerzy Sierwierski, and Chase Moline add some quality depth and both have played some significant minutes over the last few years.

It will be hard for the Bruins to replace departed senior Bruce Davis. Tom Blake and Korey Bosworth both played opposite from Davis and they were reasonably productive. However, without Bruce receiving double teams, these two will have to prove that they can hold their own out on the field. There is not much depth here and the two incoming freshman, Dantone Jones and Damien Holmes, could make their way into the rotation this fall. UCLA will need an effective pass rush from the ends to help take the pressure off of a very young secondary.

With the departure of the senior backfield, the Bruins will see a lot of new faces taking up corner and safety positions this fall. Only Alteraun Verner returns with any significant experience. Michael Norris is taking up the other spot across from Verner but the perenial backup may not stay in the starting lineup long if he doesn't prove he can handle the pressure. Brett Lockett has been suspended for the season opener, so the strong safety spot could be up for grabs as well. Looking to take over some minutes is a host of young freshman. Red shirt freshman, Cortney Viney and Glen Love had strong springs. In coming freshman Rahim Moore will challenge for playing time as well. This group has big play potential but will likely get burned a few times as they cut their teeth adapting to the college game.

The final squad on defense is the linebackers, and this team will miss the steady pressence of senior capitan Christian Taylor. Reggie Carter takes over the reigns in the middle and he'll be asked to lead this team. Carter has shown great talent and athleticism, but it remains to be seen if he can handle the added responsibilities of a team leader. John Hale and Kyle Bosworth will man the outside and Josh Edwards will challenge for playing time after missing most of the spring and summer due to injury. This squad isn't very experienced but they have some talented depth with red shirt freshman Steve Sloan and Akeem Ayers.

Special Teams

The Bruins have excelled in recent years on special teams and this season should continue that tradition. Kai Forbath has a booming leg. As his accuracy and consistancy continue to improve he should become an All American before his days in Westwood are over. Aaron Perez is in his final season and he has seen a steady improvement in his punting each season. This duo should give UCLA a fighting chance in close games.

The kick-off and punt return units continue to be in flux every other year. In 2005 the Bruins relied on the amazing skills of Maurice Drew to bedazzle fans. In 2007, Matt Slater salvaged an otherwise disapointing season with his heroics. It doesn't look like anyone will be able to fill those shoes this season but Terrance Austin should continue as an inconsitant if not sometimes brilliant punt returner. The kick return role is completley up for grabs.

The Outlook

Overall the Bruins have an uphill battle going for them this season. Without a solid and reliable line, the offense will likely stall and sputter. You can count on Chow to use bootlegs, quick passes, and misdirection to try and minimize that weakness. If anyone can make this team look good, you know Chow and Neuheisel can.

Even with a suspect line, the Bruins can still excell. Last year, Arizona State had statistically one of the worst lines in the conference yet they captured a PAC-10 co-championship. Of course, the Sun Devils had Rudy Carpenter and UCLA... well UCLA doesn't. If the skill positions can make some progress, especially at quarterback, then the Bruins have a fighting chance in many of their games.

The defense should be good, but likely not great. The run defense in particular should be very strong with the trinity of Price, Harwell, and Carter in the middle. Inexperience on the sides and secondary will probably cost UCLA some points against the better passing teams on the schedule. But if the offense can take a few steps forward this season then the defense can likely steal a game or two away.

It won't be a hallmark season and the Bruins will be lucky to make it back to a bowl game this season. But progress isn't always measured in wins and loses. If this team can improve each week and add some much needed experience to it's young and talented roster then this season can be viewed as a step in the right direction.

In my next post, I'll break down the schedule and make my predictions for the 2008 season.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Reports of my Death are Greatly Exaggerated

Wow, been a busy few months. But I'm back and I have a few posts lined up about the up coming season. Thanks for reading this site and visiting.