UCLA is hoping for a rebound from last years 4-8 debacle under new coach Rick Neuheisel who infamously put out an ad in The LA Times proclaiming that the college football monopoly in Los Angeles is over. Well... Not really yet Slick Rick, because last year was a mess with Kevin Craft a former San Diego State player who transferred ended up being their starter last year, and this year Craft is third on the depth chart heading into fall camp. Also, remember that the Bruins lost their defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker who took over the head job at New Mexico State and was replaced by Chuck Bullough.
The Bruins get to start over at quarterback and the current front runner is redshirt freshman Kevin Prince is a former three star recruit and was ranked as the 25 quarterback. To surpass what Craft did last year should not be all that hard. 2008 Kevin Craft somehow managed to throw twenty picks to only seven touchdowns receptions. Prince will not have to try that hard to improve off those numbers. The rest of Kraft's stats are listed below along with the rest of the returning stat leaders.
Those stats are after the jump
|Yards Per Carry
|Yards Per Catch
UCLA in 2009 is hoping to be better, because the quarterback play should be much improved plus the fact that offensive coordinator Norm Chow is a great offensive mind and has had success at all of his locations. Chow has a lot of catching up to do to make the Bruins decent on offense, last year UCLA only averaged 17.7 points per game which was eighth in the Pac-10. Not only were they averaging only 17 per game but they were 109th in the nation. It also helps to have a new quarterback who most likely will not throw 20 picks, and the Bruins return their top three receivers from 2008.
There is hope for the Bruins because the offensive looks to be significantly improved because tackle Sean Sheller has recovered from a knee injury that sidelined him for all of the 2008 season. Sophomore Kai Maiava, who started at Colorado as a freshman before transferring and sitting out the required year, is ready to take over at center.
The line should finally be coming together because there are the three returning starters and then toss in transfer Kai Maiava and Sean Sheller returning from injury. Those are some ifs, and it is hard to see the offensive line being worst then last year.
The running game was very, very poor and this year does not look to be too much better. The projected starter is Christian Ramirez who converted from safety to running back in the 2007 and played sparingly, and did not play at all in 2008. Somehow this spring Ramirez claimed the starting job.
The backup is Derrick Coleman who was second in the team in rushing last year with 285 yards, and he will see some time with Ramirez. Neither back is considered anything special, so it could be up to the offensive line is improved to create some holes for these to backs to make some noise.
Any good news for the Bruins?
Yes, the defense has playmakers, so there is hope for UCLA to be competitive. The numbers from last year may not provide hope since UCLA was 89th in scoring defense by giving up 29 per game. The bright spot comes from the three different areas in their defense.
The Bruins do return six players who started last year, but with a new defenisive coordinator there is a chance for them to struggle early on. It will be hard to be worst then last year mainly because of the returning talent and the fact that the Bruins have three of the best defensive players in the league.
The first of those stars are tackle Brian Price has received all-conference acclaim for 2009 and could land even grander honors with his ability to quickly get into the offensive backfield and has recorded nearly one tackle per loss per game.
Then there is Senior linebacker Reggie Carter who is one of the best in the Pac-10 and moves back to the inside linebacker spot after spending a season as an outside linebacker where he recorded 83 tackles, and was a force in the running game. The third stud for UCLA is senior corner back Alterraun Verner who has eight career interceptions with three which he has returned for touchdowns, and by the way Verner is a potential All-American candidate.
The Bruins do have a wild card in the special teams with Terrence Austin who set a school record for kick-return yardage last year and was an exceptional punt returner as well. They were 16th in kickoff returns and Austin averaged 24 yards per attempt, so if that production is repeated or improved off of then the Bruin offense could have an advantage with good field position.
Overall the Bruins will still struggle to score points, but if the offensive line, quarterback, and running back play gets better UCLA then might have a chance for a bowl appearance. Well unless you are one of the coaches who