Week 1 Breakdown - UCLA at Houston
Houston QB Case Keenum & UCLA WR Nelson Rosario
Houston QB Case Keenum & UCLA WR Nelson Rosario
Posted Jun 3, 2011

Looking ahead at the Early Matchups - Week 1: UCLA at Houston

Preview 2011

Week 1 Matchup: UCLA at Houston

- 2011 UCLA Preview | 2011 UCLA Offense
- 2011 UCLA Defense | 2011 UCLA Depth Chart
- UCLA Previews 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

- 2011 Houston Preview | 2011 Houston Offense
- 2011 Houston Defense | 2011 Houston Depth Chart
- Houston Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006


Offense: If Norm Chow couldn't move the needle with this group, it doesn't bode well for his successor, Mike Johnson. Now, Johnson has a distinguished coaching career, but most of it was spent with the NFL, and he's inheriting an offense that's been huffing and puffing for years. While UCLA has recruited well, all of the shiny parts have rarely resulted in a well-oiled finished product. Particularly feeble, the passing game will be hosting a quarterback race between juniors Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut, and possibly rookie Brett Hundley. The Bruins are likely to leverage their talent in the backfield, a deep group led by all-star Johnathan Franklin that ranked a respectable 32nd nationally a year ago. As is often the case in Westwood, the attack will only go as far as the line permits it. Long an issue in these parts, UCLA is trying to piece together a combination of returning starters with linemen who missed all of 2010 due to injuries or academics.

Defense: It was supposed to be a down year for the Bruin D, and boy did it fulfill expectations. After losing four all-stars to the NFL, UCLA plummeted to the bottom of the Pac-10 in just about every major statistical category. Enter Joe Tresey, who takes over as the new coordinator. A veteran, who's held the same position at South Florida and Cincinnati, he arrived with a reputation as a developer of young talent and a purveyor of attacking defenses. In Los Angeles, he'll have plenty of talented kids to coach. Yeah, there's a contingency of quality vets, like S Tony Dye and LB Sean Westgate, but the Bruins' future rests with a slew of gifted up-and-comers, with at least two years of eligibility remaining. The program is loaded with future stars, like DT Cassius Marsh, DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, LB Patrick Larimore, and S Dietrich Riley, who'll be All-Pac-12 before their through in Westwood. Tresey needs them to approach that level of play as quickly as possible.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Johnathan Franklin. The catalyst of a revived Bruin ground game, Franklin ran for 1,127 yards and eight touchdowns on 214 carries in 2010. Quick to the hole and even quicker out of it, he's a determined runner, who rarely gets taken down behind the line or by a single tackler. After earning a spot on the All-Pac-10 second team, he has his sights set on adding some All-Pac-12 hardware to his trophy case this fall.

Best defensive player: Senior FS Tony Dye. After bouncing around in the secondary, Dye appears to have found a home at safety. Actually, he's still on the move, going from strong safety a year ago to free safety this season. A playmaking 5-11, 205-pounder, he's outstanding against the run and above average when the ball is in the air. Coming off his best season, which included a team-high 96 tackles and nine pass breakups, he'll be looking to impress NFL scouts this fall.


Offense: Record-setting QB Case Keenum is back, and so is Houston's swagger. The Cougars weren't the same without their Heisman-contending passer after he was injured in September, lacking their customary potency and efficiency. The sixth-year senior will reunite with a number of familiar weapons, like RB Bryce Beall and electrifying receivers Patrick Edwards and Tyron Carrier. Throw in multi-dimensional backs Michael Hayes and Charles Sims, who's expected back from academic suspension, and the attack will be flush with its usual artillery. The biggest roadblock to another season of fireworks will be an offensive line in transition. Three starters have exhausted their eligibility, leaving behind a collection of underclassmen hoping to take their place. If C Chris Thompson and LT Jacolby Ashworth are left to fend for themselves, Houston's rocket-boosted attack could fizzle versus attacking defenses.

Defense: Attack. That's the mantra of the Houston defense, which lives by it, yet also dies by it more than the coaching staff can tolerate. The Cougars made a successful switch to the 3-4 last year, employing more of their athletic linebackers. While the move worked on some levels, as the team racked up plays for minus yards, it remained vulnerable to both the pass and the run. Houston got plowed for more than 200 yards a game on the ground and was spotty when the ball was in the air. Now, it must attempt to rebuild with a defensive backfield that could have four new starters and three players with no reps at this level. The foundation will be erected on a corps of underrated linebackers that could produce three all-stars, Marcus McGraw, Sammy Brown, and Phillip Steward.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Case Keenum. The latest in a long line of prolific Cougar passers that's included Kevin Kolb, Andre Ware, and David Klingler, Keenum is back for a sixth year. Beyond just his staggering passing numbers, he has good mobility outside the pocket, and is a calm leader of the program. With a firm grasp on this unique system and the playmakers comprising it, he'll again pile up numbers while keeping all of his backs and receivers sated in the process.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Marcus McGraw. Because of his size and surroundings, he tends to get a little lost in the shuffle, but he sure has a knack for being around the football. An instinctive 6-0, 225-pounder, he perennially piles up more than 100 tackles and will lower the boom on his target. Playing much bigger than his size and rarely missing tackle, he's the cover boy of a corps of linebackers that'll be among the most disruptive in Conference USA.