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UCLA Preview 2006 - Offense
UCLA Bruins
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 8, 2006


UCLA Bruins Preview 2006 - UCLA Bruin Offense

What you need to know ... Few teams have to replace more important producers than UCLA losing ultra-accurate QB Drew Olson, mighty-mite RB Maurice Drew, and top receiving tight end Marcedes Lewis. New QB Ben Olson is mature, big, and talented, but he needs his wide receivers to be more productive and could use a deep but still developing offensive line to jell right away. The running game will be better with Chris Markey, Kahlil Bell and Derrick Williams hammering out yards behind Michael Pitre, one of the Pac 10's best fullbacks. While the potential is there for this to be a very good, very productive offense, there aren't any sure-thing home run hitters. At least not yet.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Ben Olson
2-4, 11 yds
Rushing: Chris Markey
110 carries, 561 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Joe Cowan
35 catches, 469 yds, 3 TD

Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Ben Olson
Player that has to step up and become a star: Olson
Unsung star on the rise: Junior RB Chris Markey
Best pro prospect:
Junior G Shannon Tevega
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Tevega, 2) Olson, 3) FB Michael Pitre
Strength of the offense: Overall depth
Weakness of the offense: Proven wide receiver production

Quarterbacks
If ever a player was prepped to step in and take over a high-profile offense, it's Ben Olson. Turning 23 years old by the start of the season, Olson is mature and more than ready to handle the pressure of running the UCLA attack which finished 23rd in the nation in passing last year. If you're thinking Chris Weinke, you're wrong. Olson is bigger, stronger and far more athletic. As great a prospect as he is, UCLA would be happy if he was able to duplicate Drew Olson's performance last year when the former star threw for 34 touchdowns and six interceptions as one of the nation's most accurate passers. Can Olson be as clutch in crunch time as the other Olson? That remains to be seen. Pat Cowan and Osaar Rasshan are big passers with live arms and great running skills. If one of them ends up playing, that means there was a major problem since Olson is being banked on to star even though the number one job is technically still open.
The key to the unit: Olson's ability to shine right away and ability to keep mistakes to a minimum.
Quarterback Rating: 7.5

Projected Starter
- Ben Olson, Soph. - 2-4, 11 yds
The star of the 2002 BYU recruiting class will finally, finally be the main man. After serving a church mission and transferring to UCLA, Olson spent last spring battling Drew Olson for the starting job before getting the backup job after struggling with his accuracy. He's big, strong, can move, and now he's firmly entrenched in the starting role. He missed the first three games last year with a broken hand and saw limited action, so consider him a bit rusty going into the year since he hasn't seen any meaningful work since 2001. 

Top Backups
- Pat Cowan, Soph. - The emergency man last year behind the Olsons, Cowan got a year to learn and get some good practice work in. At 6-4 and 215 pounds, he still has a little room to get bigger, but he has a strong arm and even more mobility than Olson. His speed could make him a dangerous option if he's pressed into duty. He's the brother of top Bruin receiver, Joe.
- Osaar Rasshan, Soph. - A bit of a departure from the normal pro-style UCLA quarterbacks, the 6-4 Rasshan is an even better runner than the speedy Cowan and the mobile Olson. He was a scout teamer last year and is the clear number three going into this year still needing work to become a polished passer.

Running Backs
Maurice Drew might not have been that big, but he was tough and had a nose for the end zone finding ways to sneak and slither his way in. Chris Markey, Kahlil Bell and Derrick Williams should form a dangerous rotation that will more than make up for Drew's lost yardage production, but they have to prove they can be reliable around the goal line. That shouldn't be a problem since all three are powerful runners. The real issue could be the home run; does UCLA have anyone who can be considered a threat to go long like Drew was able to? You could've torn off a 50-yard run against the Northwestern defense in the Sun Bowl. Markey is a good back who should shine with more work. He'll have a great player to work behind in FB Michael Pitre, who's due for more All-Pac 10 honors.
The key to the unit: Getting more production early and averaging around five yards per carry after averaging 4.4 last year.
Running Back Rating: 7.5

Projected Starters
- Chris Markey, Jr. - 110 carries, 561 yards, 5.1 avg. 3 TDs, 17 catches, 231 yards, 2 TDs
The team's second leading rusher last year behind Maurice Drew had a nice year as a kickoff returner and blew past Northwestern in the Sun Bowl for 161 yards. He's a talented all-around back with soft hands as a receiver and good speed through the hole. He won't have to carry the offense, but he has to prove he can be a durable, 20-carry back game in and game out with only two games so far in his career with more than 15 carries. He also has to show he can hang on to the ball.

- Fullback Michael Pitre, Jr. - 15 carries, 69 yards, 1 TD, 10 catches, 67 yards, 2 TDs
The 230-pound junior has been primarily used as a receiver and a blocking back with a few short-yardage carries to add more power. While he gets no glory in the glitzy Bruin offense and isn't going to add much offensively, he's a dependable all-around blocking back.

Top Backups
- Kahlil Bell, Soph. - 52 carries, 310 yds, 3 TD
Bell had a nice year as a true freshman finishing third on the team in rushing with most of his work coming in the Sun Bowl rushing for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. He runs bigger than his 206 pounds and has another gear once he gets in the clear. While not a speed back, he's not slow. He wasn't used at all last year as a receiver, but that's going to change.
- Derrick Williams, Jr. - 5 carries, 32 yards
While the 208-pound junior is quick, he'll be used to add even more power than Markey and Bell. He has the ability to carry the load for a game or two if needed, and he should be a reliable third back getting more work in the rotation.
- Fullback Jimmy Stephens, Jr. - 1 carry, eight yards, 1 catch, three yards
At 6-2 and 244 pounds, he's a bit bigger than starter Michael Pitre and will see more time this year as a blocker. He's not the all-around player Pitre is and isn't going to take over the starting role, but he should grow into a sledgehammer of a blocker.

Receivers
The wide receivers have to be more dangerous. Tight end Marcedes Lewis led the team with 58 catches for 741 yards and ten touchdowns last year, and now he's gone leaving a gaping hole to be filled by three good prospects. J.J. Hair is the blocker, while Logan Paulsen and Ryan Moya are the receivers. Unfortunately, it'll take all three to do what Lewis was able to, and there's still going to be a need to find a go-to wide receiver. Joe Cowan always seemed to make plays and will be a reliable target, but the success of the passing game depends on the development of Marcus Everett and Brandon Breazell along with the return of Junior Taylor from a torn ACL.
The key to the unit: Getting more big plays out of the wide receivers and finding a reliable clutch receiver to replace TE Marcedes Lewis.
Receiver Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- Marcus Everett, Jr. - 32 catches, 390 yds, 12.2 ypc, 2 TD
A starter for half of last year after missing the first few games with a shoulder problem, Everett cooled down over the final four games after being a key target in the middle of the year. He's a big 6-1, 200-pound receiver who isn't afraid to be physical. Now he has to show he can be a reliable go-to receiver and a field stretcher on a consistent basis.

- Joe Cowan, Sr. - 35 catches, 469 yds, 13.4 ypc, 3 TD
The team's leading returning receiver, Cowan is a huge target at 6-4 and 220 pounds. He has good hands and excellent deep speed, but he needs to make more big plays after coming up with only one long touchdown last year scoring on a 91-yard pass play against Arizona State. He'll get the starting nod at flanker and where he should be a force around the goal line as well as a field-stretcher.

- Tight end J.J. Hair, Sr. - 1 catch for five yards
Hair has the unenviable task of trying to replace leading receiver Marcedes Lewis. Hair isn't a receiver, but he's a punishing run blocker at 6-5 and 248 pounds. Mostly used in two tight end situations last year, expect him to be much more involved in the passing game.

Top Backups
- Junior Taylor, Sr. - 6 catches, 109 yds, 2 TD
Taylor missed most of last year after tearing up his knee against Oklahoma, but he's expected to be back by the start of the season. He has 76 career catches for 1,041 yards and six touchdowns and should provide a big boost to the passing game once he returns battling Marcus Everett for starting time at split end. He has a bit more speed than Everett.
- Gavin Ketchum, Soph. - 11 catches, 153 yds, 1 TD
The 6-4 sophomore played in every game as true freshman highlighted by a three catch, 80-yard day in the win over USC. He's considered the receiver with the most potential with his size, toughness in traffic, and athletic ability at split end.
- Brandon Breazell, Jr. - 24 catches, 297 yds, 4 TD
Breazell has bulked up to 165 pounds and showed improved hands last year. He wasn't a major factor, but he was a steady producer catching at least two passes in eight games highlighted by a 23-yard grab against Stanford to send the game into overtime. He's not nearly big enough to be as physical as the other Bruin receivers and he could have a hard time finding consistent playing time at flanker once Junior Taylor gets back in the mix even after a great spring.
- Andrew Baumgartner, Sr. - 6 catches, 111 yds, 1 TD
The former walk-on played in every game and is a decent-sized option at flanker behind Brandon Breazell and Joe Cowan. He made the All-Pac 10 academic team.
- Tight end Logan Paulsen, Soph. - 2 catches, 33 yds
The athletic Paulsen has the potential to be a star in the Bruin offense. At 6-5 and 237 pounds, he has the size to be an inviting target on short to midrange routes, and he's improving as a blocker. He won't be the blocker that J.J. Hair is, but he'll likely play a prominent role when a receiving tight end is needed.
- Tight end Ryan Moya, Soph. - 10 catches, 153 yds, 2 TD
Moya had a fantastic first season catching a pass in nine games with a 58-yard touchdown against Northwestern in the Sun Bowl. While he's not the athlete Logan Paulsen is, he's fast and could grow into the field-stretcher among the tight ends.

Offensive Linemen
The line was solid last year and saw several players shuffle in and out due to injuries as well as a good rotation. Even so, there are concerns with this year's front five needing guard Aleksey Lanis and tackle Nick Ekbatani to shine right away on the weakside. Brian Abraham must quickly develop into a star pass protector or there could be concerns for left-handed quarterback Ben Olson. The extra practices from the bowl game turned out to be a huge help developing Nathaniel Skaggs and Noah Sutherland into players worthy of battling for starting roles. This isn't a big line, but there's a lot of depth and athleticism .Expect the lineup and depth chart to change several times before opening day.
The key to the unit: Consistency in pass protection and stronger run blocking early in games.
Offensive Line Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- ST Noah Sutherland, Jr.
The 290-pound junior saw time as a defensive lineman earlier in his career before getting three starts at offensive tackle. He was great against Northwestern in the Sun Bowl and should be a steady backup behind Brian Abraham if he doesn't win one of the starting jobs outright.
- SG Shannon Tevaga, Jr.
The 310-pound junior earned all-conference honors last year and will be the anchor of the line at strong guard. He's the team's best run blocker and is athletic enough to grow into a stronger pass blocker.
- C Robert Chai, Sr.
Able to play center or guard, Chai got his feet wet last year filling in for an injured Mike McCloskey. He hurt his knee late last year and missed the Sun Bowl but it wasn't serious. Now he's expected to be a leader on the line as one of the key veterans.
- WG Chris Joseph, Soph.
The starter at weak guard last year before suffering a knee injury early on, Joseph is expected to be back later on this summer to compete at both guard spots. He's not nearly as big as the starters and has had two knee problems, but he has great feet and is a very strong 280-pounder.
- WT Aleksey Lanis, RFr.
At 6-6 and 338 pounds Lanis is the team's biggest linemen and will play a key role in the running game. He spent last year on the scout team and will get a major battle for time on the weakside, but he's too big and has way too much potential to keep off the field. He's also being tried out at guard.


Top Backups

- SG
Nick Ekbatani, Soph.
The JUCO transfer will get plenty of chances to take over at either weak tackle or strong guard after playing a year at Los Angele Harbor College. He's not only an athletic 280 pounds, he's physical.
- ST Brian Abraham, Jr.
Fighting for his starting spot at strong tackle, the 6-6, 300-pound junior will be counted on to be a more dominant player this year. He's a good all-around blocker, but he has to be more consistent considering he's one of the team's best returning tackles.
- WG P.J. Irvin, Jr.
While not necessarily a disappointment so far, the 310-pound Irvin hasn't lived up to his prep hype and hasn't made a major impact yet. He's been a reserve so far and didn't see any time last year, but he'll be a factor at weak guard behind Aleksey Lanis and could take the starting job outright if he plays like he did this spring.
- C Nathaniel Skaggs, Soph.
The former defensive lineman got thrown to the wolves in the Sun Bowl replacing an injured Robert Chai. He played well enough to in the hunt for the starting job this year. While still raw, he's one of the team's most athletic linemen.

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