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.
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
Strength of the offense: Overall depth
Weakness of the offense: Proven wide receiver production
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
- 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.
- 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.
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
Running Back Rating: 7.5
- 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
- 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,
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.
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
- Marcus Everett, Jr. - 32 catches, 390 yds, 12.2 ypc, 2
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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.