1st and Ten – Who’s the Heart? Who’s
the Soul? – Throughout the 2005 season, it was evident that the UCLA
offense was as explosive as any unit in the nation. But, most
importantly, when the going got tough, one of the Bruins’ big guns
stepped up and displayed the chutzpah evident in a team about to win ten
games on the season. Maurice Drew put the Bruins on his back in the
last seven minutes of the Cal game. QB Drew Olson did the same for the
Stanford game. When the offense had to have something happen, those two
typically gave it to them. So, the ultimate question becomes, who
becomes the rock, the foundation – the face in the huddle that the rest
of the Bruins believe in? Does it become Ben Olson, the former prep
star who hasn’t seen the bulk of game action for a number of years?
Chris Markey is a guy capable of being a 1,200 yard a year back, but can
he be the guy that comes through when it gets tough? Maybe it turns out
to be a receiver like Marcus Everett who takes on the pressure of being
the ‘it’ guy. Perhaps it’s the return of sublime WR Junior Taylor.
It’s one thing to have to replace good football players – it’s quite
another to replace the heart and soul of your offense, but that’s the
challenge facing Karl Dorrell and his Bruin coaching staff this fall.
2nd and Seven – Adversity only makes
you stronger? – The Bruin defense has been a liability in past
years, that’s not news. So, then what are we to make out of this unit
losing all three of its linebackers, including All Pac-10 star Spencer
Havner, the Bruins leading tackler? Ouch. It’s been like taking candy
from a baby trying to run the ball on the Bruins, and now Pac-10 teams
get the opportunity to take advantage of three relatively inexperienced
rookies. Whoa, any good news here? New defensive coordinator DeWayne
Walker has his work cut out for him, but he did work last season under
talented Washington Redskin DC Gregg Williams. Step one - getting his
Bruins to play as hard and as physical on defense as Ben Howland’s
3rd and Three – The Key is Keyes
– It took your breath away. It ended up being one of the lead
highlights on every sports show across the country. It was the hit that
safety Dennis Keyes put on Oklahoma QB Rhett Bomar in their eye-opening
win against the Sooners that led to a Bruin defensive touchdown.
Suffice it to say, the Bruins need more of that from Keyes and his other
Bruin mates. He finished last year with 57 tackles, enough to be fourth
most on the team, but he also added 8 tackles for a loss. He’ll be one
of only a handful of returning defenders, so Keyes’ importance is more
than the numbers he registers this season.
4th and One – Is it enough? –
Last season’s ten wins should’ve provided more answers than questions
about head coach Karl Dorrell and his tenure in Westwood; however, after
the exodus of talent on offense and graduation on defense, you have to
wonder if Dorrell has enough in the cupboard to keep stocking up nine
and ten win seasons on a regular basis. On the flip side, there were
only two losses last year, but the Bruins sent their JV team to those
games, subsequently stoking the fires under the seat Dorrell occupies.
How much was that bowl win worth? We’ll find out soon. Dorrell has
had a number of coaching changes the past two years, and as mentioned
above, the offensive firepower that generated those ten victories is
about to collect a paycheck. This might be THE season for Dorrell – win
with a group of youngsters and the foundation may finally be in place
for the UCLA alum to put pressure on that team across town. Struggle
early and it could get nasty.