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2007 UCLA Preview

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 27, 2007


UCLA had a great 2005, a wildly inconsistent 2006, and now should be in for a whale of a 2007 if everything comes together as expected. From the loaded defense, to a strong offense, led by Shannon Tevaga and a good line, the Bruins are the real deal.

UCLA Bruins

Preview 200
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By Richard Cirminiello    

- 2007 UCLA Offense Preview | 2007 UCLA Defense Preview
-
2007 UCLA Depth Chart | 2006 CFN UCLA Preview 


Every so often, things line up perfectly for good programs giving them a rare opportunity to have a great season when everything comes together at once.  UCLA is staring at just such a convergence for the upcoming season.

Head coach: Karl Dorrell 
5th year: 29-21
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 24, Def. 24, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 12
Ten Best UCLA Players
1. DE Bruce Davis, Sr.
2. G Shannon Tevaga, Sr.
3. SS Chris Horton, Sr.
4. CB Trey Brown, Sr.
5. RB Chris Markey, Sr.
6. LB Christian Taylor, Sr.
7. QB Ben Olson, Jr.
8. DT Brighan Harwell, Sr.
9. DT Kevin Brown, Sr.
10. LB Reggie Carter, Soph.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
10-2

Sept. 1

at Stanford

Sept.8

BYU

Sept. 15

at Utah

Sept. 22

Washington

Sept. 29

at Oregon State

Oct. 6

Notre Dame

Oct. 20

California

Oct. 27

at Washington St

Nov. 3

at Arizona

Nov. 10

Arizona State

Nov. 24

Oregon

Dec. 1

at USC

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
5-7
2006 Record:
7-6
Preview 2006 predicted wins

9/2 Utah W 31-10
9/9 Rice W 26-16
9/23 at Washington L 29-19
9/30 Stanford W 31-0
10/7 Arizona W 27-7
10/14 at Oregon L 30-20
10/21 at Notre Dame L 20-17
10/28 Washington St L 37-15
11/4 at California L 38-24
11/11 Oregon State W 25-7
11/18 at Arizona St W 24-12
12/2 USC  W 13-9
12/27 Emerald Bowl
Florida State L 44-27

 Although the Bruins have lived in the long shadow of cross-town rival USC ever since Pete Carroll arrived in 2001, they’ve fostered a little momentum, courtesy of last year’s landscape-altering upset of the Trojans and the return of all but two starters from that team.  There were highs and lows in 2006, but last year was more about setting the table for 2007 and a possible run at a BCS bowl game than anything else.  Of course, that raises the stakes for Karl Dorrell, who’ll either quiet his critics or energize them if the Bruins disappoint and wallow in the middle of the Pac-10 pack.     

While the well-stocked UCLA defense will be the anchor, the offense must locate some more firepower if this is going to be more than a schizophrenic team that can beat USC, yet still lose to Washington and Washington State in the same year.  Part of the problem in Westwood has been a lack of continuity in the coaching staff under Dorrell, who is now on his fourth coordinator in five years.  Jay Norvell was pried away from Nebraska in the off-season to dispense his knowledge of the West Coast offense and call plays for the first time in his career.  His first big call, however, will involve the tight battle at quarterback between Patrick Cowan and Ben Olson, which could rage on through the summer.

In the land of stars, they might be lining up for UCLA to make a run at a ten-win season and a possible home game in January.  The schedule and the depth chart point to a big year, but now the Bruins have to prove they’ve got the mental toughness to deal with elevated expectations for a change.         

What to watch for on offense: There’s just too much talent on UCLA for it to finish seventh in the league again in total and scoring offense.  Former coordinator Jim Svoboda was knocked for being too conservative with his play calling, something Norvell hopes to address, while maintaining the Bruins’ signature offensive balance.  The Shannon Tevaga-led line returns four starters that’ll open holes for versatile Chris Markey to burst through.  Whichever quarterback gets the ball will benefit from the competition and the return of Joe Cowan, a big, sure-handed flanker that missed 2006 with a knee injury.    

What to watch for on defense:  In his debut as a defensive coordinator, DeWayne Walker whipped the Bruins into a very quick and very tough unit that attacked the line of scrimmage and created turnovers.  He also proved to be a solid Xs and Os guy, who’ll only get better with experience.  Lighting quick end Bruce Davis headlines the defense, but he’ll get plenty of help.  The back seven is deep and talented, highlighted by the safety duo of Chris Horton and Dennis Keyes and cornerback Alterraun Verner, the budding star of the secondary.    

The team will be far better if …it improves its efficiency in the red zone.  Only Penn State settled for more field goals than UCLA in 2006, which won’t cut it against the upper half of the Pac-10.  Plus, in place of rock steady kicker Justin Medlock steps freshman Kai Forbath, so even three points is no longer a lock.

The Schedule: It’s not easy. There’s not a breather in the non-conference schedule playing BYU, Utah (who’ll each join TCU as the Mountain West superstars) to go along with Notre Dame. On the plus side, there are five Pac 10 home games including Oregon and Cal, but the Bruins have to go on the road to face Oregon State and USC. The only back-to-back road trips are to Washington State and Arizona, who didn’t go bowling last year.

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Chris Markey.  Markey has seen his role increase each fall at UCLA, capped by last year’s 1,000-yard, 35-catch season, his first out of Maurice Jones-Drew’s shadow and as a full-time starter.  A patient runner with good vision, he’ll wait behind Bruin linemen before hitting the hole and popping a six or seven yard gain.           

Best Defensive Player: Senior DE Bruce Davis.  It took a couple of years of tinkering, but Davis, a virtually unblockable blur coming off the edge, has finally found a home at defensive end.  The NFL can worry about him being a tweener when he gets there, but for now, the 6-3, 240-pound senior is one of the quickest and most disruptive pass rushers in the country.         

Key player to a successful season: Redshirt freshman PK Kai Forbath and/or junior Jimmy Rotstein. All Justin Medlock did was hit 28 of 32 field goals as a weapon that always came through when the offense bogged down. Forbath was a star recruit with a strong leg able to hit from well beyond 50 yards. Just connecting in the clutch would be good enough for the Bruins.

The season will be a success if ... the Bruins go to the Rose Bowl. That might be setting the bar a bit high considering that team from the other side of town will be cranked up more than ever after the way the 2006 regular season ended, but UCLA has the talent to be among the best teams in America right from the start. With three of the other top Pac 10 contenders, Cal, Arizona State and Oregon, all coming to L.A., the schedule, as nasty as it might be, works out just well enough to hope for a Rose Bowl shot going into the December showdown with the Trojans.

Key game: Sept. 29 at Oregon State. Of course the trip down the freeway to USC is the key game on the schedule, but in order for that to have much meaning for the Bruins in the Pac 10 race, they have to get by the Beavers early on. This should be the toughest road game until USC, so if they can win in Corvallis and go unbeaten at home, the title might be there for the taking.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Sacks: UCLA 40 for 270 yards – Opponents 21 for 151 yards
- Fumbles: UCLA 29 (lost 9) – Opponents 19 (lost 14)
- Fourth down conversions: Opponents 14 of 27 (52%) – UCLA 4 of 11 (36%)

 

Related Stories
2007 UCLA Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 24, 2007
2007 UCLA Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 24, 2007
2007 UCLA Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 24, 2007








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