2007 UCLA Preview |
2007 UCLA Defense Preview
2007 UCLA Depth Chart
2006 CFN UCLA Preview
need to know:
Tired of his feeble offense and conservative play calling, Karl
Dorrell is turning the unit over to Jay Norvell, a Nebraska
import who’ll be calling plays for the first time in his
career. With him comes an up tempo version of the West Coast
offense that’ll be rooted in high percentage passes and the
occasional use of the shotgun. Norvell’s triggerman will be
lefty Ben Olson, who’s held off the challenge of Patrick Cowan,
and is still waiting for a breakthrough season five years after
being a ballyhooed BYU recruit. Although 12 players with
extensive starting experience return, only guard Shannon Tevaga
and running back Chris Markey can be considered bona fide
threats for all-league honors. To help get Olson where he needs
to be, a playmaker or two needs to emerge among a pedestrian
Passing: Pat Cowan
145-276, 1,782 yds, 11 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: Chris Markey
227 carries, 1,107 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Chris Markey
35 catches, 261 yds
Star of the
Senior RB Chris Markey
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior QB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LT Micah Kia
Best pro prospect: Senior G Shannon Tevaga
Top three all-star candidates:
1) Tevaga 2) Markey 3) TE Logan Paulsen
Strength of the offense: Veteran line, quarterback depth
Weakness of the offense: Run blocking, playmakers in the
Can new offensive coordinator Jay Norvell be to junior Ben
Olson what Norm Chow was to Carson Palmer across town five
years ago? Karl Dorrell and the Bruins are banking on it. A
mega-star when he signed with BYU five years ago, Olson’s spent
more time away from the field, completing his Church mission,
sitting out a transfer year, and rehabbing a knee injury, than
on it. However, the talent and powerful left arm in a 6-5,
227-pound frame remain pretty much the same. Just when Olson
appeared to be shaking off the rust in 2006, he was shelved in
the first week of October, and never got back on the field.
Healthy again, he got a vote of confidence in the spring from
Dorrell, who named him the starter. Now all those intangibles
and physical attributes need to rise to the surface in 2007 if
the Bruin offense is going to turn the
Projected Top Reserves: When Olson went down last
fall, junior Patrick Cowan did an admirable job as the
offensive caretaker. While he only threw 11 touchdowns to nine
picks and completed just 52% of his passes, he did provide a
spark while displaying outstanding leadership and moxie,
especially in the upset of USC. At 6-5 and 218 pounds, he has a
live arm and is far more nimble outside the pocket than Olson.
Cowan has already proven that he can perform at a high level,
and in huge games, if the need suddenly arises.
Watch Out For… Olson to finally begin approaching
all of the hype that surrounded his recruitment five years ago.
He’s just way too talented a passer to not be successful,
something that Norvell and his West Coast offense have been
brought in to help ensure.
Strength: Two quarterbacks with starting
experience. The silver lining to Olson’s injury last October
was that it gave valuable reps to Cowan, and a second dependable
quarterback that the Bruins can count on to run the offense.
Weakness: Lack of a consistent,
take-the-job-by-the-horns No. 1. While both Olson and Cowan
have the maturity and physical abilities to get it done at this
level, neither has yet to show he can hoist the offense on his
shoulders and carry it for an extended period of time.
Outlook: Olson’s poised to break through and have
the kind of season that’s commensurate with his skill set as a
passer. He better, or else the program could become embroiled
in a quarterback controversy that mushrooms into a distraction.
Projected Starters: Very quietly, senior Chris
Markey has had a very productive stay in Westwood, racking
up 3,454 all-purpose yards, including his first 1,000-yard
season in 2006. A versatile athlete that runs with good vision
and quickness, he’s averaged five yards a carry throughout his
career and led the Bruins with 35 receptions a year ago. Both
durable and dependable at 5-11 and 208 pounds, Markey doesn’t
have elite speed, but can break off a long run from time to
time. Provided the support is there up front, he’ll be good for
another workmanlike 225 carries, 1,000 yards rushing and 25
receptions. After scoring just twice last year, it would be
nice if Markey could reach paydirt with more regularity in 2007.
Markey’s backfield mate will be senior Michael Pitre, the
consummate college fullback. An unselfish player, he’s a good
drive blocker that’ll catch a pass every so often.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Kahlil Bell
returns to provide an insurance policy and give Markey a
breather for a series or two each game. A big, blue-collar
runner, he was second on the team last year with 239 yards
rushing despite sitting out the second half with an ankle injury
and a suspension.
Sophomore fullback Chane Moline was primarily used as a
short yardage back during his freshman season. As a 6-1,
238-pound true freshman, he tied for the team lead with five
touchdowns, showing the athleticism to earn the occasional
handoff as a tailback.
Watch Out For… true freshman Raymond Carter.
Yes, the Bruins have a clear-cut starter and No.2, but there’s
an opening behind Bell that might be filled by Carter. A 6-0,
192-pound cutback runner, he has the vision and the extra gear
to be UCLA’s long ball hitter.
Strength: Protecting the ball. The Bruins lost
just nine fumbles last season, largely because the reliable
Markey rarely puts the ball on the turf.
Weakness: Lack of an explosive runner. While
Markey and Bell are quality Pac-10 backs, both are
meat-and-potatoes runners that won’t strike fear into opposing
defenses for their ability to find a hole and run forever.
Outlook: Markey is a solid back, but don’t expect
him to take over too many games once league play begins. The
typical stat line will be 20 carries for 85 yards with no scores
and a few extra carries for Bell than the last two seasons.
Projected Starters: More than any other unit on
the 2007 squad, the receivers need to step up, and perform far
better than last season. Running back Chris Markey led last
year’s Bruins with 35 receptions, an indication of just how far
the wideouts need to progress this fall. The best of a
pedestrian bunch is senior split end Marcus Everett, a
fourth-year starter that’s been steady throughout his career,
but has yet to have that long-awaited breakout season. In 2006,
he caught 31 balls for 450 yards and five touchdowns, including
a career-day against Notre Dame. At 6-1 and 196 pounds, Everett
is strong enough to handle press coverage, and is especially
effective after the catch.
When Joe Cowan was lost before the start of the 2006, senior
flanker Brandon Breazell stepped in to start ten games
and catch 21 passes for 389 yards and four touchdowns. While
not the Bruins’ most polished or consistent all-around
pass-catcher, he is a speedster with a penchant getting the most
from his limited grabs.
Junior tight end Logan Paulsen excelled in his first
season as the UCLA starter, catching 27 passes for 331 yards,
and setting the stage for an even bigger role in 2007. At 6-5
and 247 pounds, he’s a big, athletic target that’s gotten strong
enough to shed tackles after the catch.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior flanker Joe
Cowan was poised for a career year in 2006 before a knee
injury in August shelved him for the entire season. As a
12-game starter in 2005, he led all UCLA wide receivers with 35
receptions for 469 yards and three touchdowns. At 6-4 and 220
pounds, he’s a big, physical receiver that’s sure-handed and
very effective as a downfield blocker.
Behind Everett at split end is 6-4, 200-pound Gavin Ketchum,
a junior with more upside than his 16 career catches might
indicate. A rangy, polished receiver, he needs to turn that
skill set into more production.
Junior tight end Ryan Moya caught 12 passes for 126 yards
and a score before a leg injury ended his season after only six
games. While he lacks the size to be a complete tight end in
the offense, he can stretch a defense with his speed, and give
Ben Olson an additional threat on passing downs.
Watch Out For… Cowan. Healthy again, the senior
has the experience and physical ability to emerge as the go-to
receiver that this offense sorely craves. Breazell is in the
picture at flanker, but don’t be surprised if Cowan passes him
and has the best season of his Bruin career.
Strength: Experience. Counting the tight ends,
all six of the Bruin receivers are upperclassmen with an
impressive 14 letters between them. Having battled the Pac-10
wars for years, nothing should surprise this group in 2007.
Weakness: Lack of a clutch receiver. It could be
Everett, or maybe Cowan will step into the role. The reality is
that the Bruins don’t have any one receiver that opposing
defenses have to blanket on third-and-seven or
Outlook: Maybe things would have been different if
Olson and Cowan were healthy all year, but the Bruin receivers
were eminently average in 2006. They should be better in 2007,
but not enough to make a profound impact on the passing attack.
Projected Starters: The Bruins return four
starters to a line that was solid in pass protection in 2006,
but needed to open a few more holes for Chris Markey and the
UCLA tailbacks. In order to fill the void at center left by
Robert Chai’s graduation, senior Chris Joseph is moving
over from guard. A 13-game starter a year ago, the Academic
All-American is plenty smart enough to make all of the line
calls, and should engineer a seamless transition to the pivot.
Joseph’s vacated guard position will be filled by senior Noah
Sutherland, who was a starting tackle throughout the 2006
season. A converted defensive lineman, he’s a 6-5, 299-pound
pile driver that’ll be better utilized on the inside.
Sutherland will be joined by senior Shannon Tevaga, the
team’s best overall lineman and a strong candidate for
post-season honors. At 6-3 and 316 pounds, he’s big and
powerful with the nasty streak to overwhelm opponents at times,
particularly on running downs. A starter in 31 consecutive
games, Tevaga is the undisputed leader of this unit.
There’s a very interesting battle brewing at left tackle between
sophomores Micah Kia and Aleksey Lanis. One of
the program’s signature recruits of 2006, Kia used March and
April as a springboard to an unexpected spot atop the depth
chart when fall camp begins in August. At 6-5 and 304 pounds,
he’s a budding star as a pass protector, and one of the pillars
that the UCLA line will be built upon over the next three
On the right side, Ben Olson’s blindside, will be senior
Brian Abraham, who regains the starting job he had in 2005.
A reserve for all but the bowl game last year, he’s an adequate
lineman with good size and ample experience at this level.
Projected Top Reserves: Wither Lanis? The hulking
Freshman All-American from a year ago has been lapped at tackle
by Kia and Abraham, relegating him to a backup role. Whether
the 6-6, 316-pounder can battle his way back up the depth chart
is one of the summer’s most intriguing storylines. Whatever the
outcome, it’s become clear that the offense will be very deep at
tackle this season and beyond.
At right tackle is another future fixture along the line,
redshirt freshman Sean Sheller. Still growing into his
6-4 frame, he has great feet and athleticism, and projects as a
top pass blocker once he adds a few more pounds and finds his
way into the lineup.
The Bruins have plenty of depth at guard, led by senior P.J.
Irvin, a two-time letterwinner that played in all 13 games
in 2006. While he hasn’t had the career many expected, he does
bring veteran leadership and a physical style of play to the
Watch Out For… Kia. He beat out Lanis in the
spring for one simple reason—he’s better in all phases of the
position. This is Tevaga’s line in 2007, but by 2008, Kia could
be looked at as the headliner of the UCLA front wall.
Strength: Veteran depth. Not only do five players
return with extensive starting experience, but the Bruins go two
deep with seasoned veterans that have played plenty of football
for the program.
Weakness: Run blocking. The line was just okay on
running downs last fall, failing to create enough space for the
backs and falling a notch or two below its capabilities as a
Outlook: New line coach Bob Connelly reshuffled
the deck in the off-season, looking for the right combination of
talent to take into the season. While the Bruins are solid up
front, they’re looking for much more from a group that’s going
to start four seniors and a sophomore.