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2007 UCLA Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 24, 2007


Preview 2007 UCLA Bruin Offense

UCLA Bruins

Preview 2007
- Offense


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

What you 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 receiving corps.

Returning Leaders
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 offense: Senior RB Chris Markey
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Ben Olson
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 passing game

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: 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 corner.                                                                   

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.   
Rating: 8

Running Backs

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.
Rating: 7.5

Receivers

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 third-and-goal.
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.
Rating: 7

Offensive Line

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 seasons. 

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 second unit.   

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 unit.
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.   
Rating: 7.5

 

Related Stories
2007 UCLA Preview
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 27, 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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