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2008 CFN UCLA Preview
UCLA CB Alterraun Verner
UCLA CB Alterraun Verner
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 20, 2008


UCLA supposedly had a team good enough to win the Pac 10 title last year, but major injuries and a quarterback nightmare made it just another mediocre year. Now there's a new coaching staff and a new attitude, but will the luck change? Check out the CFN UCLA Preview.

UCLA Bruins

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By Richard Cirminiello    

- 2008 CFN UCLA Preview | 2008 UCLA Offense
- 2008 UCLA Defense | 2008 UCLA Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN UCLA Preview | 2006 CFN UCLA Preview 

- CFN's Conversation with Rick Neuheisel

Head coach: Rick Neuheisel
1st year at UCLA 
9th year overall: 66-30
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 20, Def. 18, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 25
Ten Best UCLA Players
1.
LB Reggie Carter, Jr.
2. CB Alterraun Verner, Jr.
3. RB Kahlil Bell, Sr.
4. PK Kai Forbath, Soph.
5. DT Brigham Harwell, Sr.
6. WR Dominique Johnson, Soph.
7. WR Marcus Everett, Sr.
8. DT Brian Price, Soph.
9. TE Logan Paulsen, Sr.
10. OT Micah Kia, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
6-6
2008 Record: 0-0

Sept. 1 Tennessee
Sept. 6 OPEN DATE
Sept. 13 at BYU
Sept. 20 Arizona
Sept. 27 Fresno State
Oct. 4 Washington State
Oct. 11 at Oregon
Oct. 18 Stanford
Oct. 25 at California
Nov. 1 OPEN DATE
Nov. 8 Oregon State
Nov. 15 at Washington
Nov. 22 OPEN DATE
Nov. 28 at Arizona State
Dec. 6 USC

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
10-2
2007 Record:
6-7

Sept. 1 at Stanford W 45-17
Sept. 8 BYU W 27-17
Sept. 15 at Utah L 44-6
Sept. 22 Washington W 44-31
Sept. 29 at Oregon St W 40-14
Oct. 6
Notre Dame L 20-6
Oct. 20 California W 30-21
Oct. 27 at Wash State L 27-7
Nov. 3 at Arizona L 34-27
Nov. 10 Arizona State L 24-20
Nov. 24 Oregon W 16-0
Dec. 1 at USC L 24-7
Las Vegas Bowl
Dec. 22 BYU L 17-16

 There’s a new coaching staff taking over, but will it change UCLA’s luck?

Rick Neuheisel is considered by just about everyone as a great hire with his can-do attitude, solid reputation at turning teams around, and history with the program. While he should be good with a little bit of time, and he has assembled a tremendous cast of coaches around him, he needs better fortune than his predecessor, Karl Dorrell had when it came to injuries.

Now that Neuheisel is back at his alma mater, life may never be the same in Westwood, a good thing considering how mediocre the program had become under Dorrell thanks to quarterback issues and a vast array of bumps and bruises killed a promising 2007. While it’ll be easy to point to injuries to quarterbacks Pat Cowan, who’s out for the year with a knee injury, and Ben Olson, who’ll be back early this fall from a foot injury, as a reason why UCLA will struggle again, the truth is that the team has the talent to win and win big. Most importantly, it has the coaching staff to overcome the problems.

At the three most influential coaching positions, the Bruins have gone from Dorrell, Jay Norvell, and DeWayne Walker to Neuheisel, offensive coordinator/guru Norm Chow, and Walker as the defensive coordinator. That’s called a major trade-up with three coaches who could all run major programs, but will it pay dividends right away?

Although the trio has created a stir and some mild concern at USC, the reality is that UCLA has plenty of question marks that need to be answered, especially at quarterback, along the offensive line, and on defense. The excitement surrounding Neuheisel & Co. is legitimate, but the real dividends won’t likely arrive until at least 2009 unless the team can get and stay healthy.      

If nothing else, with Neuheisel at the helm, UCLA appears ready to emerge from its decade-long malaise, building a foundation for the future by establishing a power running game and breaking in a slew of newcomers on both sides of the ball.              

What to watch for on offense: The receivers. If the quarterbacks and offensive line cooperate, which are both big “ifs”, the Bruins have the ingredients of their most productive receiving corps in years. Young Dominique Johnson has the size and acrobatics to blossom into the headliner.  Marcus Everett and Gavin Ketchum have made it all the way back from season-ending injuries.  And Logan Paulsen and Ryan Moya give UCLA one of the best one-two punches at tight end in the conference. In an offense looking for a spark, this group of pass-catchers has the talent to ignite it. 

What to watch for on defense
: Replacing DE Bruce Davis, one of the best pass rushers in school history. If the leaky Bruin secondary has any chance of stopping the pass this year, it’ll need help from the boys up front, who’ll be trying to cushion the blow of losing a true disruptive force. Ends Korey Bosworth and Tom Blake are nice players, but without Davis to attract multiple blockers, they’ll find it tougher getting into the backfield. 

The team will be far better if… Ben Olson finally performs like the quarterback that every major program had to have six years ago. If he can put it all together under the watchful eye of Chow, it’ll have a ripple effect throughout the entire offense. The Bruin receivers can be a lot more than they’ve shown in recent seasons, but they need a partner that can stay healthy and distribute the ball with a limited number of mistakes. Olson, who hasn’t shown much of anything so far, has to be that guy for a hit-or-miss UCLA offense.      

The Schedule: The Neuheisel era kicks off with a bang playing Tennessee right away before a potentially tougher game at BYU. To make things even more interesting, the third non-conference date is against dangerous Fresno State team that's more than good enough to pull off the upset in the Rose Bowl. The Pac 10 slate started out lousy and ends up with a few decent breaks. There are five league home games and an off-week between road dates against Washington and Arizona State. While the USC game is hardly a true home game, it might as well be in Pasadena. The downside will be the road trips to Oregon and California, but they're wrapped around a home game against Stanford.

Best offensive player: Senior RB Kahlil Bell. Despite sharing time with Chris Markey, Bell was steamrolling toward a 1,000-yard season before injuring his knee and missing the last month of the season. A powerful 6-0, 206-pounder with a little zip in the open field, he’s almost done with his rehab and poised to become the focal point of the Bruin offense.    

Best defensive player: Junior LB Reggie Carter. Forget the numbers. Carter is much better than last year’s 62 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and two sacks. He’s a violent, explosive hitter with great lateral quickness and the instincts to be one of the nation’s most productive middle linebackers.  Say goodbye to Carter’s anonymity outside the Pac-10. 

Key players to a successful season: The rebuilt secondary. Aside from CB Alterraun Verner, this is a very suspect unit that could get toasted on a weekly basis without a big season from the pass rush. If opposing quarterbacks know they can pick apart this patchwork group, it’ll take something special from the front seven to save the pass defense. Verner needs help, or else he’ll have a very lonely and quiet fall.             

The season will be a success if ... the Bruins win seven games and earn a bowl invite. Don’t get carried away with the expectations just because a new and exciting staff is in town. UCLA has a ton of holes on both sides of the ball, making a 13th game and a competitive effort in Pac-10 play a good opening for Neuheisel & Co. before they really kick things into gear in 2009.         

Key game: Sept. 13 at BYU. While the opener against Tennessee could be a statement game if the Bruins can pull it off, it’ll be the BYU showdown that’ll be a measuring stick. It’ll be a battle against a familiar foe and one of the best non-BCS programs of the upcoming season. The schools met twice last year with UCLA winning in the regular season and BYU taking the Las Vegas Bowl.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Interception return average: UCLA 22.2 yards – Opponents 9.8 yards
- Penalties: UCLA 95 for 807 yards – Opponents 78 for 657 yards
- Kickoff return average: UCLA 25.2 yards – Opponents 20.2 yards

 











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