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2008 UCLA Preview - Offense
UCLA TE Logan Paulsen
UCLA TE Logan Paulsen
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 20, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - UCLA Bruin Offense

UCLA Bruins

Preview 2008
- Offense


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

What you need to know: The hope is that Chow can do for the UCLA quarterbacks what he did for the USC passers earlier this decade. It won’t happen overnight. The long-time coordinator has the indisputable track record as a quarterback guru, but Patrick Cowan is done for the year with an ACL tear, and Ben Olson is nursing a broken foot that won’t be healed until the summer.  Olson hasn’t come close to fulfilling his prep hype, falling prey to injuries and inconsistency, but still has the natural gifts needed to be the next hurler in Chow’s long line of success stories. While the receiving corps will be solid, the Olson has to be healthy and productive of the attack will initially lean heavily on RB Kahlil Bell and short passes to TE Logan Paulsen.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Ben Olson
71-147, 1,040 yds, 7 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Kahlil Bell
142 carries, 795 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Dominique Johnson
25 catches, 322 yds, 4 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB Kahlil Bell
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior QB Ben Olson
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Dominique Johnson
Best pro prospect: Senior TE Logan Paulsen
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bell  2) Johnson  3) Paulsen
Strength of the offense: Depth at receiver
Weakness of the offense: Uncertainty at quarterback, the offensive line

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: If anyone has placed a curse on the Bruin quarterbacks, mission accomplished. Over the past year, UCLA has been snake-bitten at the position, losing its two best players to injuries last season and then again this spring. Shortly after receiving a vote of confidence for the starting job, senior Patrick Cowan tore his ACL and will be lost for the season. Right around the same time, senior Ben Olson broke a bone in his foot and finished the spring on crutches. While he’ll be back in time for summer practice, that’ll only be good news if he finally approaches the potential that made him one of the nation’s top recruits six long years ago. At 6-4 and 235 pounds, Olson’s strong left arm conjures up images of a young Boomer Esiason, but he’s never been healthy long enough to get into a rhythm. After a monumental five-touchdown start in the opener, he was on and off the injured list, finishing the season with just seven touchdowns, six interceptions, and 1,040 yards passing.         

Projected Top Reserves: When the Bruins signed junior Kevin Craft out of Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) College, by way of San Diego State, he was viewed as an afterthought who’d be buried on the depth chart until 2009. That changed in April. His play in the spring, combined with the injuries to Cowan and Olson, have him in the No. 2 hole with a shot at winning the job in the summer. At 6-5 and 210 pounds, he shows good arm strength and, like Cowan, can avoid pressure and pick up a first down when flushed from the pocket.

The long-term future at the position might belong to 6-3, 185-pound redshirt freshman Chris Forcier, who had the benefit of additional reps this spring. Easily the best athlete among the quarterbacks, he’s dynamite in the open field, needing to polish up his presence in the pocket, something that’ll come with more reps and more time in the system.

Watch Out For… Olson’s medical status. The Bruins can probably survive with Craft at the helm, but would prefer one final attempt at thriving with Olson. If he can stay healthy for an entire season, there’s still a sliver of hope that he can be an effective downfield distributor.
Strength: Norm Chow. As it stands now, there’s not a lot to love about the UCLA hurlers, but it helps that their new offensive coordinator is one of the best quarterback tutors in the business.  The mere presence of Chow will have a positive impact on the Bruins, especially the younger ones.
Weakness: Instability. If Cowan and Olson were both at full strength, you could argue that quarterback would be a strength heading into the season. That Craft is already being hailed as a key player in 2008 is a curve ball the program was not expecting to see.
Outlook: While it makes for good copy, don’t expect Chow to do for Olson in his final season what he did for Carson Palmer across town at USC. They’re two very different quarterbacks, plus Olson is unlikely to last the entire year playing behind a rebuilt offensive line.  It’s only a matter of time before Craft gets called off the bench to help bail out the offense.
Rating: 7

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Now that Chris Markey has graduated, senior Kahlil Bell is no longer expected to share the carries. A solid compliment the last three seasons, he had rushed for 795 yards and five touchdowns on 142 carries before suffering an injury to his right knee that limited him to eight games. A powerful 6-0, 206-pounder, Bell is terrific in short yardage and tough to bring down on first contact. He’s also the team’s best pass blocker, an underrated bonus for an offense that could struggle at protecting the quarterback.     

Junior Trevor Theriot is back at fullback a year after starting six games and appearing in all 13.  Strictly a lead blocker, the 6-0, 233-pound former walk-on did not log a carry last season and won’t be asked to do much with the ball this fall.

Projected Top Reserves: Before tearing his ACL in training camp last August, there was hope redshirt freshman Raymond Carter. Instead, he’ll make his Westwood debut this fall, aiming to add a little flash to the methodical UCLA running game. One of the program’s signature recruits of 2007, he’s 5-11, 202-pound cutback runner with the extra gear and vision in the hole to be an ideal change-of-pace to Bell.

At 6-1 and 236 pounds, junior Chane Moline is a tailback in a fullback’s body. Primarily used in short yardage, he often gets the call when the Bruins are near the goal line or nearing a first down.  In his first two seasons, Moline has scored six touchdowns and will occasionally be used as a receiver out of the backfield.

Watch Out For… true freshman Aundre Dean. Part of Neuheisel’s deep recruiting class, Dean was considered one of the top high school recruits in the country. A tall, slashing gamebreaker at 6-1 and 210 pounds, he’ll get on the field early if he proves to be ready in August.
Strength: Bell. He’s experienced, tough between the tackles, and surprisingly quick for his size.  In other words, he’s a potential 1,000-yard rusher who the Bruins will ride until the underclassmen are ready to shoulder some of the load.
Weakness: Proven long ball threat. Ideally, UCLA would have a dangerous seam-buster capable of complimenting Bell’s bruising style. Carter is supposed to be that guy, but until he gets on the field, he’s yet to prove he can handle the job.
Outlook: Assuming he’s completely healthy, Bell will be the workhorse, occasionally giving way to Carter and possibly Dean. With less competition than the past, Bell’s capable attracting the attention of NFL scouts and piling up solid numbers in a system that wants to establish the run.
Rating
: 7.5

Receivers

Projected Starters: Like so many Bruins in 2007, senior Marcus Everett appeared headed for a breakout season before injury struck, limiting him to just three games. For his career, the 6-1, 212-pound flanker has caught 82 passes for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns, peaking in 2006. While not a speedster, Everett has good hands, runs well after the catch, and can shake off press coverage.

The budding star of the unit is sophomore Dominique Johnson, who only scratched the surface of his vast potential, catching 25 balls for 322 yards and four touchdowns. A long and lean target at 6-3 and 208 pounds, he has good wheels, but is even more effective using his long arms and elevation to pluck passes out of the sky.

Senior Logan Paulsen is headed toward becoming one of the Pac-10’s better pass-catching tight ends, making 39 grabs over the last two seasons. Now up to 6-6 and 252 pounds, he’s a hard-to-miss target and an improving blocker in the running game. Underutilized a year ago, the Bruins will try to get him more involved in the passing game this fall.

Projected Top Reserves: Steady junior Gavin Ketchum is running behind Johnson at split end.  A letter-winner in each of the last two seasons, his year was cut short by an ankle injury in September. At 6-5 and 209 pounds, Ketchum is a huge, polished receiver who can bury defensive backs with his downfield blocking.

Providing some shiftiness and flash will be junior Terrence Austin, the quickest and most dangerous of the Bruin receivers in the open field. While only 5-10 and 160 pounds, he’s capable of taking a short hitch and transforming it into a big gainer. In his most extensive action outside of special teams, he caught 17 passes for 248 yards.

Behind Paulsen at tight end will be junior Ryan Moya, who sat out all of 2007 for personal reasons. In his first two years, the 6-4, 229-pounder showed plenty of promise as a receiver running good routes, rarely dropping a ball, and making at least 10 grabs each year. A terrific second option, Moya is like having another starter on the B team.

Watch Out For… Johnson. Sure, he’s still a little raw, but he also possesses some tremendous physical traits that can’t be taught.  Johnson’s spectacular one-handed touchdown grab versus USC last December gave a glimpse of his boundless upside.
Strength: Big, physical receivers. Austin aside, all of the Bruins have great size and will use that advantage to box out defenders. When Everett and Johnson are on the field at the same time, they’ll cause match up problems for smaller defensive backs. 
Weakness: Lack of a go-to receiver. Is it Everett? Is Johnson ready to assume the role in his second season? Until proven otherwise, UCLA has a bunch of good receivers, but lacks that one headliner who makes defensive coordinators tweak the gameplan to stop him.
Outlook: As it stands now, the Bruins have a slightly better than average receiving corps that’s still seeking its identity. The potential is there, however, for it to exceed expectations. With Everett, Ketchum, and Moya back after missing all or most of last season, and Johnson about to explode, UCLA could surprise in the passing game with a little more help from the quarterbacks.
Rating: 7.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: As if replacing three starters wasn’t going to be challenging enough, the Bruins learned in the spring that veteran Aleksey Lanis had succumbed to persistent injuries and retired from football. The patchwork line is expected to be built around 6-6, 298-pound junior LT Micah Kia, the closest thing the program has to an anchor. He laid the foundation for his career with eight starts a year ago, showing nice agility and a great motor, especially as a pass protector. With continued development, he’ll be in a position to impress NFL scouts in 2009.

Settling in at right tackle is sophomore Sean Sheller, another of the Bruins’ recent top recruits who’s expected to develop into a fixture. Still a little light at 6-5 and 282 pounds, he has the footwork and athleticism in space to eventually excel in pass protection. Sheller has yet to play a snap, so he’ll be undergoing a baptism under fire in September.

Along with Kia, the other returning starter is senior Micah Reed, a converted guard making the move to center. A 6-4, 316-pound former walk-on, he earned a scholarship before the start of last season. While he’s a rugged, steady blocker, he’s liable to get exposed by some of the league’s better defensive linemen.

After seeing limited action on special teams, sophomore Darius Savage is on target to be the Bruins’ starting left guard. It’s a big leap for one of the program’s biggest players, a 6-4, 338-pound mauler as a run blocker. One of the country’s best discus and shot put throwers, he has a good burst and excellent upper body strength.

The battle at right guard is between senior Scott Glicksberg and junior Nick Ekbatani. A former defensive lineman and blocking tight end, Glicksberg is taking his first stab at being an offensive lineman for the Bruins. Hailed by the coaches for his toughness and resiliency, he’s just 6-4 and 269 pounds, and will need every ounce of grit to hold up in the Pac-10.

At 6-4 and 290 pounds, Ekbatani has more size and experience, but has been unable to shake Glicksberg. Since transferring from Harbor College, he hasn’t seen much action, sitting out all of last season to get bigger, stronger, and better acclimated to the speed of the game.            

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Brandon Bennett is being groomed to be the eventual successor to Kia at left tackle. A big, physical body at 6-4 and 319 pounds, he needs to improve his endurance, get in better shape, and continue working on his lateral speed and quickness.

If Reed has any problems at the pivot, 6-4, 286-pound sophomore Jake Dean is being viewed as the insurance policy at the position. One of the nation’s top center prospects coming out of high school, he’s yet to get on the field in two seasons, but is poised to earn his first letter this fall.

Sophomore Sonny Tevaga is working to become UCLA’s first guard off the bench this season.  The 6-3, 337-pound brother of former Bruin Shannon Tevaga is light on game experience, but the coaches like his intensity and physicality as a run blocker.

Watch Out For… this unit to struggle badly all year to find its groove. There are too many new regulars in the rotation and not enough proven commodities to feel anything but uncertainty.
Strength: The tackles. Relatively speaking, the strength of the front wall will be on the outside, where Kia and Sheller have good athletic ability and large reserves of untapped potential.
Weakness: Proven blockers. The guards have limited experience, the center used to be a guard, and the reserves will offer little support in the short-term. There are no sure-things on this unit, which is bad news in a conference flush with quality defensive linemen.
Outlook: Outside of the quarterbacks, this will be the single biggest concern for the Bruins and their new staff. Brighter days lie ahead, but those are unlikely to come until 2009 when the young players gain a year of experience.
Rating: 7