2008 CFN UCLA Preview |
2008 UCLA Offense
2008 UCLA Defense |
2008 UCLA Depth Chart
2007 CFN UCLA Preview |
2006 CFN UCLA Preview
need to know:
The D must regroup after losing its best pass rusher, top
linebacker, and three-quarters of the starting secondary to
graduation. Neuheisel cleaned up with defensive backfield
recruits, landing CB Aaron Hester and S Rahim Moore, both of
whom will have a chance to crack the two-deep. Up-and-coming
Brian Price and veteran Brigham Harwell, who was given an extra
year of eligibility, are a good pair of tackles who’ll lend hope
to a run defense that was a major strength. LB Reggie Carter is
flying under the radar and Alterraun Verner is a game-breaker on
the brink of becoming one of the Pac-10’s most dynamic cover
corners. The schedule does no favors for a defense in flux, so
it’ll be trial by fire.
Sacks: Tom Blake, 3
Alterraun Verner, 4
the defense: Junior LB Reggie Carter
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior CB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DT Brian Price
Best pro prospect: Junior CB Alterraun Verner
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Carter 2) Verner 3)
Senior DT Brigham Harwell
Strength of the defense: The middle of the defense
Weakness of the defense: Pass defense, veteran depth
Projected Starters: The Bruin line looks like the
aftermath of a tornado losing three key seniors to graduation,
particularly All-American DE Bruce Davis. The lone bright spot
is the return of DT Brigham Harwell, an all-league
candidate who was granted another year after missing most of
last season with a knee injury. The program’s best run stuffer,
he’s entering his third season as the starter. At 6-2 and 292
pounds, Harwell plays with intensity and the pad level to knock
opposing linemen off their base.
Next to Harwell on the inside will be sophomore Brian Price,
one of the rising stars of the UCLA defense. He played very well
as a true freshman, making 14 tackles, seven tackles for loss,
and a sack in a foundation-building debut. At 6-1 and 297
pounds, he’s tough to handle one-on-one and possesses the burst
to shoot the gap and make plays for negative yards.
Attempting to offset some of Davis’ lost production will be
senior Tom Blake and junior Korey Bosworth. By far
the larger of the pair at 6-4 and 259 pounds, Blake is a natural
pass rusher with the heft to also assist on running downs. In
his first season removed from UC-Davis, he started eight games,
making 32 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and four
fumble recoveries. With Davis gone, Blake now has to show he
can be the catalyst for the pass rush.
Bosworth played well in his first season on the line, delivering
34 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and a pair of sacks. A 6-1,
235-pound converted linebacker, he’ll offset an obvious lack of
ideal size with tremendous quickness and work ethic. He’s a
potential liability against the run meaning he’ll have to work
to keep a starting job.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Jess Ward
provides an experienced presence on the second unit at defensive
tackle. One of the program’s stronger players at the point of
attack, he started six games as a second-year player, chipping
in 18 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss.
Like Ward, junior Jerzy Siewierski is a blue-collar,
no-nonsense tackle who’ll help bolster the situation at tackle.
He appeared in all 13 games a year ago, showing good
acceleration while making 13 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss.
There’s a gaping void in the rotation at defensive end that 6-3,
250-pound sophomore Reginald Stokes is hoping to fill.
After doing a one-year apprenticeship on the scout team, he’s
shown the athleticism of a linebacker that should garner him
relevant reps this season.
Watch Out For… incoming freshmen Damien Holmes
and Datone Jones. Any Bruins capable of getting
pressure on the quarterback will get on the field this season.
Holmes and Jones are a pair of mega-recruits with the explosive
pass-rushing skills to fill the bill.
Strength: The interior. The two-deep at defensive
tackle is very strong, with all four players capable of stepping
in and making plays. Harwell’s return and Price’s development
give the Bruins a formidable pair of run-stoppers on the inside.
Weakness: Defensive end. Blake and Bosworth are
solid pass-rushers, but won’t be confused with some of the
Pac-10’s best ends. Even worse, UCLA is thin beyond the first
unit, desperately needing a few of the untested underclassmen to
prove their mettle.
Outlook: After finishing in the top 15 nationally
in sacks and run defense, the Bruins will be challenged to match
those rankings again in 2008. There’s ample talent on the
inside, but it’ll be next to impossible to replace the
production and energy that Davis consistently brought to the
Projected Starters: Now that Christian Taylor has
graduated, junior Reggie Carter is set to take over in
the middle and become one of the rising defensive stars of the
Pac-10. While at weakside a year ago, he had 62 tackles, 12
tackles for loss, and two sacks, numbers that don’t explain his
full potential as a defender. At 6-1 and 221 pounds, he plays
with outstanding tenacity and range, the one Bruin linebacker
who could win a starting job across town at USC.
Taking over for Carter at weakside will be senior Kyle
Bosworth, who started seven games at strongside and was
fifth on the team with 74 tackles and five tackles for loss. At
6-1 and 222 pounds, he plays very fast and very physical, making
him a candidate to occasionally be turned loose on the blitz.
The new starter at strongside is veteran John Hale, a
senior who has earned a letter following each of the last three
years. The biggest of the linebackers at 6-4 and 220 pounds, he
has starting experience, excels in run defense, and should have
few problems transitioning into a full-time role.
Projected Top Reserves: Besides Carter, the future
at the position belongs to a couple of talented redshirt
freshmen, 6-2, 231-pound Akeem Ayers and 6-3, 225-pound
Steve Sloan. The likely starter at strongside in 2009, he
plays with a high degree of athleticism and instincts beyond his
Sloan will back up Carter in the middle, soaking up all he can
as a part-time player. Another prized recruit from 2007, he
accelerates quickly to the ball and can really pack a punch.
Both young players get their feet wet this fall before playing
far more prominent roles over the next three years.
Watch Out For… Carter to explode into national
notoriety. A true playmaker from the position, he’s about to
become the star of the Bruin defense, shifting inside where
he’ll get an opportunity to make a ton of tackles and big hits
behind the line.
Strength: First team experience. The first team is
comprised of three upperclassmen with starting experience. Even
Hale, the newcomer in the lineup, has a long resume and the
savvy to smoothly transition into an expanded role.
Weakness: Second team inexperience. Ayers and
Sloan have bright futures, but they’re freshmen who’ll be prone
to freshmen mistakes. The veteran is senior Joshua Edwards,
who has played sparingly since transferring from UC-Davis.
Outlook: With Carter as the headliner, the Bruins
have a solid group of linebackers that’ll make plenty of plays
this season. The key will be for the starters to remain healthy
because depth is going to be an ongoing concern.
Projected Starters: The secondary will be breaking
in a bunch of new starters. The leader of the rebuilt group will
be junior Alterraun Verner, a lockdown cornerback who
started 11 games a year ago. A sensational all-around athlete at
5-11 and 176 pounds, he had 75 tackles, three tackles for loss,
four interceptions, and 15 passes broken up. He’s a playmaker
out of the defensive backfield who could become an All-American
before he’s through.
Although senior CB Michael Norris has played a lot of
football for the program, he’s only started a single game in
four years, making his leap into the lineup one of the big
concerns heading into the season. Undersized at 5-9 and 177
pounds, he had 13 tackles, mostly in mop-up duty. With Verner on
the other side, Norris is going to get accustomed to being
picked on by opposing quarterbacks.
Of the two new starting safeties, senior SS Bret Lockett
enters the season with more experience and a longer resume. He’s
lettered in each of the last three seasons, contributing on
special teams and pitching in 12 tackles last season. A big
hitter at 6-2 and 204 pounds, he needs to learn to play under
control and cut down on his mental errors.
At free safety, junior Aaron Ware moves into the starting
lineup after mostly appearing on special teams the last two
seasons. He’s a good all-around athlete at 6-0 and 193 pounds
who’s quick enough to hold up in coverage and tough enough to
support the run. Of the new starters, Ware has the highest
Projected Top Reserves: Feisty redshirt freshman
Courtney Viney is coming off the kind of spring that
caught the staff’s attention and earned him a spot on the
two-deep. Unfortunately, he’s inexperienced and only 5-8 and 153
pounds, meaning he’ll be limited in his ability to shut down the
Pac-10’s bigger receivers.
While he probably won’t beat out Ware at free safety, the Bruins
are excited about the future of redshirt freshman Glenn Love,
a 6-4, 207-pound athlete with the size and speed to play an
expanded role as a backup. He’s raw, but with time and reps,
could evolve into a special player at either safety position.
Watch Out For… the Bruins to make plenty of
concessions to prevent Norris from being on an island too
often. Even if it means having the safeties cheat over to help
out, UCLA will need to provide support for a player that’s
better served as a backup.
Strength: Verner. Easily the most reliable of the
defensive backs, he’s about to become the leader of the
secondary and a strong contender for All-Pac-10 honors. More
than just a good defender, he becomes an offensive player with
the ball in his hands, scoring touchdowns on picks in each of
his first two seasons.
Weakness: Preventing the big play. UCLA has had
lapses in coverage when it was loaded with veterans in the
secondary. Now that three starters must be replaced and the
newcomers are questionable, it could be a very long season for
the Bruin pass defense if it takes a while for everyone to grow
Outlook: The weak link of the UCLA defense, the
secondary is flush with question marks and uncertainty after
Verner with depth the biggest concern. In a league that still
leans on the pass, the Bruins will be ripe for the picking for
many of the Pac-10’s better passers.
Projected Starters: While there’s uncertainty
everywhere else on the roster, the Bruins can take solace in the
special teams, their most stable unit. Sophomore PK Kai
Forbath was brilliant in his first season replacing
All-American Justin Medlock, connecting on 25-of-30 field goal
attempts, including 5-of-5 outside 50 yards. A future
All-America candidate himself, he gives way on kickoffs to
junior Jimmy Rotstein, who has a slightly stronger leg.
Back for a third year as the punter is Aaron Perez, a
strong-legged senior who has gotten better with each passing
season. The 6-4, 229-pounder averaged 42.3 yards a year ago and
placed a whopping 35 punts inside the opponent’s 20, earning
honorable mention All-Pac-10 recognition for his efforts.
The glass is half empty for the return game. Although explosive
kick returner Matt Slater has departed, top punt returner
Terrence Austin. The junior is dangerous in the open field,
averaging more than 10 yards a return in each of the last two
seasons. Junior Christian Ramirez is expected to succeed
Slater on kickoffs.
Watch Out For… Austin. He almost broke through a
couple of times last year and took punts back for six. Austin
has the speed and moves in the open field to make it happen more
than once this season.
Strength: Forbath. On a team that lacks offensive
punch, he’s arguably its best weapon. Forbath was automatic in
his debut, showing the accuracy and distance that’s becoming
customary for Bruin placekickers.
Weakness: Kickoff returns. It’s splitting hairs on
a very solid unit, but going from Slater, who had three
touchdowns last season, to Ramirez is a drop-off in field
position that’s going to be felt by the offense.
Outlook: For all of his faults, former head coach
Karl Dorrell had a knack for assembling quality special teams
units. He leaves the new staff with a full cupboard that’ll be
among the best in the Pac-10 again this season.