UCLA Postcard (cont.)
Posted: Monday August 20, 2007 4:38PM; Updated: Tuesday August 21, 2007 6:38PM
2. Markey will quietly be the most complete tailback in the Pac-10. It should be hard for a running back to lead his team in rushing (1,107 yards) and receptions (35), but somehow Markey did it. "Yeah, I rushed for over a 1,000 yards, but it was a quiet 1,000 yards," says Markey. "I feel like I was more of a workhorse. This year my role will be much bigger in the offense."
Markey will play a larger role partly out of necessity, as the Bruins don't have much depth at the position. Behind Markey, the Bruins have Kahlil Bell -- who gained 239 yards last season, nearly half of it coming against Rice -- and walk-on Ryen Carew. That's fine with Markey, who patterns his game after Marshall Faulk as a runner and receiver out of the backfield.
"I have personal goals and I feel that I need to step my game up for this team to be successful," says Markey. "I plan on rushing for over 1,500 yards and over 15 touchdowns. I feel like that kind of production would help out this team a lot."
3. If used properly, Osaar Rasshan could become the next Drew Bennett. If the name doesn't ring a bell, don't worry, it shouldn't. Rasshan, a 6-foot-4, 212-pound converted quarterback has yet to see the field after two seasons biding his time as a third-string signal caller. That all changed during summer workouts, when Rasshan realized he needed to make a change.
"I contemplated leaving but I realized I was a Bruin, so I sacrificed for the better of the team," says Rasshan. "So I went to coach and asked him if I could switch positions."
Rasshan gained inspiration for his move from Bennett, who was a similarly sized walk-on quarterback at UCLA and didn't switch to wide receiver until his junior year. "I saw what he did and figured if he could do it, so can I," said Rasshan. "Being a quarterback, I understand the offense better than the receivers, so getting into the swing of things has been a lot easier."
While the Bruins are led by a trio of seniors at wide receiver who figure to receive most of the attention, Rashaan has looked impressive during practices, making several one-handed catches. At the very least for the Bruins, having a quarterback slotted at a receiver will certainly cause defensive coordinators to take notice of possible gadget plays.
"He has a chance to be a real integral part of the offense," says Dorrell. "He's really eager to help out."
So much has changed since Ben Olson was the nation's top recruit five years ago. He went on a two-year Mormon mission, transferred from BYU to UCLA, suffered injuries the last two seasons while competing for the starting job and got married in May. Olson's career, which began with so much promise and fanfare, certainly hasn't always gone the way he's planned, but things are beginning to look up for the 24-year-old veteran.
He began camp as the starting quarterback for the first time in his collegiate career and is beginning to look like the quarterback that many hailed as the best prep signal-caller to come out of California since John Elway.
"It's my time now," he says. "It's been tough. I knew I couldn't get too down on myself. Injuries are a part of the game. You just have to keep fighting and if you do, good things will happen for you."
Keep an eye on ...
Wide receiver Joe Cowan. If Olson is to keep his job, it may depend on the success of back QB Pat Cowan's older brother, Joe, who returns after sitting out last season with an injured right knee. Cowan, who was a starting receiver in 2005, was a safety net for quarterback Drew Olson (no relation to Ben), as 22 of his 35 catches went for first downs.
"Joe is going to be a huge asset for us," says Olson. "He's a guy who has a lot of experience and he's somebody we missed last year and we're expecting great things from him this season."
Unlike their boisterous cross-town counterparts, UCLA's practices are often as subdued as a review session at the nearby college library. While the team went through two-a-day practices on Spaulding Field, more noise was made by construction workers in the distance than the players and coaches on the field. That quickly changed, however, when the offense scrimmaged against the defense, bringing out the trash-talking side of defensive coordinator Dewayne Walker. "Hey coach," Walker shouted at offensive coordinator Jay Novell. "Please throw the fade on me. I'm begging you." ... While receivers coach Eric Scott is back with the team after being put on administrative leave following his arrest in July, Dorrell says that he enjoyed his short time doubling as the receivers coach. "My arm was sore, but it was getting in shape, the zip's coming back and I got a nice spiral going," said Dorrell. "The guys told me my arm was right up there with Ben's."
2 of 2