SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  UCLA Bruins

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Karl Dorrell (1st year)
2002 record: 8-5 (Beat New Mexico 27-13 Las Vegas Bowl)
Pac-10 finish: T-4th
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 127.5 ypg
(6ht in Pac-10, 81st in nation)
Pass: 229.6 ypg (8th, 50th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 129.5 ypg (8th, 35th)
Pass: 228.2 ypg (4th, 77th)
Projected Starters
Offense (6 returning starters in bold)
SE   87   Craig Bragg   Jr.  
FL   8   Junior Taylor  So. 
LT   73   Ed Blanton   So.  
LG   64   Eyoseph Efseaff   Jr.  
C   59   Mike McCloskey   So.  
RG  76  Steven Vieira  Jr. 
RT  74  Paul Mociler  Jr. 
TE  89  Keith Carter  So. 
QB  14  Drew Olson  So. 
FB   29   Manuel White   Jr.  
TB   2   Tyler Ebell   So.  
Defense (7)
DE  49  Mat Ball  Sr. 
DT   77   Rodney Leisle   Sr.  
DT  75  Ryan Boschetti  Sr. 
DE   43   Dave Ball   Sr.  
SLB   11   Brandon Chillar   Sr.  
MLB  Justin London  So. 
WLB   41   Spencer Havner   So.  
CB  Matt Clark  Jr. 
CB   17   Matt Ware   Jr.  
SS   4   Jarrad Page   So.  
FS   24   Ben Emanuel II   Jr.  
Special Teams
Justin Medlock  Fr. 
39  Chris Kluwe  Jr. 
KR  Tyler Ebell  So. 
PR  87  Craig Bragg  Jr. 
2003 Schedule
Sept. 6  at Colorado 
Sept. 13  Illinois 
Sept. 20  at Oklahoma 
Sept. 27  San Diego State 
Oct. 4  Washington 
Oct. 11  at Arizona 
Oct. 18  California 
Oct. 25  Arizona State 
Nov. 1  at Stanford 
Nov. 8  at Washington State 
Nov. 15  Oregon 
Nov. 22  at USC 
When Karl Dorrell returned to his alma mater for the first time in 15 years as UCLA's new head coach, he found everything on campus rather intact -- including the football team. If Dorrell was expecting a massive rebuilding project, he was pleasantly surprised. The Bruins appear polished for Pac-10 contention.

UCLA has a new coaching staff and a fresh approach, but returns the same core that won eight games and captured the Las Vegas Bowl last season. The Bruins welcome back 14 starters, and even though they don't have many standouts, they are solid at almost every position. They expect to improve upon last year's 8-5 finish, which got coach Bob Toledo fired.

"There were fragments on this team in the past," Dorrell said. "Our guys want to improve chemistry, be close and rely on each other. I have to build trust and make this a close-knit family. That's the bottom line. I want to build the family aspect back into the program."

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

When UCLA finds a quarterback, everything else should fall neatly into place. Sophomores Drew Olson and Matt Moore are competing, not only for the starting job, but also for the right to utilize the Bruins' many offensive playmakers.

"The quarterbacks are my main concern," Dorrell said. "Since they don't have much experience, it's going to be very intriguing."

UCLA's leading running back, 5-foot-9 Tyler Ebell, will be complemented by 6-3 power runner Manuel White. The Bruins also will add top recruit Maurice Drew to a talented sophomore class that brings plenty of depth.

The receiving corps suffered a blow when star Tab Perry failed to meet academic requirements, but Craig Bragg is a proven deep threat. Marcedes Lewis, a 6-6 tight end, also is hoping to show why he was the most-recruited player at his position two years ago.

UCLA has plenty of skill, but will need to get stronger on the offensive line. Three starters return, though Steven Vieira moved from right guard to left tackle during spring practice to shore up a potential weakness.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

The strength of the UCLA defense starts up front, with tackles Rodney Leisle and Ryan Boschetti, as well as twin defensive ends Dave and Mat Ball, all of whom are quality pass rushers.

Also, the Bruins are expecting to stuff the run because linebackers Brandon Chillar and Spencer Havner are returning with quality experience. The only questionable spots in the defense will be at middle linebacker and one cornerback position.

Matt Ware gives UCLA a shutdown corner, and Ben Emanuel II and Jarrad Page force turnovers at safety, but the Bruins will have to replace vocal leader Ricky Manning with either Matt Clark or Glenn Ohaeri.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

UCLA has a talented punter and kicker, but no one has seen them before. Punter Chris Kluwe and kicker Justin Medlock were highly rated recruits who have little game experience because Nate Fikse and Chris Griffith played the past four years. The return men, Bragg and Perry, are proven big-play commodities and should give special teams a turbo boost.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

New coaches usually need a year or two to install their offensive and defensive system. UCLA, however, is ready to contend right now. Dorrell and his assistants should bring some fresh enthusiasm, and the Bruins return the same nucleus that won eight games last season and won the Las Vegas Bowl.

Although the Bruins could take some hits early in the season at Colorado and Oklahoma, they should feast on a relatively soft conference schedule, which brings the toughest teams to the Rose Bowl. If UCLA can find a quarterback who doesn't make many mistakes and can convert short passes to talented playmakers, the Bruins could contend for the Pac-10 right until the end.

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