UCLA Coach Terry Donahue sat in his office and stared at a clipping from a Nebraska newspaper that listed the Huskers' spring depth chart. "Ten fullbacks? Seven nose-guards?" he said in amazement. "That's not a depth chart. That's the free world."
It was May, a little early to be pondering the third game of the season, but Donahue couldn't be blamed. Besides, thinking about the Bruins' Sept. 24 visit to Lincoln took Donahue's mind off his first two games—at Georgia on Sept. 3 and at home against Fiesta Bowl winner Arizona State on Sept. 17. Later come games against Brigham Young, Arizona and USC. "It is," says Free Safety Don Rogers, "a serious schedule."
And UCLA, the Pac-10 champ and Rose Bowl winner last year when it went 10-1-1, must compensate for some serious personnel losses, including Tom Ramsey, the best quarterback in the conference who wasn't named Elway. Even Donahue was nearly a casualty. He turned down an offer to coach the USFL Arizona Wranglers and was interviewed by the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Rams. "I would call the off-season rather hectic," says Donahue.
Which isn't a bad way to describe the Bruins' quarterback situation in spring practice. Donahue had four candidates calling signals, and when the dust cleared, junior Steve Bono and senior Rick Neuheisel, Ramsey's backup last year, had emerged as the top contenders. At 6'3", 206 pounds, Bono is easily the most physically gifted of the four quarterbacks. Neuheisel has the most experience and runs the team the best. Sophomore Dave Norrie has the best touch as a passer, while freshman Matt Stevens, who was redshirted in 1982, probably has the best arm. "Each of them has something we're looking for," says Donahue. "But maybe that's an indication we don't have the one we want."
He has the tight end he wants in Paul Bergmann, who's as good as any in the conference. In his first two seasons Bergmann didn't catch a pass. Last year he hauled in 41, and Donahue built his pass offense around him. Don Mahlstedt, who would've started at tackle, left college a year early to attend morticians school, but the offensive line shouldn't be moribund as long as Duval Love, UCLA's best blocker up front, is at tackle. Love's teammates call him Fatburger in recognition of his patronage of a fast-food eatery of the same name near the Bruin campus. "I usually eat eight or nine double cheeseburgers," says Love, "when I have the money."
He'd best not volunteer to treat his colleagues after games this year, because there could be a good many hungry mouths to feed. Donahue is thinking of alternating two offensive lines, sometimes on a series-to-series basis, as he did when he was offensive line coach under Dick Vermeil in 1975. He will also play six or seven running backs in an effort to improve a ground game that was largely ineffective last season, when eight backs accumulated only 1,643 yards. Look for junior Danny Andrews to be foremost among the '83 ballcarriers if Kevin Nelson continues to be nagged by injuries.
Defensively the line is a question mark. At least half of the secondary, however, is an exclamation point with Rogers and Cornerback Lupe Sanchez, perhaps UCLA's best all-around athlete. Lee Knowles and Ron Butler are solid inside linebackers, and junior Neal Dellocono has been a fixture at outside linebacker since escaping the clutches of LSU. despite having been born and raised only four miles from its Baton Rouge campus.
Last season, for the first time in a long spell, most of the breaks seemed to fall UCLA's way. For instance, to make the Rose Bowl for only the second time since 1966, the Bruins needed a 20-19 win over USC and improbable late-season upsets of Washington by Washington State and Arizona State by Arizona. "There was a feeling of destiny about last year," says Bergmann, "and we think it can continue." Those first three games could determine that.