That seems required for the Bruins to live up to expectations. Already laden with lofty preseason predictions, it will be up to the UCLA defense to be the same force it was at the end of last season -- minus the Emerald Bowl flop -- while the offense cuts its teeth.
UCLA seems capable of being that rock, as long Florida State's Bobby Bowden is nowhere in sight. They have 10 starters back from a unit that held USC to nine points and went from being 113th in total defense to 35th.
Yet whispering in the Bruins' ears is the same guy who began guiding the defense a year ago.
"We're not resting on the fact that the same guys are back," second-year defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said. "At the end of the day, we need to execute. That's what we will judge our defensive guys on, the production. We make them accountable, even the guys who were here last year."
That stump speech would seem to warn against complacency. The Bruins did finish second in the Pacific 10 Conference in total defense and gave up less than 20 points per game -- a statistic even more impressive because the 44-27 bowl disaster against Florida State is included.
The massively thick 6-foot-2, 299-pound senior defensive tackle will fill the middle of UCLA's line to stop the run and take on double-teams to create third-and-long situations and then watch from the sideline. It's the same role he had last year, but with a different attitude.
"I think I'll do it again this year, which is OK with me now," Harwell said. "I'm a hungry player. I'm selfish in that I want to be out on the field. I want to be the best defensive tackle in the country.
"I have to let my guard down and I have to trust my coaches. I want to be out there every time, but I have to roll with the punches."
Strength will not be an issue in whether or not he is successful. Harwell was playfully agitated when he said he was bummed about recently falling short of his bench-press goal of 500 pounds. For now, he will live with his 490-pound bench press, which is up nearly 70 pounds from last season.
"I could finally say that I've finally put everything together and I'm just excited to go out and dominate," said Harwell, who made 31tackles and had one sack last season. "The offseason and in the spring, and even now, I've worked on my pass-rush moves. I think this year I'll be getting more pressure on the quarterback."
Well I will give you this. Our defense at least owns Dorrell’s pathetic offense. From the OC Register:
The No. 1 offense, led by quarterback Ben Olson, failed to pick up a first down on any one of six chances, including one against the second-team defense.
Running back Kahlil Bell was dropped for a loss on their first play, and Olson then misfired on two pass plays. He threw low to flanker Terrence Austin, then behind flanker Ryan Graves. Their next set of plays started with a pass to split end Marcus Everett, which was broken up by third-team right corner Chris Meadows. Cornerback Rodney Van then made a nice play to break up a pass intended for Osaar Rasshan, and on their final play Olson threw high and over split end Gavin Ketchum, with safety Bret Lockett intercepting the errant pass.
After a strong start to the practice, sputtering at the end was frustrating.
‘’It’s tough when you do well in the beginning of practice and then tail off at the end. That’s just a lack of focus. We just weren’t executing,’’ center Chris Joseph said.
‘’It’s hot, everyone is tired. But that’s two days in a row now. That’s not an excuse. We have to get through it. We just need to learn from this and know that when you feel like that, that’s the time when you really have to get going because that’s when you get the most work done.’’
Anyways, as Dohn and Foster’s notes (linked above) we have some good news and some ominous news. The good news is that Tevaga, Brown, and (Micah) Reed returned to practice. But here is the ominous news. Brice Price is yet to be cleared. And per Dohn, "Dorrell said cornerback Courtney Viney may be the only freshman to play this season." There was so much hype around Price during last recruiting season that, it sounded like he was going to come in contribute right away. Now all that looks a little uncertain. Regardless, if DeWayne Walker is really all that, the Bruin defense should have no problem with all its returning starters.
Elsewhere, Kevin Pearson from the Press Enterprise wants you to know Markey has some news shows, and Davis/Brown have new dos:
"I wanted to switch it up a little bit," Davis said. "I'm keeping it like this for the whole year. My mom won't be too happy with it, but she'll get over it. It's a little out there and in your face, but that's me. That's my style."
Time to live up to the hype every single game.