Pac-10 Media Day came and went and shockingly (not) there wasn't any surprises. Sounds like everything pretty much went along the script. The coaches and player reps. (Reggie Carter aboved represented our Bruins) came to the day long press conference and shared with the reporters what they have already been sharing with their beat writers all season long. They also released the "picks" for the season and there wasn't anything new in that list as well. The reporters picked UCLA to finish 7th in the conference which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone here given what we have been discussing regarding almost consensus expectations for 2009 season.
Right now given all the unknown factors around our team we could finish anywhere from 4th and 7th in the conference. No body knows and I don't blame the reporters to peg UCLA at 7th, given the season we had last year. Neuheisel for his part is being pragmatic about season expectations:
"I'd be disappointed if we didn't make the postseason," Neuheisel said Thursday at Pacific-10 Conference media day. "I would hope (for six wins)."
To get there, the Bruins need to break even. It means with a less-than-daunting nonconference schedule, in which San Diego State and Kansas State visit the Rose Bowl, UCLA travels to rebuilding Tennessee and several key conference games at home, the measuring stick is 6-6.
"The worst we can do is just a bowl game," Bruins senior linebacker Reggie Carter said. "That's the worst I will accept. We can't go under .500 or under six wins. We need six wins, at least."
I think that is pretty good place for UCLA to be at this time of the year. Given the factors we have discussed this year no one really knows for sure where we are going to be at the end of the year. So I have no problem with the Bruins being projected to finish so low. It will make the season more fun as we will be flying under the radar all year and head into the recruiting season with a lot of momentum if coaches show they have made tangible progress in their second year similar to what Coach Howland pulled off in his second season in Westwood. I like whhere we are.
They key to this season of course will be whether the offense will be able to take a step forward from last year's dismal injury riddled season:
"If defense wins championships, we will have the best defense. If our offense can just hold onto the ball, there's no reason we shouldn't be able to compete for a Pac-10 championship."
Speaking of holding on to the ball, more on our offense after the jump.
It will have to start with the Bruins getting servicable performance from their OL and generate a credible running game. From the LA Times:
"We're going to be able to run the ball or die trying this year," Coach Rick Neuheisel said.
While that may sound like a death sentence -- the Bruins averaged 2.6 yards a carry last season -- Neuheisel's confidence comes from, "weight room and freshmen."
Neuheisel said the off-season conditioning program has made the Bruins stronger on the offensive line and the "freshmen coming in are showing that they are as advertised athletically."
Xavier Su'a-Filo, who is 6 feet 4, 310 pounds, and Stanley Hasiak, at 6-5, 318, may or may not win starting spots, but they will increase competition. Meanwhile, Kai Maiava, a transfer from Colorado, has already locked down the center spot.
The new players, Neuheisel said, will make life easier on new quarterback Kevin Prince, a redshirt freshman who won the job in spring.
"Assuming that [the running game] goes well, then the throwing game will open itself, especially the play-action throwing game," Neuheisel said.
Coach did sound very hopeful about this new quarterback:
Neuheisel addressed questions about Prince at the Pac 10 Media Day in Los Angeles and didn’t waiver from his decision to pick Prince as his starter.
"I think he’s very composed," Neuheisel said. "He’s wise beyond his years. He’s got all of the physical things. His arm is dangerous at all portions of the field. He’s got a great grasp of the offense. He understands defense and how they play."
That sounds like a pretty solid vote of confidence. We will have to see how Prince measures up in the coming weeks. For more on yesterday's festivities make sure to check out the videos posted by telemachus and the LA Times youtube highlights over here.