Bruce Feldman, the senior college football columnist from CBSSports.com, who we happen to believe is one of the more astute national observers in the game, recently answered an interesting question in his weekly mailbag:
From @BruCam87: UCLA has a much more difficult schedule next year. Will they be a better team next year yet with possibly a worse record?
I think UCLA should be better. The young, promising O-line, which started three freshmen and a sophomore, and obviously, a gifted, young, dynamic QB in Brett Hundley, are the biggest reasons. Also, getting stud OLB Anthony Barr (21 1/2 tackles for a loss) and leading tackler Eric Kendricks (149 tackles) back to spark the defense is big. The middle of the defense also is back. The secondary, though, is a concern.
The Bruins will also really miss standout RB Johnathan Franklin and big TE Joe Fauria. I'm told watch out for redshirt freshman RB Paul Perkins, a former sprinter from Arizona. "He's the real deal," one Bruin source told me this week. Shaq Evans blossomed this season and had almost 900 yards of receiving, and there are some other good young wideouts in the program.
Beyond the personnel, I think you have to factor in the added time spent with the Jim Mora regime by a program that has been energized by youth. Last year, at one point, the Bruins were starting nine freshmen, which, along with Mora's regime's more competitive persona, speaks to the new foundation in Westwood.
Note Feldman didn't take the bait of lowering expectations for next year by suggesting Bruins will win less than 9 games in Mora's second season at UCLA.
Feldman's answer is consistent with gbruin's first impressions and tasser10's closer look at next year's schedule. The bottom line is that in his second year, UCLA should be a better team with a more seasoned Brett Hundley and an experienced offensive line, which has received a large dose of talent infusion thanks to the recruiting (and coaching) of super assistant Adrian Klemm.
We are not going to put a number on expected wins for next season yet. But as gbruin noted despite a more challenging schedule, every game appears winnable for the Bruins. Looks like the weekly eye test analysis in this community are going to be very interesting next Fall. The criteria we have been using to judge the performances of the team last two years, will ultimately give us some good ideas whether the team is on the "right track" during Mora's second year in Westwood.
But as Feldman noted above, the foundation is there for the Bruins to be better than they were this year. That would entail putting together tough-fought, inspired performances every game, without piling up silly penalties, mistakes, and conservative play calling decisions. It would also entail not having games like we did against Cal, Baylor and Stanford (the first game), when our team didn't bother showing up.
Mora and his staff gave us a glimpse of this program's potential in games against Nebraska, Arizona and Southern Cal. If the Bruins can replicate that kind of performances week to week next year, we feel good about our chances next year. Oh don't forget wrt our outline of early expectations - that includes taking care of business in our last regular game of the season.