We are getting close. College football officially kicks off tonight with two games on ESPN 2 and ESPN, one of them involving the ole bawl coach at USC. Meanwhile, looks like the media around Southern California are finally picking up on the theme we have been hitting hard on relentlessly ever since the season ended at the Coliseum (oh yeah we played at some silly bowl game at some dead town in Texas ... whatever): this is it for Karl Dorrell. This is the year he has to provide some definitive evidence that he is making discernible progress in Westwood:
Daily News columnist Steve Dilbeck writes how the buck stops at Dorrell's desk:
Dorrell will begin his fourth season as the UCLA coach when the Bruins play host to Utah on Saturday.
Plaudits for success, howls over failure, will now come squarely back to the former UCLA receiver who has sometimes experienced rather public growing pains during his first stint as a head coach.
There are only seven players left from the Bob Toledo regime, only three of whom are expected to start.
These Bruins are his players now, running his system, directed by his staff. There is no more interim period, no unspoken lowered expectations as a team and staff and head coach develop.
Saturday marks the beginning of Dorrell's fourth season as the UCLA head coach, and four years is where lines are drawn and judgments made.
Steve Bisheff of OC Register also writes about the doubts in the Bruins Nation about a coach who still hasn't proven himself:
Then his record-breaking quarterback and All-America tight end departed for the pros, and his big-play tailback left early for the NFL, as well. Six assistants either were fired or took jobs elsewhere.
Now all Dorrell is being asked to do is prove 2005 wasn't a fluke.
"All my life I still have had to prove it," said Dorrell, who is 22-15 overall at UCLA. "I'm still doing it."
He can end the murky speculation once and for all this season. He can finally define his status, while cheering up the boosters and silencing his critics.
He merely has to repeat the success of last season.
Speaking of Saturday while everyone is anxious to see the defense under new DC, there will be lots of interesting storylines around the offense under Ben Olson. Offense seems to be focus of news and notes this morning elsewhere in the morning papers:
Kuwada (OC Register) has a story on Center Robert Chai's responsibility to look out for the new quarterback.
Lonnie White has a report on Junior Taylor. The veteran sounds ready for Saturday:
A less-than-100% Taylor is still a very good receiver, and Coach Karl Dorrell said he earned the starting split end job in training camp.
"He wasn't looking great early, but at this point in time he looks very close to where he was before his injury," Dorrell said about Taylor, who is 20th on the school's career reception list with 78. "He's really come along."
While JT is preparing for his final campaign freshmen phenom Terrance Austin is itching for his debut. From the Daily News:
At 5-foot-11 and 162 pounds, Austin isn't as physically big as those glorified receivers when they were freshmen, but expectations for the prized recruit from Long Beach Poly are just as grand. A true freshman, Austin already has cemented a place in the receivers' rotation. He originally was named UCLA's punt returner, although head coach Karl Dorrell reversed that decision Monday. With his speed and a little game experience, that could change.
Austin knows he has a lot of work to do if he wants to add his name to UCLA's all-time receiving greats.
"There's always people that are going to have high expectations for you, and you definitely want to live up to that," Austin said. "I think about it a lot. Nobody wants to be known as the guy that's a bust. To me, it's a plus if I can come out and perform well my freshman season and contribute some way, whether it's just getting a couple plays a game."
Cannot wait till Saturday. Less than 60 hours to go now.