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Judgment Year

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:

It's Karl Dorrell's team now. His players and coaches. His program to rise or fall.

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.
Yeap, if Dorrell doesn't win 9 games and beat SC, there will be no one else to blame.

Steve Bisheff of OC Register also writes about the doubts in the Bruins Nation about a coach who still hasn't proven himself:
Karl Dorrell went 10-2 at UCLA, and still Bruins boosters grumbled that luck had a lot to do with some of those close, comeback victories. For one happy season, he elevated the program back where it used to be, and all the critics wanted to talk about was that 66-19 bludgeoning USC laid on him.

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.
Sounds just right.  We are going to start finding the answers starting Saturday.

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:
"I'm still getting strength back," Taylor said. "It hasn't even been a year yet since I suffered the injury. The knee is good enough to play, but I know it's going to be another year before I'll be completely feeling right again."

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."
Earlier this week there was a great story on Taylor bonded with Bozeman and followed the hoops teams. Taylor related lot to the senior hoops leader who had a memorable exit from Westwood after recovering from injuries.  We are all rooting for JT to have a Ced like experience in 2006.

While JT is preparing for his final campaign freshmen phenom Terrance Austin is itching for his debut. From the Daily News:
As Terrence Austin sprints out of the Rose Bowl tunnel for the first time Saturday, UCLA fans surely will have visions of J.J. Stokes, Brian Poli-Dixon and Tab Perry dashing through their heads.

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."
Uh, not sure if he wants to have legacy of Brian Poli-Dixon, but matching up to the other guys yeah that would be good. I can't wait to see to this kid catching a Olson slant pattern in stride and then ... well this will take sometime.

Cannot wait till Saturday. Less than 60 hours to go now.