We will start this week with a little of focus on football. We ended the last week with heavy doses of reality by discussing expectations for next season. Well, it seems like the folks at College Football News in their UCLA preview are channeling some of our thoughts by warning people not to get too carried away with expectations for this coming season:
The season will be a success if ... the Bruins win seven games and earn a bowl invite. Don’t get carried away with the expectations just because a new and exciting staff is in town. UCLA has a ton of holes on both sides of the ball, making a 13th game and a competitive effort in Pac-10 play a good opening for Neuheisel & Co. before they really kick things into gear in 2009.
Key game: Sept. 13 at BYU. While the opener against Tennessee could be a statement game if the Bruins can pull it off, it’ll be the BYU showdown that’ll be a measuring stick. It’ll be a battle against a familiar foe and one of the best non-BCS programs of the upcoming season. The schools met twice last year with UCLA winning in the regular season and BYU taking the Las Vegas Bowl.
That sounds about right. Also CFN preview correctly points our inexperience in the secondary as a key question mark for next season (along with the obvious ones wrt to our QBs and OL):
Key players to a successful season: The rebuilt secondary. Aside from CB Alterraun Verner, this is a very suspect unit that could get toasted on a weekly basis without a big season from the pass rush. If opposing quarterbacks know they can pick apart this patchwork group, it’ll take something special from the front seven to save the pass defense. Verner needs help, or else he’ll have a very lonely and quiet fall.
The preview has the obligatory reference to all the drama around Ben Olson:
The team will be far better if… Ben Olson finally performs like the quarterback that every major program had to have six years ago. If he can put it all together under the watchful eye of Chow, it’ll have a ripple effect throughout the entire offense. The Bruin receivers can be a lot more than they’ve shown in recent seasons, but they need a partner that can stay healthy and distribute the ball with a limited number of mistakes. Olson, who hasn’t shown much of anything so far, has to be that guy for a hit-or-miss UCLA offense.
Don’t forget as amazing as Chow is supposed to be this is Olson’s 4th OC in four years. So I am not sure exactly how much we can expect out of Olson. One kid who will try to step up is Kevin Craft. However, as pointed out in this LA Times profile on Kevin Craft last Friday, that even Kraft is going through his 3rd OC in three years:
While it's not unheard-of for junior college quarterbacks to make it on the NCAA Division I level, "most coaches want to bring in a quarterback, have him sit out a year to learn the system," Long says. "It has to be challenging for Kevin to be learning his third system in three years."
That showed out on the practice field this spring from start to finish. Craft was erratic, completing 11 of 24 passes for 95 yards with one touchdown pass and one pass intercepted, throughout the spring game.
"I went to practice one day and I didn't even recognize Kevin," Tom Craft says. "He just didn't look comfortable. I could tell he needed to relax."
Still, there were flashes. "He had six or seven throws that were really accomplished throws over the course of spring practice," Neuheisel says. "That doesn't sound like a big number, but those were throws you don't really see real often, even in the NFL."
Offensive coordinator Norm Chow says of Craft's spring: "He's learning a new offense, he's learning his teammates, he's learning where his classes are. He's a work in progress."
He will be a work in progress just like his entire team.