It looks like the folks at Rivals.com have joined the BN conspiracy to tramp down expectations for next season. Rivals.com is telling UCLA football fans to not expect "a quick turnaround" (emphasis added throughout)
The schedule doesn't look to be set up for a quick turnaround. The non-conference portion includes
Tennesseein the opener and also games against BYU and . The trip to Fresno State will be the third meeting with BYU in a little more than a year; the Cougars and Bruins split two games last season. UCLA plays host to USC, but the Bruins face the rest of the Pac-10's top teams – Provo Oregon, Californiaand – on the road. Arizona State
That was from a detailed preseason preview of UCLA football, in which rivals.com ranked UCLA as no. 43 team in the nation. Here are snippets from the write up on our offense:
STRONGEST AREA: Despite the departure of Chris Markey, UCLA has a strong stable of tailbacks. But there is little experience beyond
. Redshirt freshman Raymond Carter is explosive – or was, anyway; he is returning from a major knee injury. If Bell and Carter struggle with their recoveries, four-star true freshman Aundre Dean is waiting in the wings. Bell
BIGGEST PROBLEM: New line coach Bob Palcic – who spent the past two seasons as line coach at
– has his work cut out for him. Junior tackle Micah Kia is the only sure thing on the line. The new center is senior Micah Reed, a former walk-on who started eight games at guard last season. The rest of the first-stringers are unproven: sophomore tackle Sean Sheller, sophomore guard Darius Savage and senior guard Scott Glicksberg, a converted tight end. Wisconsin
It’s interesting that they are identifying the TBs as the strength of our offense even though it features one injured returning starter, one injured returning (talented) RS frosh who has never played in a game, and an incoming true freshman. I probably would have identified WR corps as the strength of our offense where we may have most experience with players Everett, Austin, Domnique Johnson, and Gavin Kethcum. And with the incoming freshman Nelson Rosario, this could be a productive bunch.
Also the preview didn’t factor in Nick Crissman and Kevin Prince in the quarterback equation (Kevin Prince BTW will now officially enroll this fall since UCLA just made sure that a scholarship will be available for him).
In any event, Rivals.com game UCLA a "C" for it’s offense. And I don’t have much disagreement with that assessment at this point of time. As for the defense:
STRONGEST AREA: UCLA should have one of the best defensive tackle tandems in the Pac-10 and could have one of the best in the nation. Senior Brigham Harwell returns after missing all but two games last season with a knee injury. He had a combined 18 tackles for loss in 2005 and '06. He's stocky at 6-2 and 292, but has a great first step. At the other tackle spot, Brian Price is a rising star after earning Rivals.com second-team Freshman All-American honors last season. There is good depth, as well, with senior Chase Moline and juniors Jess Ward and Jerzy Siewierski.
BIGGEST PROBLEM: Junior cornerback Alterraun Verner (four interceptions last season) is the only returning starter in the secondary. Two seniors and a junior will enter fall camp as the other starters – Lockett at strong safety, senior Michael Norris at corner and junior Aaron Ware at free safety. However, a talented group of redshirt and true freshmen are lurking. Redshirts Glenn Love and Courtney Viney are in the hunt at free safety and cornerback, respectively. The Bruins also signed four four-star defensive backs.
I would add that for defense the depth at LB will be a key issue for us. Kids like Akeem Ayers and Steve Sloan will have to step up in a big way this coming season. May be a kid like Donovan Carter or Patrick Larimore will be able to come in and contribute right away. But I am not going hold my breath over that prospect.
The defense got a "B+" in Rival’s assessment. I would have given the Special Team’s higher than "B" though. As they wrote we already have "one of the top kicking tandems" in the Pac-10 and don’t forget CRN brought in experienced special teams coach Frank Gansz, Jr, who will hopefully make that unit better than previous years.
Overall, here is their overall outlook for our season:
Neuheisel's presence should heat up the UCLA-USC rivalry – on the field, on the recruiting trail and in the media. His first season won't be easy, though. The schedule is daunting and the offense is unsettled. Injuries at quarterback are becoming as much a tradition as the Bruins' powder-blue jerseys. While a Pac-10 title is at least a couple of seasons away, UCLA has the overall talent and coaching staff to surprise this season.
In other words, while we shouldn’t expect any miracles, there are enough reasons to be optimistic about a good season setting the foundation for a championship in couple of years.
Speaking of our recent discussions, the LA Times blogger for "What’s Bruin" attempted to put together a rundown of recent discussion with the following money quote:
Bruins Nation properly engages SMQ with a post called Bring Out the Tin Foil Hats
Note that blogger – Adam Rose – is a graduate of
Interesting. Isn’t? The kind of perspective you get from those (even from Trojans) who are not circling the wagons (to advance conventional wisdom within certain parts of the internets).