Let’s start our walk by going over to the "UCLA Blog" at the Register. Adam Maya has put together a list (everyone goes ga ga over lists during this time of year) of "5 things that will make UCLA a winning team." I will share couple of the items from that list:
5. If UCLA plays its freshmen …
When the freshmen play, everyone else plays harder. Playing time becomes a matter of survival. No one is comfortable, making competition no longer an ideal but the culture. That might have been cultivated in the spring when there was a board posted every day in the locker room breaking down each player’s performance.
You might tire of hearing about USC, but playing freshmen is a major reason why Pete Carroll was able to turn the program around. Shaun Cody, Mike Patterson, Mike Williams, Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Steve Smith, Dwayne Jarrett, all of which were All Americans and all played significantly as freshman. More recently, Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing and Taylor Mays, the Trojans’ three best defensive players, have followed suit.
UCLA has a good start with defensive tackle Brian Price and kicker Kai Forbath, two sophomores named to freshman All-American teams last year. The Bruins had an excellent recruiting class, ranked in the top-10, nationally. Now we need to see several of these kids play to allow for some of them to make valuable, if unexpected, contributions.
4. If defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker can build a formidable secondary …
The linebackers are going to be the strength of the defense. The defensive line appears in very good shape. The defensive backs are a total mystery. Cornerback Alterraun Verner is one of the best in the Pac-10, but after that, who knows? It is an inexperienced group.
is in his third year at UCLA. His defenses the past two years have been better against the run than the pass, but that probably had to do more with personnel than with Walker, a secondary coach for three NFL teams. With five prep All-Americans now on board, this can be the area in which that freshmen class makes its biggest impact. They might have to playing in this conference, where the Bruins cannot win if they cannot keep opponents off the board. Walker
The main thing I take issue here is with Adam claiming how LBers are going to be strength of our defense. I don’t believe that argument holds if you take a look at the depth chart heading into the Fall camp. Yes, we have Reggie Carter anchoring this unit. But we need to remember Reggie is also taking over for the heart and soul of this defense from last two years. As I pointed out before Reggie has to lot more than use his athleticism and speed this season. He is also going to have play the role of defense’s QB from his Mike position.
Also there are questions about this unit. Kids like Kyle Bosworth and John Hale can be serviceable contributors but not spectacular. There are opportunities for a kid like Akeem Ayers and Chiononso Anyanwu to emerge but I think it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to call this unit that "strength of the defense" given the questions heading into this Fall camp. Otherwise, I do agree with the assertion that freshmen will have to make some contributions this season, and we will probably see it coming in the defensive backfield (out of necessity given the loss of all the starters and experience from this past season).
It will be interesting to see how our defense develops. DeWayne Walker has been building a solid resume from his two years at UCLA. Ted Miller anointed him as the best coordinator in the conference (after taking Norm Chow out of the equation since he is at a different level than anyone else) on his WWL blog:
DeWayne Walker, defensive coordinator, UCLA: He's worked with Pete Carroll, Joe Gibbs and Bill Belichick. His Bruins defenses have finish in the top-four in the conference in both scoring and total defense each of the past two seasons. He's a good recruiter. Can be grumpy, but Rick Neuheisel surely will bring the sunshine out of him.
Well Neuheisel will certainly not shy away from bringing his guys in the spotlight as noted in his comments re. scheduling philosophy to Brian Dohn:
"You should play one marquee non-conference game a year," Neuheisel said. "One marquee game that you are guaranteed a national audience and give your fans that intersectional game where they go every other year to a big name place and those other two games, you have a great chance to be successful. ...What you don't want to do is put yourself in harm's way of missing the post season because you over scheduled the non-conference."
I asked Neuheisel about moving the
game to the opener and making it so there are seven straight games (Sept. 13-Oct. 25) without a bye, and he said it was worth the reward. Tennessee
"But I get 12 days between game one and game two, which is where you get your biggest improvement,'' he said. "I was going to play
anyway and now I get a marquee game where they are talking about UCLA for a week on the most watched sports network (ESPN) and we're getting publicity and if you can answer it with a good performance you can parlay that." Tennessee
One, two, three … he said "parlay" … how long will it take for the first snarky retort in the MSM in reaction to that comment? Anyway, speaking of
UCLA's first football opponent this season should have a pretty good recruiting class.
You'd think so, considering that
spends more on recruiting athletes than any other school in the nation. In 2006-07, it dropped more than $2 million. Notre Dame was second at about $1.75 million. Tennessee
With most of the costs going to travel, the median Division 1 program spent $632,600 on all sports recruiting in 2006-07. Twenty-one schools each spent more than $1 million. The findings are published in a report from the Chronicle of Higher Education dated Aug. 1, 2008.
UCLA was close to the median at $641,500. It also had one of the highest percentages spent on recruiting women. About $238,000, or 37% of the recruiting budget, went toward finding female athletes to become Bruins.
Some familiar basketball programs made the top-20 in spending, including Duke,
Florida, Ohio State, Syracuse, Texas, Michigan Stateand . Kentucky
I wouldn’t mind UCLA investing some more resources on recruiting. But then again I think right now our resources should be spent on more pressing projects such as restoring Pauley and improving the Jackie Robinson Stadium. Anyone who have been blessed to spend 4-5 (6?) years as a student in Westwood, knows first hand why it doesn’t take a much to make kid fall in love with a paradise cushioned in between Santa Monica, Brentwood and Bel Air/Palisades.