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Spaulding Roundup: Early Thoughts On Expectations For 2009 Season

So apparently there was an eathquake in LA last night. It was around 4.7. At least from the reports sound like it was a standard So Cal rattler. Nevertheless hope everyone is doing all right if you were impacted by it. We will start the Monday with few clips regarding the expectations around our football team which will brace for another shaky season (but a better one than the first one) this past season. Since the end of spring practice few Pac-10 observers have offered up their capsule thoughts wrt to expectations for next season. They range from UCLA being a surprise team to one facing another rebuilding year (because of the kind of state it was left under the previous regime).

We will start with the hopeful vibe coming from John Wilner (former UCLA beat writer for the Daily News) of the San Jose Mercury News. Wilner recently came out with his Pac-10 projections for 2009 in which he listed UCLA as his "sleeper pick" and the 4th best team in the conference:

My sleeper pick … I figure at least one team will finish higher than expected and at least one will finish lower than expected — happens every year. Three reasons I picked the Bruins for the upside surprise 1) they have a very good defense with all-leaguers in every unit 2) the second year with Norm Chow’s playbook, and 3) an improved offensive line. Bottom line: Four or five teams could finish fourth. Or there could be a four-team tie at, say, 4-5. The Bruins are in that cluster.

Ted Miller of WWL also thinks UCLA could be the "surprise" team of the Pac. However, he is being lot more realistic listing UCLA as the 7th best team in the conference (at least at this snap shot of time):

7. UCLA: UCLA could be the surprise team in the Pac-10 this year. There are a lot of reasons to like the Bruins, particularly on defense. But the offense is, charitably, a work in progress. Quarterback Kevin Prince played poorly in three scrimmages, and the problems on the offensive line went unsolved.

Ultimately it will be the play of our OL and Kevin Prince that will decide where we finish next season. Plus there is the issue of depth given the mediocre recruiting of previous coaching staff that left this program in a pretty big hole. Given those factors Adam Maya from the OC Register is realistically calling the talks of an 8 win season a little delusional:

Prince is certainly an upgrade, maybe even a big one.

On the line, the Bruins are three-fifths of the way toward having a legitimate starting lineup. Center Kai Maiava, tackle Sean Sheller, and Jeff Baca, who can play all three positions, are good enough to start at other schools.

The Bruins’ problem is they don’t have two other players good enough to start at their school. True freshmen and JC transfers will probably have to do for now, and even they should signal an improvement given their four-star profiles.

It all makes for a respectable UCLA team. I’ve heard some writers who regularly cover the team say it might win eight games. Uh, no. Not after the spring game made clear the defense will again be counted on to keep UCLA in most games and perhaps win a few.

The Bruins, as any one of their coaches will tell you, severely lack depth, much less the talent needed to win two-thirds of their games. That’s without even looking at the schedule. In fact, there’s only seven games UCLA can win — San Diego State, Kansas State, at Stanford, at Arizona, Washington, at Washington State, Arizona State.

Last year, UCLA’s best/worst-case scenario ranged from 4-8 to 6-6. This year it’s slightly better: 5-7 to 7-5. I say they finish .500 and earn a bowl bid.

I think that sounds about right to me.

Funny though. Adam best/worst case scenario is almost exactly in line with what we had projected last season. And yet remember the firestorm that generated leading some to baselessly observe as if we were intentionally setting low bars for Neuheisel. Looks like we shouldn't have the same issue this year. Last year's season made it very clear the kind of talent drain UCLA program had suffered from as a result of the mediocre efforts of the previous regime.

As Adam said, I think we are AT LEAST an year away from emerging as a major factor in this conference. Still I think we can all expect a better season this coming year. If we can sneak into a bowl game this season, it will be as meaningful as that first round tourney appearance in Howland's second season at UCLA.