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Pregame Guesses: Fall Camp In San Bernardino Edition

Depeche Mode Route 66 (via fasedown)

It winds from Chicago to L.A.,
More than two thousand miles all the way.
Get your kicks on route sixty-six.

Now you go through Saint Looey
Joplin, Missouri,
And Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.
You see Amarillo,
Gallup, New Mexico,
Flagstaff, Arizona.
Don't forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino.

Won't you get hip to this timely tip:
When you make that California trip
Get your kicks on Route 66.

The video above is Depeche Mode's version of Bobby Troup's rock classic "Route 66." There are a lot of versions of the song -- including the Nat King Cole's and the Rolling Stones -- but I went with Depeche Mode's 1987 take because we won 10 games that year with Troy Aikman at quarterback.

Now, Jim Mora is taking his troops on that California trip, turning the car around, throwing it in reverse, heading east to San Bernardino while at the same time trying to turn around the fortunes of the Bruins' football program.

The good news for Mora is that the program really has no where to go but up.

For reasons that I can't quite explain, the UCLA football program has never found a way to really bottom out with a one or even zero win season. Somehow, even in years where the talent has been lacking and the coaching absent, even in seasons totally void of leadership, the team managers four wins. It's a a strange phenomenon. Sometimes I even wonder if a winless campaign might have been beneficial in the long run. A winless campaign, after all, might have alerted even the most clueless administrators and fans that something was wrong beyond a few bad breaks or whistles.

I'm determined to put the past behind, but need to make one quick point before looking ahead:

As others here and elsewhere have pointed out, we came very close to experiencing another year of the Rick Neuheisel regime. Our athletic director wasn't quite sure he'd seen enough, his preference was to give Rick one more chance to "turn things around." It's only as a result of pressure brought to bear by this community and others, including those who write the big checks, that Dan Guerrero kicked over Neuheisel's passion bucket and commenced the search that resulted in Jim Mora.

For Mora, so far so good. He and his staff sold recruits on their NFL resumes and salvaged the recruiting class. Spring practice saw, if nothing else, a change in pace, in intensity. Some really like what they've seen so far on the field, I admit I'm a bit noncommittal. That said, I'm truly looking forward to the season with a sense of optimism I haven't felt for a decade.

Mora's decision to take the team to San Bernardino makes sense to me, though I feel the idea that he's doing it to toughen up the team in the desert heat is being exaggerated. Mora was pretty clear that his primary purpose was more the isolation than the desolation. He's looking to reduce distractions, keep the team focused, build some camaraderie. You know how it is before a race: lock the barn door, no fillies allowed. Just a glance at the practice times, and you can see that only a few of the actual practice times take place in the afternoon heat, when conditions are most harsh, and those are all the first week. After that, he has the squad out on the field in the morning and late afternoons. Will it be Westwood weather? No. But he's not planning on going out in three busses and coming back in two.

In truth, the idea that Mora wanted to just see who was man enough under the broiling sun never quite made sense to me. It's a long season, no reason to burn anyone out in August. But, what Mora wants is an opportunity to get the team to focus. I'm down with that.

Beyond that, who knows? I went to a few practices in spring and the Rose Bowl for the scrimmage, but I really don't think I have enough information to be definitive about what kind of camp or what kind of season we're going to have. So, I'll just make a few quick observations before getting to the guesses.

First -- and this if obvious -- we must identify who our quarterback is going to be and he must play well in camp and during the season. If this doesn't happen, it's another year of futility.

Other than knowing who is going to be under center (or behind the center?) is knowing who the center is going to be. The single biggest reason I'm hesitant to predict wins and losses is the uncertainty surrounding the offensive line. I thought the unit was at best inconsistent during spring and at worst simply bad. Adrian Klemm has proved himself a top notch recruiter. But if turns this offensive line into a cohesive, above average unit, he's a miracle worker.

My final curiosity about fall camp is the defense. I really don't have a feel yet for what exactly Mora's system is going to look like. Spring gave us glimpses, but it was a very vanilla version of what we might see on the field this season. One of the most intriguing things about the Mora hire was that he's a defensive coach in a league where most of the head coaches are offensive guys. As weak as our offense has been in recent seasons, it's really our defense that has been boring and predictable. We have a lot of athletes on defense and some nice depth, it would really be satisfying to see that talent married with some real creativity.

And, with that, here are your Pregame Guesses, Fall Camp edition.

  1. Starting with left tackle and moving across the line to right tackle -- what will the Bruins starting offensive line look like when the team returns to Westwood for the rest of camp?
  2. Name a true freshman who will crack the two deep on defense?
  3. True or False: When Jim Mora announces his starting quarterback, the player's name will rhyme with "Debt Mundley."