We're finally here, the day we've been counting down to all summer long - UCLA football has finally returned, and oh, do the possibilities look glorious! For the first time in over a decade, UCLA fans come into this season with an optimism that's actually grounded in reality (as opposed to the sunshine-pumping rah-rah fan-boy BS we've been hearing from the Dorrellistas and Neubs). There's probably been no UCLA team as deep, as talented, and as perfectly set up for an elite season since Cade and Company in 1998.
We return a legit Heisman Trophy candidate under center (remember when Kevin Craft - God bless his Bruin soul for the pounding he took behind that patchwork OL - was our starting QB?!) and a team laden with four and five star caliber guys on both sides of the ball. For the better part of the past decade, our question mark has always been under center, while the guys who kick the ball were like-clockwork reliable - ironically, now our QB is gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated and the only big question mark on the depth chart is at punter.
It's an exciting time for a UCLA football fan. Our schedule is set up almost perfectly (even the "neutral" game against Texas in Dallas looks like a UCLA win on paper), with the Bruins getting both Stanford and Oregon at the Rose Bowl, avoiding dangerous trips to Palo Alto and the raucous Autzen Stadium. Hundley passed on the NFL for a shot at collegiate immortality, Myles Jack is back to destroy offenses (or at least distract them so Eric Kendricks can do that), and Mora (mostly due to Adrian Klemm) is fielding an extremely deep and talented squad.
Of late, UCLA fans have come into the season thinking that they were one or two seasons away from greatness, that this year would be the set-up year, or the rebuilding year, or the reloading year, or something-other-than-a-conference-championship year.
Oh, but not this year - this is it - this is the year. If not now, if not this season, with Hundley at QB, then when? Now is the Bruins' golden opportunity.
No excuses. So with that said, let's look at the various bits and pieces of news from around the UCLA-iverse:
--- Beginning with that theme in mind, the WWL's Arash Markazi (their resident Trojan alum writer) knows that this season is going to be huge for UCLA - it's the golden opportunity that Bruins have been waiting for since 1998. Talking about Mora and the #BruinRevolution, Markazi echos the point we've seen made here on BN and across the wider Bruins Nation - that "[t]his is the Bruins' window of opportunity to stick their flag in L.A. and make it their town before [Southern Cal] returns to full strength next season and recruit the same number of players as UCLA."
--- Turning to one of our biggest haters, Chris Dufresne at the Los Angeles Times (one of the many guys who will probably be out of work when the paper finally . . . and thankfully . . . dies) is still continuing to shill for his friends at Southern Cal, but even he openly acknowledges that the Bruins are a "legitimate national contender in the first year of the new four-team College Football Playoff."Getting that out of Dufresne is almost like getting Khrushchev to admit "these American capitalist guys are pretty okay with me."
--- But despite being ranked in the top-10 in pretty much every major preseason poll, the Bruins do have some questions to be answered. Fox Sports' Abbey Mastracco points out that the Bruins need to figure out who will be Hundley's primary back-up at QB (a question we hope we never really need the answer to - you all should be praying that the Ben Olson Curse of Broken UCLA Quarterbacks finally ends for good) and UCLA needs someone in the backfield running back corps to step up and become "the main man" to take some of the rushing load off of Hundley's shoulders.
--- Turning back to the Los Angeles Times, Samantha Zuba covered the Bruins' big gains on the recruiting scene, discussing Mora's focus on locking down Southern California talent first, followed by casting his net throughout the Golden State (with the greater Sacramento region proving to be a particularly fertile hunting ground thanks to Angus McClure), followed by a big uptick in national recruiting (particularly in Texas and Florida). Unlike Karl Dorrell, who famously would only recruit kids that Pete Carroll and Southern Cal weren't interested in, Jim Mora isn't afraid to go toe-to-toe with the big boys in the SEC, ACC, and Big Ten.
--- Finally, in that same recruiting story, Coach Jim Mora dropped a nice subtle dig at the losers at Southern Cal - in discussing national recruiting, Mora had this to say (emphasis added):
"We're in Westwood, one of the most beautiful parts of the country, and they come to this campus and it's very different than what they would expect," Mora said. "It doesn't sit downtown. It sits pressed up against the mountains, five miles from the beach. The topography is beautiful. It's hilly. It's green. It's healthy. It's safe. It's an amazing campus."
Alright folks, those are your bits and pieces of football-related news as we get ready to kick off this football season with fall camp finally getting started this afternoon at 3 p.m. PST in San Bernardino. Fire away in the comment section with your thoughts, takes, and opinions as we get ready to officially kick off what should be a very special football season for UCLA.