Starters Returning: 21 (10 offense, 10 defense, 1 specialist)
Offensive Starters Lost: OL Robert Chai
Offensive Starters Returning: QB Pat Cowan, RB Chris Markey, FB Michael Pitre, WR Marcus Everett, WR Brandon Breazell, TE Logan Paulsen, OL Shannon Tevaga, OL Chris Joseph, OL Noah Sutherland, OL Aleksey Lanis
Defensive Starters Lost: DE Justin Hickman
Defensive Starters Returning: DT Brigham Harwell, DT Kevin Brown, DE Bruce Davis, LB Christian Taylor, LB Reggie Carter, LB Aaron Whittington, CB Rodney Van, CB Trey Brown, S Dennis Keyes, S Chris Horton
Starting Specialists Lost: K Justin Medlock
Starting Specialists Returning: P Aaron Perez
For starters: When the kicker is the biggest loss on your team it either means your team losses nobody or your kicker is really good. In this case, it is a little bit of both. UCLA returns 20 position players and kicker Justin Medlock was one of the best in the nation and will be working on Sundays this year.
Offense: Finding a little more punch to the offense is all this
team needs. Patrick Cowan is a decent quarterback and returns after
throwing for 1,782 yards in 2006. However, it is Ben Olson who has the
skill set to take the Bruins to the next level. Coach Karl Dorrell wanted
to avoid a distraction with the quarterback battle and named Olson the starter
in April. With the starting job his, Olson has to prove that he is ready to lead
Running back Chris Markey led the team with 1,107 rushing yards and 35 receptions. While Markey is a dynamic back, the wide receivers need to step up. Marcus Everett and Brandon Breazell topped the UCLA charts in receiving yards last season and have plenty of experience and talent to make a bigger impact this year now that the quarterback situation is settled.
The offensive line, led by guard Shannon Tevaga, should help bolster both the passing and running attacks. Four starters return and seven players with starting experience. The lone loss, center Robert Chai, is expected to be replaced by senior Chris Joseph, who started at guard last year.
Defense: The Bruins only lose two players that were listed on
last year's Emerald Bowl two-deep roster. With so much experience returning,
UCLA is expected to have a dominating defense. Replacing defensive end Justin
Hickman will not be easy, but Bruce Davis, who was named first-team
All-American by multiple media outlets, will do enough damage on his own. All
five players who started a game at linebacker are returning, led by Christian
Taylor, Reggie Carter and Aaron Whittington.
The secondary has developed into a strong point for the defense. Cornerback Trey Brown and strong safety Chris Horton are candidates to earn All-Pac-10 honors. Free safety Dennis Keyes and cornerback Rodney Van also return after starting last season. However, Alterraun Verner will not make it easy for all the returning starters to come back to their jobs. Verner, a 5-10 sophomore, earned co-Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors and will compete with Van for playing time on the corner.
The Bottom Line: With the inevitable Westwood quarterback
controversy settled, the Bruins are ready to make a big run. UCLA had the talent
last year to beat some great teams like USC at home and Arizona State on the
road. They also collapsed at times and lost games to Washington and Washington State that they should have won. If consistency comes with experience, the
Bruins should be able to beat the teams they are supposed to beat and continue
to pull off some upsets.
DE Bruce Davis is one of the top defensive ends in the Pac-10.