UCLA offense

UCLA's offense is short on talent. So is Tennessee's defense. Still, the chess match between Bruin offensive coordinator Norm Chow and Vol defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin Sept. 12 at Neyland Stadium should be worth the price of admission all by itself.

Chow is known for having one of football's sharpest offensive minds, and he did nothing to refute that image in his most recent meeting with Tennessee. He somehow cobbled together enough points last September in Pasadena to win 27-24, even though his rushing attack managed a paltry 29 yards and his quarterback, Kevin Craft, threw four first-half interceptions.

Chow may face a similar challenge this season because UCLA's talent level on offense remains low.

Craft, who completed 12 of 14 fourth-quarter passes in engineering the Bruins' come-from-behind defeat of UT last fall, is back for his senior year but is unlikely to retain the first-team QB job after throwing a school-record 20 interceptions (compared to just seven touchdowns) in '08.

The No. 1 quarterback coming out of spring practice was redshirt freshman Kevin Prince, a 6-2, 226-pounder with a stronger arm and quicker feet. He completed just 11 of 24 passes for 134 yards in the spring game, however, and has some growing pains ahead of him.

UCLA also will be breaking in a new featured back. Kahlil Bell, who led the Bruins with 397 rushing yards last fall, is gone. Filling his shoes will be redshirt freshman Christian Ramirez (6-2, 220) and sophomore Derrick Coleman (6-0, 230). Ramirez is a converted safety who missed all of last season due to academic problems and missed spring practice due to a hamstring pull. Coleman ran for 284 yards in a backup role last fall.

The offensive line was horrible last fall, surrendering a mind-boggling 35 sacks and facilitating just 82.8 rushing yards per game. The ground attack was so abysmal that the Bruins went 4-8 despite throwing for 200.5 yards per game.

One bright spot on offense is the return of the top three pass catchers from 2008. The guy to watch is 6-3, 194-pound sophomore Taylor Embree, who caught 40 passes for 531 yards last fall and earned Freshman All-America recognition. Terrence Austin (5-11, 173) led UCLA with 53 receptions but parlayed these into just 460 yards, an average of 8.7 yards per catch. Tight end Ryan Moya (6-3, 245) ranked third last fall with 38 receptions for 364 yards.

Strange as it sounds, the best thing UCLA's offense has going for it is kicker Kai Forbath. He nailed 19 of 22 field-goal tries last fall, including a 42-yard game-winner against UT in overtime. He is 44 of 52 for his career, including 6 of 6 beyond 50 yards.

Bottom line: UCLA was a poor offensive team in 2008 and projects to be only marginally better when it faces Tennessee Sept. 12 in Knoxville. The Bruins should grow as their young quarterback grows, however, and be a much better unit by November.


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