The UCLA Bruins (1-2, 0-1 Pac-10) found that out the hard way earlier this season. Switching to a version of Nevada's Pistol offense, one where the quarterback lines up four yards behind the center in a sort of mini-shotgun with a running back directly behind him, the Bruins struggled at times to move the ball in consecutive losses to Kansas State and Stanford. The former was a winnable game that UCLA dropped late, while the latter was a 35-0 blowout where the Bruins never got the offense started.
But UCLA came out much better against No. 23 Houston this past weekend, racing to a 31-3 lead before settling for a 31-13 victory. The Bruins gashed the Cougars for 266 yards rushing while averaging 5.2 yards per tote.
In general, the Bruins just appeared more comfortable running the pistol, with sophomore quarterback Kevin Prince making many of the right reads. He passed for 99 yards and rushed for another 60, while turning the ball over just once. He's not a very good passer, though Prince is certainly a capable runner with excellent size (230 pounds), and he can hit the occasional open receiver.
Jonathan Franklin is the likely star of the team, and is averaging 97 yards per game on nearly six yards per carry. He has also scored three touchdowns, all against Houston. The Bruins also have strong backs in Malcolm Jones and Derrick Coleman, though it is unclear how much they will play due to injuries.
None of the Bruins' receivers truly stand out from a pass-catching standpoint, though all are dangerous blockers in the run game. Slated starters Nelson Rosario (6-5 218), Taylor Embree (6-3 201) and Morrell Presley (6-4 222) make up a huge unit that can cause problems for smaller defensive backs.
The Bruins have had to throw together an offensive line because of repeated injuries to the unit. If there's an advantage here, it's that UCLA is huge in the trenches, averaging 317 pounds per man, and they're experienced. The Bruins start five senior offensive linemen.
Defensively, the Bruins are mostly a four-man front team that rarely blitzes (about 18 percent of the time). When UCLA does send extra people, it's typically on a third-and-long situation. Still, they've done a nice job of getting to the quarterback, sacking the passer seven times in three games, while making 25 tackles in the backfield.
If there's a strength on the defense it has to be at linebacker, where the Bruins are both big and athletic. The group's most talented player is Akeem Ayers (6-4 255), a likely first-round draft pick. He's listed as the Bruins' strong-side linebacker, though they'll play him all over the field in an attempt to create mismatches. He's an outstanding pass rusher who has 23 stops and 3.5 in the backfield this year, and he has also returned an interception 77 yards. Middle linebacker Patrick Larimore also has 23 tackles, but has made a team-leading five tackles in the backfield. Sean Westgate is undersized, but strong in coverage. He has 21 tackles this sesaon.
Free safety Rahim Moore is the best player in the secondary, a ball-hawk who had 10 interceptions a year ago. He has one so far this season. Strong safety Tony Dye leads the Bruins with 25 tackles. Cornerbacks Sheldon Price and Aaron Hester bring create size at 6-2 and 6-1, respectively, but both are young.
The Bruins are pretty strong in the kicking game. Kai Forbath has made 4-5 field goals, with the one miss coming from 49 yards. Punter Jeff Locke is averaging 45.3 yards per kick and has put five of his 14 kicks inside the 20. Locke is also the team's kickoff specialist, and has placed one-third of his kickoffs for touchbacks. Former Colorado receiver Josh Smith has yet to break a kick return, though that potential is always there.
QB: 4 Kevin Prince (6-2 230, So.)
TB: 23 Jonathan Franklin (5-10 198, So.)
SE: 83 Nelson Rosario (6-5 218, Jr.)
FL: 82 Taylor Embree (6-3 201, Jr.)
F: 7 Morrell Presley (6-4 222, So.), OR 2 Anthony Barrr (6-5 228, Fr.)
TE: 87 Cory Harkey (6-5 259, Jr.)
LT: 72 Sean Sheller (6-5 300, Sr.)
LG: 77 Darius Savage (6-4 339, Sr.)
C: 66 Ryan Taylor (6-3 298, Sr.)
RG: 62 Eddie Williams (6-1 329, Sr.)
RT: 73 Micah Kia (6-5 321, Sr.), OR 65 Mike Harris (6-5 319, Jr.)
LE: 89 Nate Chandler (6-5 290, Jr.)
DT: 99 Justin Edison (6-4 290, Jr.)
DT: 85 David Carter (6-5 301, Sr.)
RE: 97 Damien Holmes (6-3 265, So.), OR 59 Keenan Graham (6-2 245, Fr.)
SLB: 10 Akeem Ayers (6-4 255, Jr.)
MLB: 42 Patrick Larimore (6-3 249, So.)
WLB: 11 Sean Westgate (5-11 217, Jr.)
LC: 22 Sheldon Price (6-2 178, So.)
SS: 6 Tony Dye (5-11 205, Jr.)
FS: 3 Rahim Moore (6-1 196, Jr.)
RC: 21 Aaron Hester (6-1 203, So.)
PK: 25 Kai Forbath (6-0 191, Sr.)
KO: 18 Jeff Locke (6-1 210, So.)
LS: 52 Christian Yount (6-1 243, Sr.)
H: Danny Rees (6-3 188, Sr.)
KOR: 3 Josh Smith (6-0 197, Jr.)