UCLA Preview

For the past several years, the UCLA Bruins have been a difficult team to figure out.

Perhaps no team has demonstrated the Bruins' ability to rise up for the challenge, then immediately fall flat against a significantly less talented team. This year's UCLA team (1-1) appears to be no different, which makes them a dangerous foe, should they show up to play this weekend. The Bruins lost by four at Houston 38-34, and defeated San Jose State at home 27-17. A win this week would go a long way toward potentially helping coach Rick Neuheisel keep his job, as few coaches have as hot a seat at this point.

If there's one area that has been strong this year, it's been the offense, which is averaging 30.5 points and 485.5 yards per game. Though the Bruins — who operate largely out of the pistol — have a reputation as a running team, their yardage is actually somewhat balanced. UCLA runs the ball to the tune of 252 yards per game, while they average 233.5 yards per game through the air.

The Longhorns might have the most-talked-about quarterback situation in college football, but the Bruins have a noteworthy one as well. Junior Kevin Prince (6-2 223) began the season as a starter and completed his first three throws for 58 yards before suffering a concussion on a running attempt. Junior Richard Brehaut (6-2 226) took over, finishing the Houston game with 264 yards and two touchdowns. He wasn't as strong the following week against San Jose State, going 12-of-23 for 145 yards and a score. Neither quarterback has thrown an interception this season, and both are capable runners. Neuheisel said earlier this week that he wouldn't announce who would start the Texas game.

Whoever plays will be handing the ball off a lot. The Bruins currently boast two running backs who rank in the top five of the Pac-12 per-game rushing charts. The first is junior Johnathan Franklin (5-10 193), who is averaging 104.5 yards per game. Texas fans will remember him well, as he rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown in last year's game. Franklin, who ran for 1,127 yards and eight scores a year ago, rotates with bigger back Derrick Coleman (5-11 240). Coleman is rushing for 76 yards per game.

UCLA's receivers can be dangerous on play-action. Senior Taylor Embree (6-3 207) ranks in the top 10 in receptions on the Bruins' career charts, while his career yardage is 13th. He plays behind fellow senior Nelson Rosario (6-5 219), who has seen a strong start this year, catching seven passes for 161 yards. Shaq Evans (6-1 196) and Randall Carroll (5-10 189) rotate at the other spot with players like former Colorado transfer and speed demon Josh Smith (6-1 213) and Ricky Marvray (5-11 187). Anthony Barr (6-4 237), Jordon James (5-9 192) and Marvray all play at F-back. Cory Harkey (6-4 270) gives the Bruins a giant blocking tight end, while Joseph Fauria (6-8 252) is one of the Bruins' top targets, catching a touchdown pass in each of his last four games.

The Bruins have been devastated by injuries on the offensive line in recent history, though they have plenty of size. Seven players are listed as co-starters — separated by an -OR- on the depth chart — and they weigh an average of 314 pounds, with all but one weighing 304-plus and four listed at 318-plus. This week, that lineup should include center Kai Maiava (6-1 318), a Rimington Award candidate who sat out last week for violation of team rules. The Bruins have plenty of experience at tackle with Mike Harris (6-5 326), Jeff Baca (6-4 305) and Sean Sheller (6-5 304). Sheller is also capable of bouncing inside for depth, and did so against San Jose State. Maiava's return means that Greg Capella (6-3 292) can return to his starting spot at weak guard, while Chris Ward (6-4 330) and Alberto Cid (6-2 323) hold down the strong guard spot. This group has allowed UCLA to average six yards per carry, without allowing a sack, through the first two games.

While the UCLA offense has had a nice season so far, the defense has largely struggled, allowing 27.5 points and nearly 400 yards per game. The Bruins have been especially ineffective against the run, allowing opponents 180.5 yards per game, at six yards per carry.

Defensive end Datone Jones (6-5 275) leads the Bruins with 1.5 tackles for loss. Neither he, nor fellow starting end Damien Holmes (6-3 270) have a sack this year, though defensive tackle Cassius Marsh (6-3 289) has one. Tackle Justin Edison (6-4 285) rounds out the group.

Patrick Larimore (6-3 250) and Sean Westgate (5-11 225) have been active from their linebacking spots, making 12 tackles apiece. Jordan Zumwalt (6-4 236) has 10 tackles and a tackle for loss, though he's listed as a co-starter with Glenn Love (6-4 213), with Love's name listed first. Redshirt freshman linebacker Eric Kendricks led the team with seven tackles against San Jose State, including a sack.

The Bruins are big and experienced at cornerback, with Aaron Hester (6-1 206) playing the boundary corner spot and Sheldon Price (6-2180) at the field cornerback spot. Price has started 22 games in his career, but made his first career interception last week. Hester has 14 starts. Dalton Hilliard, son of the former LSU and New Orleans Saints running back, is the man at strong safety. Tony Dye (6-0 216) is the Bruins' leading tackler from his free safety spot and a potential honors candidate. Alex Mascarenas (5-10 191) also rotates through, and is tied with Dye for the team lead in stops.

Kip Smith (6-0 231) is the kicker, and he's 7-8 on PATs and has made 2-of-3 field goals, missing a 32-yarder in the opener before hitting a 20- and a 38-yard field goal in the Bruins' second game. Jeff Locke (6-1 214) has yet to get on-track at punter, averaging just 37.4 yards per punt, despite a career average in the 44-yard range. He's been better at kickoffs, earning three touchbacks on his 11 kickoffs. The speedy Josh Smith and physical Derrick Coleman return kickoffs, while Taylor Embree returns punts.

UCLA's consistency, or lack of it, makes them a scary opponent on a week-by-week basis. If the right (or wrong, depending on your point of view) Bruin team shows up, they're capable of putting a hurt on any opponent. And if the other side shows up, the Longhorns could have a potentially easy win. At this point, it's impossible to tell.

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