Still Optimistic for 2011 Season

It's been a tough season for UCLA football, but we still maintain that the 2011 season will be a successful one, mostly because UCLA will finally have enough experienced talent to be truly competitive. Take a look at the projected depth chart...

I've made it pretty clear that I thought it was warranted to be critical of some aspects of the coaching this season.

But talent solves just about everything.

I think in 2011 UCLA will finally have a pretty talented and experienced team and, no matter what, those two elements are the most to the success of any program in any give season.

Below is the depth chart projected out to next season. Hopefully injuries won't be so pervasive as they were this season. If UCLA can stay relatively healthy it will probably have its most experienced talent since 2005.

Even without Sean Sheller (who will petition for a sixth year of eligibility but most likely be denied) I like the offensive line. I think Baca will plug into left tackle because of his quicker feet. The coaches like Ward quite a bit. I'm going to have faith with Hasiak, but I know the coaches are very confident in Yandall. That's four one-time starters in the starting line-up. And this doesn't figure in if Nik Abele returns.

I think Brehaut -- and Prince -- as juniors will provide solid play at the quarterback spot. Bell will have another year in the program, which will at least make him capable of filling in if need be. I'm skeptical Crissman will return, but hopeful, mostly for his sake. And I think Hundley will immediately start competing with Brehaut and Prince. I don't think he'll win the job but I think he'll be in the mix.

The running backs are truly the most talented and deepest in a very long time. And the wide receiver group, if the offense can get the ball to them, is talented and experienced.

Now, of course, some of this is speculation about where many of the redshirt and true freshmen would plug in.

OFFENSE

Left Tackle: Jeff Baca (JR), Brett Downey (JR), Torian White (FR)
Left Guard: Chris Ward (SO), Casey Griffiths (JR), Ben Wysocki (FR)
Center: Kai Maiava (SR), Greg Capella (SO), Kody Innes (FR), Jacob Brendel (FR)
Right Guard: Stan Hasiak (SO), Wade Yandall (FR),
Right Tackle: Mike Harris (SR), Darryl Jackson (FR), Marc Mustoe (FR)

QB: Richard Brehaut (JR), Kevin Prince (JR), Nick Crissman (JR), Darius Bell (JR), Brett Hundley (FR)

RB: Johnathan Franklin (JR), Derrick Coleman (SR), Malcolm Jones (SO), Jordon James (FR)

F-Back: Anthony Barr (SO), Morrell Presley (JR), Damien Thigpen (JR)

SE: Nelson Rosario (SR), Randall Carroll (JR), Jerry Johnson (JR), Shaquelle Evans (SO), Brandin Cooks (FR)

FL: Taylor Embree (SR), Josh Smith (SR), Ricky Marvray (SO)

TE: Cory Harkey (SR), Joseph Fauria (JR), John Young (FR), Raymond Nelson (FR)

DEFENSE

I think the 2011 squad could potentially have the best defensive line UCLA has had in as long as I can remember. It will be very exciting to see what Marsh, Willis, Odighizuwa and Graham develop into by next season. From what I'm hearing, Willis is probably the best among the bunch.

It's probable that Ayers leaves early for the NFL, If Ayers returns, the problem will be where to put Zumwalt. He might overtake Larimore, or they will probably try to get their best three on the field and put Zumwalt at WLB. That could potentially be one of the best linebacking units in the country. If Ayers doesn't return, Zumwalt will be at SLB, but I still like the unit, with a more experienced Larimore and Zumwalt.

If Moore returns, great. If not, I'm very comfortable with Dalton Hilliard and/or Dietrich Riley. I think, actually, there wouldn't be a drop-off at all. I would think Price and Hester would be very capable as juniors.

DE: Datone Jones (JR), Iuta Tepa (SO?), Wesley Flowers (FR), Sam Tai (FR)
DT: Cassius Marsh (SO), Seali'I Epenesa (SO), Justin Edison (SR),
DT: Brandon Willis (FR), Nate Chandler (SR), Donovan Carter (JR),
DE: Owamagbe Odighizuwa (SO), Keenan Graham (SO), Damien Holmes (JR), Derrick Bryant (FR)

SLB: Akeem Ayers (SR), Jordan Zumwalt (SO), Isaiah Bowens (SO), Aaron Wallace (FR)
MLB: Patrick Larimore (JR), Steve Sloan (SR), Todd Golper (SO),
WLB: Sean Westgate (SR), Glenn Love (SR), Aramide Olaniyan (FR), Jared Koster (SO), Eric Kendrick (FR)

LC: Sheldon Price (JR), Courtney Viney (SR), Brandon Sermons (SO)
SS: Tony Dye (SR), Dietrich Riley (SO), Stan McKay (SO),
FS: Rahim Moore (SR), Dalton Hilliard (JR), Alex Mascarenas (SO), Tevin McDonald (FR)
RC: Aaron Hester (JR), Andrew Abbott (JR), Anthony Jefferson (SO),

If you notice, too, I've only included the 2011 recruits that have verbally committed, so there are more that would plug into the depth chart. But, with how Rick Neuheisel has built the program's talent, you don't even need them to have great depth. This is, really, the deepest depth chart I've ever projected out a year.

Also, just looking at the other Pac-12 schools, the conference won't be nearly as good or deep as it was this season. Oregon should be good, but not nearly as good as they were this season, losing three OLs and 6 starters on D. Stanford should still be good, but probably not like this season, probably losing quarterback Andrew Luck to the NFL, and 3 OLs and 4 on D. Arizona will drop off, especially if Nick Foles doesn't return, and losing all five OLs and 5 on D. Cal should struggle some, with a new QB and 5 leaving on D. Oregon State's offense will be good, but it loses 7 on defense. Arizona State should probably be among the best in the conference, losing only 1 senior on defense. Washington State will probably be better thatn Washington. Utah should be fairly good, not as good as they are this season, while Colorado will struggle. And actually, USC should be among the few best in the confernce, having a young team this season.

In non-conference, Houston and San Jose State should be fairly easy opponnents, while Texas will be trying to bounce back from a horrendous 2010.

The schedule, though, even with the changes made by the expansion, should still be favorable for UCLA, and even moreso since the Bruins won't have to face the Ducks.

So, buck up, UCLA football fans, better days are coming.




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