Spring Ball: Five Things to Watch

Mar. 31 -- We take a look at the five most important story lines heading into spring...

1. Who will win the quarterback battle?

This is obviously the most important story line of the spring, and probably the most important story line for the next three or four years of UCLA football. Who will take over Brett Hundley's job? There are a few candidates, but as we talked about in the quarterback preview, there aren't many very good options. At this point, we've mentioned a few times that we fully anticipate freshman Josh Rosen to win the job. First, he has an advanced feel for the game for a freshman quarterback, coupled with all of the physical tools necessary to excel long term. Second, there just really isn't another great option. We'd love to be surprised this spring, either by Jerry Neuheisel completely maximizing his physical capabilities to become a legitimate Pac-12 starter or Asiantii Woulard putting everything together on the mental side of the game to do likewise. Whoever wins the job could help steer the course of the UCLA football program for the foreseeable future.

2. What impact will Tom Bradley have?

UCLA is working on its third defensive coordinator in as many years, but there isn't the sense of discontinuity that you might typically have with that kind of turnover. With Jim Mora still at the helm of the team, and with his defensive background, that lends a certain amount of continuity to the scheme regardless of coordinator. Additionally, with the very experienced Tom Bradley in control of the defense, it doesn't quite feel like the situation when Jeff Ulbrich, a first time defensive coordinator, took over last year. Bradley brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the coaching staff, and we're really interested to see is his impact on the scheme is more in the vein of a few wrinkles here and there or a complete overhaul of the scheme. It should be very interesting to find out.

Eddie Vanderdoes.
3. How will Myles Jack's transition inside go?

As we wrote last week, the expectation is that Myles Jack will start out the spring as Eric Kendricks' former spot at inside linebacker. We think it's a strong move which should take advantage of Jack's impressive athleticism to a significant degree. Of course, the operative words there are "we think." It's not a huge position change for Jack, as he played some inside lienbacker both in practice and games last year, but the responsibilities are going to be greater for him playing the position full-time, and it's impossible to perfectly project how that might go. We think he'll adjust well to it, and potentially be a huge impact player there, and this spring should give us a good indication of whether we're right or wrong in our expectations.

4. How will the offensive line do without Adrian Klemm?

Adrian Klemm has been suspended indefinitely while UCLA investigates alleged rules violations concerning the offensive line coach. We've heard Kennedy Polamalu will take over for him coaching the offensive line, and while we have every confidence that a coach as experienced as Polamalu will do a more than credible job coaching the OL, it's not an ideal situation. What we're really going to be looking for is leadership from players like Jake Brendel, Caleb Benenoch, and perhaps even incoming junior college offensive tackle Zach Bateman. It's an experienced enough group that they should be able to have effective practices even with a fill-in coach, but player leadership is going to be even more important than usual this spring.

5. We're still looking for a pass rush.

Last year, UCLA had a fairly mediocre pass rush -- we're not saying anything groundbreaking there. Deon Hollins did a good job at times, Owamagbe Odighizuwa got some pressure at other times, and there was the occasional nice blitz, particularly toward the end of the year, that generated a nice bit of pressure. By and large, though, UCLA wasn't productive enough getting to the quarterback and generating tackles for loss, and a large part of that was due to a lack of great individual pass rushers. This spring, it's tough to see how a player like that will suddenly emerge; after all, there are only a few additions to the roster from the season that could provide something new in that department. Still, we're excited to see what a bigger, stronger Takkarist McKinley can bring to the table, and are interested to see if Josh Woods can surprise some people. With a year of nice production under his belt, we're also interested to see what Hollins can accomplish this spring in terms of his progression as a player. As we were saying last year, this is one of the areas that projects as a potential weakness this season, so finding some players to fill pass rushing roles starts this spring.

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