Pre-camp questions answered (sort of)

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
8:34
AM PT
We posed five questions before the start of fall camp last month, with the understanding that most -- if not all -- would be answered. Or at least become clearer.

Well, it wouldn't be UCLA if most pre-camp questions remained fuzzy. And it wouldn't be UCLA if more questions popped up.

Let's revisit the grey areas and determine whether or not they were resolved in time for Saturday's opener at Kansas State.

1. Who will return punts and kickoffs?

Prior to camp we pointed out that redshirt junior Josh Smith was the clear-cut favorite to succeed Terrence Austin. Four weeks later, UCLA's depth chart tells us No. 3 will be the guy.

Smith, a transfer from Colorado, has looked quick and elusive. If he can stay healthy -- and that's been a BIG if during his time in Westwood -- Smith has a chance to be an all-conference performer.

2. Will this team settle on a No. 1 running back before the start of the season?

This is where you laugh.

How could we be so naive? For the second straight year, UCLA did not settle on one feature back. It may be a good problem to have, but at what point does uncertainty become an issue?

Derrick Coleman OR Johnathan Franklin are listed atop the depth chart -- a decision that may be strategic or downright truthful. Maybe there is a starter. Someone will have to be out there to start Saturday at Kansas State. Maybe coach Rick Neuheisel is making the Wildcats worry about both.

This much we do know: Coleman is the bruiser who UCLA coaches love for his consistency, Franklin is the speedster with big-play potential who coaches can't seem to figure out. True freshman Malcolm Jones is not far behind and will get his carries this year.

Stay tuned.

3. Who will be stuck in the middle: Steve Sloan or Patrick Larimore?

This is another well-documented position battle that remains confusing. One day it's Sloan playing with the first unit, another day it's Larimore. Back to Sloan for a few days, then to Larimore.

Like tailback, the starting middle linebacker spot has the "or" designation. And like we mentioned before camp, whoever starts Saturday figures to be an upgrade over Reggie Carter, whose play suffered last season as he struggled with lower-body injuries.

4. Which freshman will separate himself from the others?

Anthony Barr did on offense. Diertrich Riley did on defense.

Barr might start at F-back Saturday, as he's listed as an "or" on the depth chart. Riley came up short for strong safety Tony Dye's starting role, but he doesn't walk away empty-handed. He will see the field plenty this fall.

5. To what extent will newcomer Darius Bell be utilized?

Probably not much, if at all. Neuheisel is pleased with Bell's progress in the "revolver," but Bell has been iffy when throwing the ball.

Still, don't be surprised if Bell trots in to spell Kevin Prince or Richard Brehaut from time to time.

Blair Angulo | email

Reporter, WeAreSC.com

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