Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Grades: UCLA season report card
By Blair Angulo
Maybe “pistol” veteran Nevada -- which ranks No. 45 nationally in passing offense -- excluded some secrets when it met with the UCLA coaching staff. The Bruins have been so bad that only Air Force, Navy, Georgia Tech and Army have worse numbers through the air. Kevin Prince never seemed to get going following a strained oblique injury.
Johnathan Franklin became UCLA’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Chris Markey accomplished the feat in 2006. Franklin (92.55 yards per game) ranks fourth in the Pac-10, while the Bruins check in at No. 33 nationally. Still, the run game has been hit or miss. UCLA topped 200 yards rushing three times through the first five games but only once since.
CIN THE TRENCHES
An offensive line that lost starters Xavier Su’a-Filo (Mormon mission), Jeff Baca (academically ineligible) and Kai Maiava (broken ankle) has exceeded expectations. There will be four new starters next year due to graduation. And though freshmen Cassius Marsh and Owamagbe Odighizuwa showed promise on the defensive side, three words sum it up: Remember Brian Price?
Forget defensive schemes and accompanying chalk talk -- the Bruins have lacked fundamentals. Given how UCLA tackled in 2010, the dummies at Spaulding Field should have a rough offseason. Dick Butkus Award finalist Akeem Ayers is fourth on the team in tackles, while preseason All-American Rahim Moore has just one interception after leading the nation with 10 last fall.
You could always bank of the special teams group, but reigning Lou Groza Award winner Kai Forbath, who had a string of 40 consecutive makes from within 50 yards, has misfired five times. He needs a field goal Saturday to become UCLA’s career leader. Jeff Locke is in the top 10 nationally with an average of 45.71 yards per punt.
Coach Rick Neuheisel believed his team would surprise people this year. He believed a switch to the “pistol” would make UCLA a more balanced offensive team. Instead, he’s had to preach patience amid the regression. The Bruins missed out on a bowl game for the second time in three years under Neuheisel, meaning his seat will heat up next fall.