Wednesday, August 3, 2011
First, first look: UCLA
By Pedro Moura
As the weeks counted down until USC football fall camp, we offered up an early first look at the 12 scheduled opponents for the 2011 season, in chronological order. We began back in May with Minnesota, Utah, Syracuse and Arizona State, continued the next three weeks with Arizona, Cal and Notre Dame and added Stanford, Colorado, Washington and Oregon recently. We now present UCLA, who the Trojans will play at home in their season finale on Nov. 26:
That's it for this week. Our final first look, at UCLA, comes next Wednesday, the day before 2011 fall camp kicks off for the Trojans.
History: There's a common belief that USC has faced UCLA more than any other school in the conference or country, but that's actually not true -- the Trojans have faced Cal, Stanford and Washington more than they've matched up against the Bruins.
What is true, though, is that the Bruins have had more success against the Trojans than any other Pac-12 school, historically. In 80 all-time matchups, UCLA has a .350 winning percentage, good enough for best in the conference against USC.
Of late, the Bruins have struggled. They've won just one of the last dozen games between the schools, a stretch in which they've been outscored 384-176. Last year's game at the Rose Bowl, a 28-14 final, wasn't all that lopsided, but, until UCLA scored with less than a minute to go in the game, it was going to be the fourth straight time the Bruins failed to put up more than one score against the Trojans.
USC hasn't lost at the Coliseum to UCLA since 1997.
Offense: The top player for the Bruins on this side of the ball is running back Johnathan Franklin, a local kid from L.A. Dorsey who ran for over 1100 yards in 2010. He was UCLA's representative at Pac-12 media day last week and is likely going to be the most recognizable Bruin throughout the season.
Surrounding him are receivers Nelson Rosario, Randall Carroll, Taylor Embree and Ricky Marvray, fullback Anthony Barr and tight end Cory Harkey and Joseph Fauria -- plus a potential-filled offensive line that includes senior center Kai Maiava and sixth-year senior Sean Sheller, who could play either guard or tackle. Junior Jeff Baca is expected to miss the early part of the season while recovering from a broken ankle he suffered in spring ball.
Quarterback is still a question mark, with Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut set to compete against each other in fall camp for the spot. Both players are capable starters, but Prince is known to be the more dedicated player -- which means he's probably the favorite to win the job. Brehaut played organized baseball this summer. It's also worth noting that Prince is what's commonly known as injury-prone. By the time Thanksgiving weekend comes around, there's a significant chance he could be out, with Brehaut or even freshman Brett Hundley replacing him.
Former San Francisco 49ers' offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will be in his first season working with the Bruin offense.
Defense: Safety Tony Dye is talented and has been productive in the past, as has Sean Westgate, a former special-teams standout who made the successful transition to outside linebacker last season. Defensive end Datone Jones is the top lineman, with sophomore Cassius Marsh a nice prospect at tackle.
Junior cornerbacks Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price each had some success starting in 2010. Middle linebacker Patrick Larimore was impressive in the first half of last season before he got hurt, but he's expected to make a full recovery this year and return to lining up the defensive unit. The other projected starting linebacker, Glenn Love, is a converted safety. It'll be interesting to see how sophomore Dietrich Riley performs at safety across from Dye. He made a Signing Day decision to pick UCLA over USC and has been vocal in supporting his decision since.
Defensive coordinator Joe Tresey spent last season in the United Football League after a combined three years at Cincinnati and South Florida. He's known for an aggressive, turnover-inducing style.
Special teams/special circumstances: 19-year-old Kip Smith, a Colorado native who was rated the No. 1 kicker in the 2010 class by some recruiting services, takes over for the departed Kai Forbath, who recently signed as an undrafted free agent with the Dallas Cowboys.
Redshirt junior Jeff Locke missed spring practice while recovering from hip surgery but is again expected to challenge for the Ray Guy award in 2011, as he has in each of the past two seasons. At returner, Embree was sixth in the conference in punt-return average and Colorado transfer Josh Smith was eighth in kick-return average.
Both players are expected to resume their roles.
That concludes our 12-part series. USC fall camp coverage begins tomorrow.