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Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Most important player: UCLA

By Kevin Gemmell

All players are equal, but some players are more equal than others. That's the basis of our Most Important Player series.

First off, quarterbacks are excluded to make things more interesting. It goes without saying that Arizona's Matt Scott, USC's Matt Barkley and Washington's Keith Price are their teams' most important players. Their losses would be catastrophic.

And most important doesn't necessarily have to be "best." An All-American's backup can be pretty darn good too.

Our most important guys are players who could swing a win total one way or the other, based on their living up to expectations. Or their absence.

UCLA: Tight end Joseph Fauria

2011 production: Fauria was second on the team with 39 catches for 481 yards and a team-high six receiving touchdowns.

Why Fauria is so important: You might notice a theme throughout this series, specifically with the teams that are going through coaching changes or major overhauls: consistently reliable. Fauria is that. He's a commanding presence at 6-foot-8, 255 pounds but is athletic enough to play a hybrid tight end/wide receiver in coordinator Noel Mazzone's offense. As the Bruins look to revamp their passing attack with a new quarterback (maybe?) and without Nelson Rosario, who graduated, whoever is commanding the offense is going to need a consistently reliable target in the red zone and on third down. The Pac-12 is loaded with outstanding tight ends this year. Fauria might be the most complete of them all. His size makes him a mismatch for every defensive back, and his power makes him a strong blocker and nearly impossible for a linebacker to cover over the middle. For all of the question marks surrounding the Bruins offense, Fauria is a good, solid answer.