2003 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR
coach Dorrell turned down a contract extension,
he may have thought he was proving to everyone
that he wants to earn his keep at his alma
mater. Instead, it added to the uncertain
future hovering over a program on the decline
ever since USC's meteoric rise from the
ashes. The recruiting class was just so-so
but did address many of the needs for future
depth. Few immediate impact players means
guys like Bragg, Olson and Havner need to
stay healthy and have huge years. The team
should be hungry after five straight losses
culminated with the offensive embarrassment
against Fresno. That streak came after five
straight wins which will be unlikely in
'04; expect things to be as much, if not
even more, up and down.
goals on offense are simple: throw efficiently
and accurately, run effectively, and take
chances deep that, least of all, stretch
the field and open running possibilities.
The personnel exists to succeed in all three
respects if the line rediscovers its potential.
Line play will be the key on defense as
well, because Larry Kerr simply doesn't
have the depth at LB to blitz as frequently
as he'd like, but that doesn't mean he won't
try. The secondary will ultimately have
to gamble more often, knowing three-and-outs
could be rare. This might be a positive
as the defense produced relatively few turnovers
in '03 for as dominant as it was.
teams must excel, especially in field position
battles. UCLA will separate itself if it
can consistently do all the little things
and hold onto the ball. Olson is primed
for a breakout year and will have learned
from such a disastrous season that saw the
Bruins go 1-4 versus ranked teams. They
knew they couldn't play at that level before
the games began; now, the naiveté
of youth becomes a huge advantage if they
discover something that was missing, confidence.
Eight wins and a bowl game will satisfy
the faithful. But the range in where the
Bruins may fall is wide, so expect exciting
tilts and a shifting quality of play that
could mimic both the rise and fall seen
in 2003's rollercoaster ride. If erratic,
they barely reach .500, but if consistent,
that bowl looks probable.
2004 record: 5-6
Drew Olson, 325-173-9, 2067 yds., 10 TD
Rushing: Maurice Drew, 135 att.,
582 yds., 5 TD
Receiving: Craig Bragg, 73 rec.,
1065 yds., 5 TD
Scoring: Justin Medlock, 14-19 FG,
26-26 PAT, 68 pts.
Punting: Chris Kluwe, 91 punts, 42.9
Kicking: Justin Medlock, 14-19 FG,
Tackles: Justin London, 98 tot.,
Sacks: Justin London, Spencer Havner,
Nnamdi Ohaeri, 1 sack each
Interceptions: Spencer Havner, 3
for 72 yds.
Kickoff returns: Maurice Drew, 20
ret., 26.6 avg., 2 TD
Punt returns: Craig Bragg, 38 ret.,
7.9 avg., 0 TD
Blane Kezirian-TE, Ryan Smith-WR, Matt Moore-QB
(transferred), Tyler Ebell-TB (transferred)
Ball-DE, Rodney Leisle-DT, Asi Faoa-DT, Ryan
Boschetti-DT, Dave Ball-DE, Brandon Chillar-ILB,
Keith Short-CB, Matt Ware-CB (NFL)
Moore is no more at UCLA. With Matt Moore's transfer,
it's junior QB Drew Olson's job once again. Olson
grabbed the starting spot after quickly mastering
the offense, only to steer it feebly to 19.1ppg.
Don't put all the blame on Olson for the Bruins'
offensive woes. He possesses excellent field vision
and leadership, stemming from quality big game
experience since his freshman year. New QB coach
Jim Svoboda, a Division II offensive guru, will
help him utilize his accuracy with better reads.
Olson came on strong with over 60% completions
in his last five starts and showed poise in the
red zone. Moore's transfer will minimize controversy
and give JUCO transfer David Koral, the only other
QB on scholarship, a chance to grasp the system.
Koral transferred from Santa Monica College in
January and was a PrepStar All-American out of
high school. His 2,202 yards passing and 18 TDs
in 2003 was good enough to earn him a No. 8 ranking
for JUCO QB's. The classic drop-back passer has
a good arm and makes the right decisions. He'll
not only push for back-up duty, but possibly the
starting job. All of this bodes well for the position.
The loss of another transfer, TB Tyler Ebell,
hampers depth, but this also gives sophomore TB
Maurice Drew a chance to shine. The diminutive
Parade All-American at fabled Concord De La Salle
High can run inside despite his height (5'8")
but prefers to hit the corners with speed. In
a quarter of as many starts as Ebell had, Drew
still out-rushed him and led team with five TDs.
His 176 yards against Arizona, including a dazzling
83 yarder, was a sign of big things to come for
the talented all-purpose back. The power in this
balanced backfield comes from Manuel White. He
combines TB quickness with FB size and strength
and, despite injuries, he led the Bruins in yards
per game. A decent blocker but a better runner,
he'll move the pile and stay on the field in some
one-back sets. Senior FB Pat Norton is the blocking
specialist, which will ease the transition of
White becoming a full-time TB.
Senior SE Craig Bragg deserves the All-America
hype he'll receive. A combination of good speed
and a "go-to" receiver's confidence
nabbed him the first back-to-back 50+-catch seasons
in Bruin history. He will get a third, not to
mention another 1,000 yards Even with defenses
keying on him, he's still found a way to catch
a pass in every game since his first at UCLA,
including ten on the vaunted '03 Sooner D. The
bigger question is who else will step up. Junior
Taylor (fittingly a junior) has been showing off
his speed ever since scoring on a 49 yard reverse
the first time he touched the football. He can
line up wide or in the slot, and will hurt teams
in a variety of ways. Idris Moss was a prep All-American
corner and receiver, but, like all the young receivers,
he must improve technique and route running.
Line and Tight End
Over 100 combined starts among an all-junior and
-senior group doesn't inspire the confidence it
should after a miserable campaign. The line lost
its confidence and toughness midway through '03
and allowed 16 more sacks than anyone in the Pac-10.
The bowl game loss to Fresno State was hopefully
rock bottom for a group too talented not to improve.
Eyoseph Efseaff has become one of the best guards
out west and has played almost every snap since
arriving at UCLA. LT Steven Vieira is big, aggressive
and will also command pre-season notoriety. Assuming
he recovers from a fractured ankle, Mike McCloskey
is one of most athletic centers in the Pac-10
and is comfortable making all the calls. Third-year
sophomore Robert Chai stepped in a year ago following
McCloskeys injury and started the final
eight games of the year. Despite nagging knee
miseries, he played virtually every snap down
the stretch. McCloskey and Chai figure to compete
for the starting job throughout the Spring. The
largest Bruin Ed Blanton (6'9", 330) has
also been the most improved and is a battler at
RT. Size and versatility waits in the wings for
a group that could excel with confidence and coaching.
Former hoops star Mercedes Lewis was the top prep
TE in '02 for a reason. He separated himself from
the bunch at TE with a package of size, speed,
strength and soft hands and finished second on
the team with 30 catches.
Where else can the Bruins go but up? Coach Karl
Dorrell reshuffled the coaching staff to breathe
new life into a comatose unit that never asserted
itself. The line was the major problem, not only
with its porous pass blocking, but also with its
inability to get a talented backfield more than
a conference-worst 91.9 yds/gm on the ground.
Their improvement will decide the Bruins' fate.
If the line discovers its 2002 form, Bragg and
Drew will both have 1,000 yard seasons, and Olson
will have time to run an offense that showed glimpses
of its explosive nature against Washington. Dorrell
is on the hot seat and will have to adjust to
defenses much faster on game day.
2004 DEPTH CHART
A line that was the Bruins' backbone incurs huge
losses with the departure of so many talented
seniors. Defensive coordinator Larry Kerr's aggressive
schemes will require even more frequent blitzes
to generate pressure up front. No seniors return;
the only junior is C.J. Niusulu, and he, too,
has limited experience. He has shown maturity
during his rapid development and if nothing else,
he's the wide body the Bruins need in the middle.
Former prep All-American Kevin Brown has a chance
to be special but needs to relearn the finer points
of the tackle position after a stint on the O-line.
He has added muscle; still, filling gaps could
be problematic. Prep star dream-teamer Junior
Lemau'u has similar potential to accompany his
6'5" size and speed on the corner. DE Brigham
Harwell was one of the few recruits who could
contribute right away. Expect significant growing
pains, but, by late season, talent will overcome
Perhaps the most critical position in the Bruins'
pressure 4-3 system, the linebackers will have
to turn their playmaking ability up a notch. Look
out for junior Spencer Havner. He's averaged a
whopping 30yds per return on his six INTs, going
for two TDs. The former Pac-10 "defensive
freshman of the year" will be on the Butkus
watch list again, and gives the Bruins big play
capability on the strong side. Quick and aggressive
Justin London is back to patrol the middle. In
just his first year as a starter, he recorded
98 tackles. Wesley Walker leaves Spring listed
No. 1 at the outside spot, but he will have plenty
of competition for the starting job. A good all-around
athlete who appeared in every game, he made 15
tackles a year ago. Glendale CC-transfer Patrick
Pierre-Louis makes every play count after missing
time due to a series of injuries. His real strength
will be disrupting plays in the backfield. The
group will blitz from everywhere.
Matt Ware's early NFL departure raises questions
in an otherwise solid secondary. CB Matt Clark
proved himself opposite Ware and showed how his
quick feet and ability to close on the ball offset
his minimal size. Junior Marcus Cassel almost
won the job over Clark with his sure technique
and sound understanding of the system. He'll have
to give up short completions to keep receivers
in front of him. Nnamdi Ohaeri is the frontrunner
for the open cornerback position. He is an aggressive
performer who possesses the athletic ability to
play anywhere in the secondary. Last season, he
played extensively as the nickel back and also
contributed on special teams. The real strength
is at safety. Ben Emanuel II has flourished since
moving from SS to FS, allowing him to roam and
show off his tremendous instinct and tackling
ability. Junior Jarrad Page's development made
that possible. The former freshman All-American
is an intimidating hitter and will set the tone
for a tough group that won't be too far off their
Pac-10 leading pass-defense ranking.
The Bruins may have had the top pass defense in
the conference, yet, much of that was attributable
to such an outstanding front-four. Without that
constant pressure and a shutdown corner in Ware,
this defense becomes considerably more vulnerable.
Havner will help the secondary by stepping in
passing lanes over the middle. Even then, the
tackles must knock opposing lines back, or London
might have to make 200 tackles as teams will pound
the ball up the middle until UCLA can make this
path undesirable. The young group will rely on
emotion; a few early stops and then they'll know
how to shut almost anyone down. However, allowing
a couple quick TDs will possibly open the recently-closed
2004 DEPTH CHART
Emanuel II - Sr
Sophomore PK Justin Medlock returns after a surprisingly
accurate season. With his strong leg, he is plenty capable
of hitting from 50yds. He also handled the kickoff chores.
Senior Chris Kluwe also returns and can boom his punts.
Too often, however, that led to him out-kicking his
coverage, resulting in a poor net average. The three
punt return TDs allowed at Oklahoma was the low-point
and proved what can happen when qualified return men
get a running head start and good look at the blocking
Craig Bragg will try to return to '02 form when he led
the Pac-10 in punt returns. Much of his decline can
be attributed to poor blocking from what was also the
worst kickoff and punt coverage unit in the conference.
Maurice Drew had a sensational 26.6yd kick return average,
second best in the Pac-10.