Pac-12 Networks preview: UCLA
This post is one in a series of 12 as we visit each Pac-12 school on the Pac-12 Networks Football Training Camp tour. Check Pac-12.com in advance of each school's Football Training Camp stop for a quick season preview ahead of that night's show.
Come Aug. 30 at Virginia, the UCLA Bruins start playing for their first Pac-12 title since 1998. With Heisman hopeful QB Brett Hundley and reigning Pac-12 Freshman Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year Myles Jack back, the sky is the limit for preseason No. 7 ranked team in the nation. After going 10-3 and just missing out on the Pac-12 South title in 2013, UCLA will look to its star quarterback and a rapidly improving defense to finish the job and make this year’s Rose Bowl a home game for the boys in blue and gold. Here we #GoBruins!
- The Bruins bring back eight starters back on an offense that ranked 20th in the nation in scoring at 36.9 points per game in 2013. Star QB and #Statisfaction genius Brett Hundley enters his third year as the starter in Westwood ranked third at UCLA on the all-time list in career touchdown passes, total offense and completions, and sits fourth in passing yards. Hundley loses his top target, receiver Shaq Evans, and stud left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo to the NFL, but he’ll have three starting linemen back as well receivers Devin Fuller and Jordan Payton. The Bruins are hoping for receivers Devin Lucien and Thomas Duarte to emerge as playmakers in 2014 as well. In fact, UCLA will need a more balanced running game this season as Brett Hundley was actually the leading rusher last year. The Bruins will look to the combination of Paul Perkins, Jordon James, Steven Manfro and two-way beast RB/LB Myles Jack to carry more of the load.
- UCLA is in great shape defensively as new defensive coordinator John Ulbrich has eight returning starters to help make up for the losses of linebacker Anthony Barr, linebacker Jordan Zumwalt and defensive end Cassius Marsh. The Bruins ranked fifth in the Pac-12 in total defense and scoring defense in 2013, but they bring back tackling machines in linebackers Eric Kendricks and Myles Jack along with talented defensive linemen Ellis McCarthy and Eddie Vanderdoes. The Bruins are stacked in the secondary as they return all four starters from a backend that ranked third in the Pac-12 against the pass last season. Cornerbacks Ishmael Adams and Fabian Moreau combine with safeties Anthony Jefferson and Randall Goforth to give UCLA one of the deepest and most talented defensive backfields in the conference.
- UCLA’s schedule is a point of emphasis for the Pac-12 title race in 2014. One could argue that the road to the Pac-12 Championship Game in Santa Clara, California, goes through Pasadena. The Bruins will host top contenders No. 3 Oregon, No. 11 Stanford and the always anticipated Crosstown Rivalry with No. 15 USC.
- Jim Mora begins year three in Westwood having won more games (19) in his first two years at UCLA than any other UCLA head coach. He and his squad will begin “The Drive” (pun intended because UCLA is the focus of Pac-12 Networks' brilliant show “The Drive” this season) at Virginia on Aug. 30. If the Bruins can take the next step and put it all together, then they’ll be dancing in Westwood.
The Bruins have had a ton of legendary wide receivers come through Westwood over the years. Who is UCLA’s all-time leader in career receptions? Hint: He and I were on rival Pop Warner teams growing up, were teammates in high school, and he’s arguably one of the greatest guys and friends of all time.
(Credit: UCLA Sports Information Department. Steve Rourke and Skip Powers are phenomenal.)