With the return of veteran signal caller Brett Hundley and incoming recruits ranging from Adarius Pickett (DB) and Nate Starks (HB), both the defensive backfield and offensive set are stacked. While the receiving core may be place of concern for many reasons, it seems like February 5th, National Signing Day, will be a day of resolution. There is no doubt – amongst players and fans alike – that this coaching staff is doing everything in its power to help ESPN’s early ranked #7 team make a run at the new College Football Playoffs.
The addition of Kennedy Polamalu is going to benefit the offense greatly. His ability to not only develop Nate Starks and other young backs, but teach them and inspire them will be key. So with the tandems of Hundley and any running back available (be it Starks, Manfro, Perkins, James or Thigpen), along with Myles Jack – who reigns the Pac-12’s freshman offensive and defensive player of the year – and Eric Kendricks, not to mention, well, the rest of the roster, the places for opponents to target the Bruins are limited, but let’s check out where the biggest one might be.
The primary, and for all its worth, the only notable returning worry, is the offensive line. Poised to improve, they are no doubt on the right track, but consider that this is a line which gave up 52 sacks as the third worst in college football for 2012 and though improved last season, it still has a long way to go. For perspective, the line gave up 9 in one game to Arizona State, and that was the story of the loss that kept the Bruins from the PAC-12 Championship. Flashback to that game. Hundley took the snap, turned right, and whilst targeting Darius Bell on a swing route, was intercepted by Carl Bradford – who took it to the house for six. Bradford had broken free in a matter of seconds, gotten his hands up, and before Hundley could do anything, made one of the nights best plays. Then consider that UCLA lost 38-33. No pick-six, and without factoring in anything else, UCLA takes the game by a final of 33-32. Now, it’s obvious that removing one play would change the dynamic of the game and perhaps the outcome, but just as food for thought, UCLA may have been on their way to the Rose Bowl. Then recall that Xavier S’ua-Filo has declared for the NFL draft, meaning UCLA has lost their best lineman, and make a case that the offensive line won’t have their work cut out for them. It’s impossible to make such a case with evidence, and thus it becomes evident, this will not be easy.
The strength of the line will ultimately translate to the strength of the Bruin squad, but it won’t come down to just that. For more on that to come, check back at GJB!