It has been a rough decade for UCLA football and it seems like every year the Bruins are a “rising team” according to pundits and analysts, but when the season comes around, injuries to linemen, inconsistent quarterback play and a sheer lack of execution have combined to keep UCLA from breaking past that rising status.
Of course, there have been signs of promise over the past few seasons including hallmark wins against elite programs like Tennessee in 2009 and Texas in 2010, but once UCLA reached Pac-10 play, injuries or inconsistency caught up and doomed the seasons to mediocrity or worse.
Going into his fourth season at his alma mater, head coach Rick Neuheisel has had only one bowl appearance, two 4-8 seasons and zero wins against USC. When you add those up it equates to a very warm seat for Neuheisel.
When Neuheisel replaced his offensive and defensive coordinators, his wide receivers coach and his defensive line coach, it was clear that he was feeling the heat. Neuheisel replaced all of them with younger, more charismatic coaches who match up with his own energy.
This infusion of new blood has some excitement surrounding UCLA. Offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Mike Johnson is very enigmatic and expects nothing short of perfection, while defensive coordinator Joe Tresey is a little quirky and absolutely loves putting together an attacking defense. Both of these coordinators will be welcome with open arms after a year of stale football.
Expect rising redshirt junior running back Johnathan Franklin, who eclipsed 1,000 yards on the ground last season, to be a major contributor on offense along with rising redshirt freshman running back Jordon James and rising sophomore F-back Anthony Barr.
UCLA had one of the worst passing games in the nation last season and Johnson has really emphasized an improvement on that front, so look for rising senior wide receiver Nelson Rosario to become a bigger part of the offense and rising junior wide receiver Randall Carroll to stretch the field on deep balls.
Defensively, the front seven should be stronger with the return of injured rising redshirt junior defensive end Datone Jones and rising redshirt junior linebacker Patrick Larimore along with a more aggressive blitzing scheme from Tresey.
The secondary will be the strength of the defense as three starters return and rising sophomore Dietrich Riley should bring more heavy hitting and sure tackling than his predecessor Rahim Moore.
This is a football team that has potential to win eight or nine games, but there are a lot of ifs that could lead to another losing season and possibly a new head coach.
Compiled by Jacob Ruffman, Bruin Sports senior staff.