FOOTBALL SEASON PREVIEW: KEY RETURNERS
Rising redshirt freshman
The quarterback position is still unsettled, but the former five-star recruit will most likely see the field at some point this season.
Rising redshirt sophomore
Last season, Kendricks was second on the team in tackles despite starting 11 of 14 games on the bench. This season, the inside linebacker will be one of the most important players defensively.
The UCLA football program is in flux once again.
After a disappointing tenure as the Bruins’ coach, UCLA alumnus Rick Neuheisel was fired following a 6-8 season in 2011. Neuheisel was 21-29 during his time at the UCLA program’s helm, where he led the Bruins to a winning record only once in four years.
Neuheisel’s firing means that UCLA is now on its fourth coach since 2002.
While the recent history of the program is grim, there is hope on the horizon. Former NFL coach Jim Mora was hired in December and immediately put together an all-star supporting cast.
Mora and his assistant coaches reeled in the No. 12 recruiting class in the nation, according to Scout.com, after only one full month on the job.
The new staff rode the momentum into the offseason where they started to implement a full-scale culture change both on and off the field.
Tempo for practices during springball was far higher than that seen during the Neuheisel era.
Mora and his coordinators ““ Noel Mazzone on offense and Lou Spanos on defense ““ installed new base formations. The offense switched from a running-heavy pistol offense to a pass-happy spread formation while the defense moved from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4.
The transition to a new coaching staff has also aroused more competition for playing time despite returning 18 players with starting experience.
The most publicized battle, as to be expected, comes at the quarterback position.
Rising redshirt senior and three-year returning starter Kevin Prince will look to hold off rising senior Richard Brehaut and rising redshirt freshman Brett Hundley for the starting job.
All three are still in the hunt for the spot, but many feel Hundley has the inside track to get the starting nod against Rice in August for the first game of the season.
Whoever is the quarterback next season will have the luxury of playing with a talented group of playmakers. Rising redshirt freshman running back Steven Manfro dazzled during the spring game at the Rose Bowl, including an impressive 80-yard kickoff return for touchdown. Rising redshirt freshman wide receiver Devin Lucien, a highly-rated recruit coming out of high school, also impressed during the spring.
Other depth chart battles include two of the starting spots on the defensive line. Rising redshirt senior Datone Jones will hold down one of the defensive end positions while the other will be decided between rising juniors Cassius Marsh and Owamagbe Odighizuwa.
Meanwhile, the starting nod for nose tackle is still up in the air with rising sophomore Brandon Willis being the frontrunner. Rising redshirt senior Donovan Carter and incoming freshman Ellis McCarthy will both push Willis come fall practice, which will be held at CSU San Bernardino.
UCLA, thanks to USC’s sanctions, represented the South in the Pac-12 Championship Game with a 6-6 record last season and suffered a loss to Oregon.
With USC now bowl eligible, UCLA will have to do much better than 6-6 to earn a spot in the championship game, but Mora and the Bruins have the talent to defend their Pac-12 South title this season.
Compiled by Jacob Ruffman, Bruin Sports senior staff.