UCLA: potential to be one of the best teams in the nation

Photo by George Laase. Quarterback Brett Hundley will lead the Bruins' offense this year.

UCLA’s football team faces one of the most important seasons in the history of the school.  Everyone expects them to be one of the best teams in the nation but they may be the third or fourth best team in their conference.  Everyone expects Brett Hundley to be one of the best quarterbacks in the county but he may be the third or fourth best quarterback in the conference.  That’s why, according to head coach Jim Mora the Bruins take it one day at a time.

“Every day our goal is to be the best we can be that day and come back the next day a get a little bit better,” said Mora at the Pac-12 media day last week at Paramount Studios. “That’s the approach you have to take because if you look to far down the line and listen to what’s going on outside, you are making a terrible mistake.  Our players have embraced that philosophy. Our team talks about the process, the grind and going to work every day and being great.”

UCLA has the players and coaches to be great.  Hundley leads an offense that may not have great speed but will have great balance.  Last season 26 different players caught passes and most of those players are returning.  “We have great talent at the wide receiver position,” said Hundley at the Pac-12 media day.  Five of the top six receivers from last year are returning.  Devin Fuller caught 43 passes last year, Jordan Payton 38, Devin Lucien 19, Thomas Duarte 16 and running back Paul Perkins caught 24 passes.

UCLA top four rushers are also returning along with four offensive lineman.  The returning rushers are Hundley who ran for 748 yards, Perkins had 573 yards, Jordan James ran for 534 yards and Myles Jack had 267 yards.

The four returning offensive lineman are Simon Goines, Jake Brendel, Alex Redmond and Caleb Benenoch. Brendel is one of the best interior lineman in the nation. Hundley, who threw for 3,071 yards and 24 touchdowns last year should be well protected this year.

 “I have a lot of trust in Brett,“ said Mora. “I think the team and coaches have a lot of faith in him that he is going to do the right thing.  The reason we trust him is because he put in a lot of hard work this off season.  He understands his capabilities and he knows the players around him.”

According to Mora, Hundley spent more time watching film this off season and he also worked out with Phillip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers, Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos and former college star Tim Tebow.

On defense the Bruins have eight starters back.  “I am excited about our defense,” said Mora. “Jeff Ulbrich is the new defensive coordinator.  He is a passionate guy with great knowledge.  He played 10 years as a linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers and the players really respond well to him.”

All four members of the secondary are returning along with two linebackers and two defensive lineman.  Fabian Moreau, Anthony Jefferson, Randall Gorforth and Ishmael Adams will be in the defensive backfield.  On the line will be Eddie Vanderdoes and Ellis McCarthy and the returning linebackers are Myles Jack and Eric Kendricks.  Jack and Kendricks are two of the best linebackers in America.

“Our defense will be explosive,” said Kendricks at media day.  “We have a young defensive line and we have to replace some players who were drafted but this gives other players a chance to create their own legacy.  As a defensive player I just try to get the offense the ball as much as possible.”

UCLA will open its 2014 season on the road against Virginia on August 30, at 9 a.m. west coast time.  Their first home game will be September 6, at the Rose Bowl at 7 p.m.

If the Bruins expect to play in a prestigious bowl game this year and be one of the best teams in the nation they will need to take it one game at a time because there are no easy games in the Pac-12.