UCLA Football: 10 Reasonable Goals for the Season
If the UCLA Bruins are to play at a respectable and competitive level, attainable goals need to be met without question.
Creating a culture centered around discipline, effort, and enthusiasm, is key in this capacity.
Let's take a look at 10 goals that the Bruins and new head coach Jim L. Mora hope to accomplish this upcoming season.
Curtail the Untimely Penalty Problem
Last season, the Bruins committed a little more than six penalties per game.
That number isn't terrible by any means, but it was the types of penalties that effectively made the Bruins a 6-8 football team.
Untimely penalties often crippled both offensive drives and defensive stops. Inevitably, any semblance of momentum was effectively ended.
The offensive line routinely committed false-start penalties. These penalties didn't help what would be described as a fledgling offense.
With UCLA's ineptness in terms of throwing the football, it made UCLA's offense very predictable and ineffective.
The bread-and-butter of last year's team was running the football. When put in long-yardage situations, the offense simply couldn't deliver.
Defensively, senior cornerback Aaron Hester was a prime culprit. The Compton native has had a career marred by pass-interference penalties.
Hester is very good in press coverage, but often loses sight of the ball when it's in the air. It often leaves him susceptible to using his hands and committing fouls.
What do these penalties stem from? A lack of concentration and discipline.
In a contest against Utah last year, UCLA committed a staggering 12 penalties—10 of which came in the first half alone!
If UCLA is to make the leap from being an average football team, the amount of inopportune penalties have to be curtailed.
A Competent Passing Attack
The ability to throw the football last season was almost nonexistent.
UCLA quarterbacks ranked second-to-last in the conference in passing yards (only besting Utah). In addition, they were dead last in pass attempts per game, completions per-game and passing touchdowns per-contest.
New offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone will look to change the fortunes of the anemic passing attack.
One thing in the Bruins' favor is the fact their offensive coordinator is running an offense that he's an expert in.
Under the previous regime, the staff wasn't entirely comfortable with executing the run-based pistol offense.
Former offensive coordinator Norm Chow had absolutely no experience running the pistol offense. Last year's offensive coordinator Mike Johnson also didn't have much success either.
The pistol was merely employed to mask deficiencies at both the quarterback position and the offensive line.
That doesn't exactly inspire confidence within the team, especially when the educators themselves weren't well-versed in the offense being run.
With Mazzone at the helm, an unabated knowledge of the offense won't be a problem.
The pass attack will undoubtedly become more diversified under the spread, and the amount of opportunities to throw the football should exponentially multiply.
Have a Winning Record
Without question, a winning season is a must for the football program.
Mora would love to start off his tenure in Westwood with a banner year.
The Bruins have only finished with a winning record once in the past five years.
In order to generate more interest from both recruits and the fan base, the Bruins need to finish with a winning percentage above .500.
Go to a Bowl Game
There's no doubt that an absence from a bowl appearance would be a massive disappointment.
Since 2000, the Bruins are 3-6 in bowl games.
That just isn't acceptable.
The talent to win on a consistent basis is currently on the roster.
Under former head man Rick Neuheisel, the Bruins brought in recruiting classes routinely ranked in the top 15 nationally. In 2009, their class was ranked as the fifth best in the country.
Getting to a bowl game—and winning—would be a great launching point for Mora's career as the head coach at UCLA.
Have a 1,000 Yard Rusher
The Bruins will lean heavily on senior Johnathan Franklin this year.
The tailback from Dorsey High School represents perhaps the biggest returning threat on the roster.
Franklin will have to be effective in order for the offense to prosper. His ability to run successfully will take off pressure from the yet-to-be-determined quarterback of the squad.
The rushing attack should be buoyed by the return of highly regarded offensive tackle Xavier Su'a-Filo.
Su'a-Filo returns from his two-year Mormon mission, and will look to integrate himself within the starting unit.
More Explosive Plays
Last season, the offense had the creative display of a brown paper bag.
Two consecutive running plays would often be followed by a five-yard route. This cyclical pattern was seemingly never altered.
It led to not only an extremely predictable offense, but it also neutralized any big-play capability that the offense may have had.
Under Mazzone, the idea of showing opposing defenses inventive play-calling will force them to stay honest.
The ability to get yardage in big chunks is something that the new offensive staff hopes to bring to the table.
Skill players such as Jordon James, Ricky Marvray, Devin Lucien and Shaq Evans will be utilized out in space—via screens, reverses, deep routes and swing passes.
The biggest threat (literally) will be tight end Joseph Fauria.
The 6'8" Fauria represents a mismatch anywhere he lines up. His athletic ability will make him a prime candidate for streaks and slants down the heart of the field.
One would surmise that he'll also be targeted in the red zone with much frequency.
Be Competitive in Every Game
The 2011-12 game-by-game results tells the whole tale of the program's current state.
In a word: inconsistent.
Here's a look at last year's schedule in it's entirety.
Notice a trend? One big win will be followed by an embarrassing loss. It's not as if the loss is a respectable one.
It's a crushing defeat.
The loss to Arizona, perhaps, sums up the season best. UCLA was coming off of an emotional come-from-behind victory over Washington State.
As they rolled into Tucson the following week, the Bruins absolutely laid an egg.
Inconsistency truly epitomizes the team. Along with that comes the question of effort and a lack of toughness.
Mora's task will be to rebuild the fractured psyches of the current roster. An arena of toughness needs to be expediently applied.
More than anything, a sense of pride needs to be revealed and promoted.
Eradicate Trends from Former Regime
There were a number of alarming trends from the previous coaching staff that need to be eradicated immediately.
A never-give-up attitude didn't exist for the feeble-minded Bruins. A lack of inspired play—maybe more accurately, a lack of "fight"—often resulted in mediocrity.
In terms of actual game play, numerous things need to be sharpened and tweaked.
As previously mentioned, the discipline in terms of penalties needs to be improved. With that notion comes the need to focus more and play with intelligence.
The squad was often gashed by big plays on the defensive side of the football. UCLA ranked 108th overall in total defense.
A vanilla "bend-not-break" strategy was incredibly innocuous in nature. Also, the term "blitz" was foreign to the former defensive coordinator Joe Tresey.
Mora will not only look to field a much more disciplined football team, but also one that will attack the quarterback with much more frequency.
Rejuvenate an Apathetic Fan Base
There are many aspects that have contributed to the lukewarm malaise radiating from the Bruins' fan base.
Without question, the lifeblood of any college is the current attendees and alumni.
It doesn't help matters that there is no on-campus stadium. The student fan base has to travel upwards of 40 minutes (without traffic) to get to the Rose Bowl.
Without easy accessibility to attend games, many students ultimately don't make the trek out to Pasadena.
In addition, the product on the field has been incredibly pedestrian.
The Bruins have gone 56-58 since 2003. A sense of pessimism has truly developed in correspondence.
For Mora and his staff, a reinvigorated fan base would do wonders for the program. A buzz around campus and the area is just what the team needs.
In order for that to happen, however, wins need to come.
Close the Gap with Southern Cal
Here are the facts: UCLA is 1-12 in the last 13 games against their rival.
Last year's 50-0 shellacking by the Trojans marked the most humiliating defeat in the rivalry's history since 1930.
Suffice it to say, the Bruins have been pathetic against their crosstown foe.
Neuheisel's empty proclamations about the talent gap closing between the two schools were just that—empty.
Not once under the previous regime did the UCLA football team display anything to indicate that they were beginning to creep up upon Southern Cal for supremacy over the city.
However, this upcoming season offers a new found sense of optimism—in the form of the new coaching staff.
Mora and his staff are making an ardent effort to completely reinvent the culture surrounding UCLA football.
With USC suffering from scholarship sanctions, the Bruins need to strike while the proverbial iron is hot.
The quality of talent brought in by the Trojans annually will be undeniably high. With that said, they won't have the usual depth that a traditional USC team would have.
Mora and the Bruins need to capitalize on this development. If they can, they'll become relevant once again in Los Angeles.