Under first-year head coach Jim L. Mora, the UCLA football program has progressed immensely, improving from a perennial underachiever to a legitimate contender.
The Bruins' future looks bright in the hands of QB Brett Hundley and a talented offensive line, but what really has UCLA fans excited is the development of the defense.
Led by defensive coordinator Lou Spanos, the UCLA defense has evolved into a ferocious blitzing machine that ranks No. 7 in the nation in sacks and No. 15 in tackles for loss.
Spanos boasts 17 years of NFL coaching experience, including two championship seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. During his time in Pittsburgh, the new-age Steel Curtain ranked No. 1 in the NFL four times.
The results of the regime change have been telling, as UCLA jumped from No. 11 to No. 3 in the Pac-12 in sacks, en route to a South Division title and a berth in the Holiday Bowl.
Needless to say, the strides made in Spanos' first year have gotten the Bruin faithful yearning to see just how far the Bruins defense can go.
Mora and Co. may have found the formula for continued success in Westwood, but we won't know for sure until the 2013 season unfolds.
There are a number of questions left unanswered, from NFL Draft decisions to recruiting results, that will affect the progress of the defense. But still, 2013 is shaping up to be the year of the defense for UCLA.
Read on for more information about the Bruins defense and the key issues to watch for as we attempt to gauge our expectations for the unit next season.