UCLA Football: 3 Things Between the Bruins and a Conference Title
Jim Mora and the UCLA Bruins expect to build upon the momentum of a year ago, and compete for a conference crown in 2013.
UCLA should be one of the more talented teams in the conference.
Quarterback Brett Hundley will enter his sophomore year as 'the guy' to command the offense. Dually, the Bruins have a very good front seven—led by the extremely talented outside linebacker Anthony Barr.
However, there are some hurdles that could derail UCLA's shot at winning the conference.
Here are three things that might prevent the Bruins from becoming Pac-12 Champions.
Daunting Conference Schedule
The schedule makers certainly didn't make it easy on the Bruins in 2013.
UCLA has away games against rival Southern Cal, Utah and Arizona. In recent memory, both Tucson and the state of Utah have been house of horrors for the Bruins.
UCLA hasn't beaten the Wildcats in Tucson since 2003. The last time UCLA played Utah in Salt Lake City, the Utes won by a score of 31-6. Four years earlier, the Bruins were trounced by a score of 44-6. In 2008, BYU demolished the Bruins in Provo by a score of 59-0.
Additionally, the Bruins have a stretch in which they play Stanford and Oregon in back-to-back weeks. Both games will also take place in Palo Alto and Eugene, respectively.
The home slate isn't much easier, as the rising Washington Huskies and Arizona State Sun Devils will pay visits to the Rose Bowl.
It's arguable that the Bruins have one of, if not the toughest schedule in the conference next season. That's not even taking into account non-conference tilts against the dangerous Nevada Wolfpack, and versus the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln.
*Here is the entire schedule for the 2013 season.
Uncertainty in the Secondary
The Bruins will be breaking in a completely new secondary from a season ago.
Sheldon Price, Aaron Hester and Andrew Abbott all graduated. Junior Tevin McDonald was recently dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules.
Health and overall depth has been a problem for this group. There's also a lack of general experience when it comes to the current members of the unit.
Randall Goforth is the most experienced returner in terms of actual play time—and he'll only be a true sophomore next year. UCLA expects Ishmael Adams to compete for a starting spot at corner, but he's coming back from a severe shoulder injury.
Both Anthony Jefferson and Dietrich Riley have also suffered from serious injuries in the past couple seasons.
UCLA signed an extremely talented quartet of secondary players this past February. It wouldn't be a surprise to see at least two of the foursome (Priest Willis, Johnny Johnson, Tahaan Goodman, Tyler Foreman) potentially start this upcoming year.
Regardless, this unit will be very green. Growing pains will undoubtedly take place, and that's not a good thing—especially when playing in a pass-happy conference.
The lack of overall experience could prove to be detrimental in an inopportune time.
Concerns on the Offensive Line
The offensive line has been a serious area of concern for seemingly upwards of a decade.
Not only has there been a lack of viable depth, but there's also been a dearth of playable—even satisfactory—talent.
Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm made a huge impact during his first year with UCLA. He took a fractured unit and turned it into a respectable one. Not outstanding by any stretch, but one that could compete game to game.
UCLA returns four of the five starters from a year ago. It's no secret that Xavier Su'a-Filo is the most talented of the bunch. He's projected to be an NFL player in the near future.
Aside from "X," there are some question marks. It's still an inexperienced line that has been plagued with inconsistency. Jake Brendel, Simon Goines and Torian White are only going to be sophomores.
Goines and White will flip-flop positions from a year ago; Goines will now operate at left tackle, while White will man the post on the right side of the line.
Additionally, there's still a huge problem in terms of playable depth behind the starting unit. As a result, UCLA went out and signed seven talented offensive linemen from the high school ranks.
A few of them should see play time as true freshmen. However, if possible, most programs avoid exclusively utilizing underclassmen on the offensive line. Those spots are usually reserved for grizzled veterans, who've been in the program for a few years.
For the Bruins, they'll have to rely on a litany of young and inexperienced members out of necessity. That could be a problem against some of the more talented defensive lines that UCLA expects to see throughout the season.