This is the third in a 10-part series about what I see as the three keys to success for each PAC-10 team.
1. Coach Rick Neuheisel
1. Coach Rick Neuheisel
I can’t say I am a fan, but I do believe he can coach.
Yes, there were questions about recruiting and other violations during his stints at both Colorado and Washington.
He also took Washington to the 2001 Rose Bowl and won it.
Despite some of his character issues, he is a good coach who knows the game. He was an NFL quarterback coach and offensive coordinator.
His attitude is also a plus. He is not afraid to be in L.A. and go head to head with Pete Carroll and the USC monopoly of college football. And he has the people around him believing.
In his first season he took UCLA to a 4-8 record, including an upset win over then-ranked Tennessee. Tennessee ended up having a down year, but the win was still a big way to open the Neuheisel era.
In 2008 it seemed almost unnatural how many quarterback injuries UCLA experienced in the spring. Both Pat Cowan and Ben Olson were lost for the season before the season was even close.
Third-stringer Kevin Craft came in and started every game. That got UCLA only four wins. And those wins were over the two teams that finished behind UCLA in the Pac-10, the team that finished immediately ahead of UCLA, and in the opener, when the Bruins edged a not-so-great Tennessee team.
I don’t know the exact order of the 2009 depth chart but I do know who is on it.
Along with Craft, the other two QBs who will get the most looks are red-shirt freshman Kevin Prince and true freshman Richard Berhaut, who has already enrolled.
Others who will be playing for a spot on the three-deep are red-shirt junior Chris Forcier, senior Osaar Rasshan and red-shirt freshman Nick Crissman.
Defense has been one of the stronger units for UCLA.
DeWayne Walker coordinated a defense that was decent but by no means dominant. They had a strong pass defense but were weak against the run. Walker is now gone, having taken a job as head coach at New Mexico State.
Neuheisel promoted from within the staff, naming linebackers coach Chuck Bullough as the new defensive coordinator.
If he can bring balance to the defense and strengthen the run defense while maintaining the strong pass defense, UCLA might be in a few more games and turn a couple of close losses into wins.