Biggest Storylines Heading into UCLA Fall Camp
Three significant storylines surround Jim Mora and the UCLA football team heading into the commencement of fall camp in San Bernardino, California, on Aug. 4.
The expectations for Mora's bunch are incredibly high. The media recently picked UCLA to win the Pac-12 South Division. This could be the most talented and complete UCLA team since Cade McNown was the signal-caller in 1998.
Can Brett Hundley and Myles Jack lead a relatively inexperienced team into the unknown territory of national success? Will the Bruins be able to adequately replace the likes of Anthony Barr and Xavier Su'a-Filo, among others?
Lastly, is the football monopoly in Los Angeles officially over?
Replacing Anthony Barr and Xavier Su'a-Filo
UCLA has the unenviable task of replacing five NFL draft picks from a season ago—Anthony Barr, Jordan Zumwalt, Xavier Su'a-Filo, Cassius Marsh and Shaq Evans.
It would be naive to assume an existing member on the roster would instantly replicate the success had by Barr or Su'a-Filo. "X" was regarded as one of the best offensive linemen in the entire country last year. He also was the leader of a young offensive line group.
Barr led the Bruins with 10.0 sacks and 20.0 tackles for loss in 2013. He undoubtedly was one of the most feared pass-rushers in the conference the past two seasons.
UCLA will need to find quality replacements for the aforementioned duo.
At guard, look for transfer Malcolm Bunche to get the first shot at Su'a-Filo's vacant left guard position. Bunche is a massive man, standing 6'7", 327 pounds. While he's likely not as mobile as Su'a-Filo, he should be able to positively impact the run game.
As it currently stands, sophomore Deon Hollins and junior Kenny Orjioke will battle it out for the outside linebacker spot. Hollins has a lightning-quick first step and uses his hands quite well.
Orjioke is built more like the prototypical outside 'backer. At 6'4", 240 pounds, he's dripping with upside and athleticism. The former safety could be a very good player down the line with continued improvement on his technique.
Heightened Expectations Surrounding the Program
This is foreign territory for the program. Under the previous two regimes, UCLA fell into a malaise of mediocrity. There wasn't truly a point (outside of the 2005 season) in which the Bruins fielded a team capable of winning the conference.
Under Mora, things have quickly changed.
Both Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report and Matt Hayes of Sporting News have UCLA as the No. 8 team in their respective preseason top 25 polls. As mentioned in the initial slide, UCLA was also picked as the favorite to win the Pac-12 South Division title in 2014.
It will be fascinating to see how the Bruins will be able to manage these new-found expectations.
Vast expectations also fall on the shoulders of UCLA's star signal-caller. Hundley is a preseason candidate for the Heisman Trophy this upcoming season. Undoubtedly, the Arizona native should be considered among the upper echelon at the position in the entire country.
He'll look to build upon a season in which he set multiple school records.
The Premier Team in Los Angeles?
Has UCLA surpassed Southern Cal as the top team in Los Angeles?
A potential third straight win would surely add credence to the theory. This year's battle between the two sides will take place in the Rose Bowl on Nov. 22.
Looking at both teams, UCLA appears to be deeper across the board. However, the Trojans do possess elite talent—namely in the form of Leonard Williams and Nelson Agholor. Steve Sarkisian's group should also be buoyed by a deep backfield and a talented front seven.
It's very conceivable to believe the contest in Pasadena could determine the Pac-12 South Division champion.