Alright, after concluding their 91st season of football, let's take a look back and anaylze the 2009 UCLA Bruins season.
A 3-6 record and an eighth place finish in the PAC-10 Conference, which included five straight losses in October. Not good.
An offense and an offensive line that, while better than in 2008, continued to underperform at times. Also not good.
Going 4-1 over their last five games. Good.
Not only making the postseason, but winning a bowl game for the first time in four years. Very good.
Finishing with an overall record of 7-6 and earning their first winning season since 2006. Again, very good.
What I'm trying to say is this: At the beginning of this season I proclaimed that the Bruins would be a better football team with a better record than in 2008.
Though they are not quite among the PAC-10's elite as of yet, I was proved right.
One can say that for UCLA in 2009; it was a mixed bag of things that went poorly and things that went well.
Although the defense had trouble against the run, giving up 100-yard games to a plethora of opposing backs such as Oregon's LaMichael James, Stanford's Toby Gerhart, and Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen of Cal, they proved essential in the Bruins' seven wins—including shutting out Temple in the second half of the recent Eagle Bank Bowl.
Rahim Moore was incredible in the secondary, intercepting an NCAA-leading ten passes. Brian Price was flat-out dominant at defensive tackle, causing much havoc in the backfield, recording many sacks and tackles for losses, and winning the PAC-10 Defensive Player of the Year award.
Price announcing that he was entering the 2010 NFL Draft as a junior was absolutely no surprise to me, and shouldn't have been to anyone in Bruin Nation.
On the offensive side, considering that he had not played a down in two years prior to this season, Kevin Prince did a pretty good job at quarterback, completing over 50 percent of his passes and throwing for eight touchdowns.
Especially since he took a Mike Tyson-like beating for much of the year.
Coming back from a broken jaw suffered at Tennessee, a concussion against Washington, and a sprained shoulder at USC showed that Prince was a tough kid. Though he did throw some costly picks that killed important drives, he also made some impressive plays.
The offensive line gave up fewer sacks than in 2008 and performed better overall, but everyone knew that their ineptness was not going to be completely cured in one year. Things are looking up for them, but they are still a work in progress.
Coach Rick Neuheisel and his staff deserves much credit for UCLA's improvement in his second year at the helm.
However, there are questions for 2010.
The defense is a concern as six players, including Price, must be replaced. Defensive lineman Datone Jones and linebacker Akeem Ayers are the only notables returning in the front seven, though Moore, who will be counted on to be a leader along with Ayers, will be back at safety.
Neuheisel and offensive coordinator Norm Chow should open up the competition at quarterback between Prince and Richard Brehaut, giving the much touted Brehaut an opportunity to step up while at the same time pushing Prince to keep making progress in order to retain his starting job.
The offensive line has some concerns due to freshman standout Xavier Sua-Filo going on a Mormon mission and center Kai Maiava having academic issues, which knocked him out the Eagle Bank Bowl against Temple.
If Maiava regains his eligibility this spring and Micah Kia and Eddie Williams come back from injuries, however, there's no reason why the Bruins shouldn't be okay up front.
The skill players will be worth watching next fall, as all of the running backs and receivers except for Terrance Austin and tight end Logan Paulsen return. Malcolm Jones, who was the Gatorade National High School Player of the Year for Oaks Christian High, will be in the mix and should definitely get the chance to earn playing time.
All in all, UCLA's 2009 season should best be described as a mixed bag with progress made; they fell short in some areas and did some promising things in other areas.
Whether or not their progress will continue next fall remains to be seen. Spring practice, fall camp, and the upcoming National Signing Day will help to provide answers and so a long way in determining how things will go in Westwood in 2010.
I'm certainly looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.