Despite an impressive recruiting haul leading up the 2010 season, UCLA squandered a golden opportunity to usurp the college football spotlight from their hated crosstown rival, the NCAA-sanctioned USC Trojans. While the Bruins’ 4-8 record left a bitter taste in many a fan’s mouth, there were so many more sources of frustration for fans in Westwood than simply the number of wins versus losses last year.
Injuries to key players, academic suspensions, felonious criminal activity and repeated drug violations all mounted to a forgettable season that resulted in the firing of defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough, as well as receivers coach Reggie Moore and defensive line coach Todd Howard. Iconic offensive coordinator Norm Chow was also replaced during the off-season coaching overhaul.
Bigger and better things were expected from the Bruins, considering 2010 was head coach Rick Neuheisel’s third year, a campaign in which he had most of his own recruits already in place on both sides of the ball. But lost momentum from last season's regression also translated to a disappointing list of prep signees for CRN. Rivals.com ranked UCLA’s 2011 recruiting haul seventh in the Pac-12, while Scout.com ranked their incoming class eighth in the conference.
The good news for UCLA fans is that hope springs eternal, especially with Spring Football on the horizon. Sure, the players in April’s practices rarely tackle, and they’re not even in full pads much of the time in the days leading up to the final scrimmage, scheduled for April 23 at Drake Stadium.
But this program is so desperate for something positive that even the most reluctant of Bruin fans can’t help but wonder if a bounce-back season is in store for UCLA as the Pac-12 welcomes newcomers Colorado and Utah to the expanded conference in 2011.
As March 29 (Day 1 of spring practice) approaches, we take a look at various facets of the 2011 Bruins, and what benchmarks for success need to be reached to reassure UCLA fans that they have a chance to contend in the increasingly-competitive Pac-12 this fall.