Coach Jim Mora's Biggest Challenges for UCLA Bruins in 2015
In his fourth year as the head coach of the UCLA football team, Jim Mora and his staff are slated to encounter a few potential issues in 2015.
For one, the squad is tasked with replacing arguably the most productive quarterback in UCLA history in Brett Hundley. Mora will also have to prepare his team for a fierce Pac-12 Conference schedule that includes two tricky nonconference foes.
An early portion of the upcoming season is also not for the faint of heart. In some aspects, it could define UCLA's season.
This piece will analyze the three biggest challenges facing the UCLA Bruins in 2015.
Managing Josh Rosen in All Aspects
This piece will operate under the assumption Josh Rosen will be named as the starting quarterback.
Any true freshman starting is a big deal. For a true freshman quarterback to take the reins of a football team, it's an even bigger deal. Couple that with the hype of the said signal-caller, and it's a potential media frenzy in the making.
Mora will have to manage the expectations of his talented freshman quarterback. Should Rosen be named the starter, he'll garner inevitable attention from the media. It's incumbent upon Mora and his staff to not allow this to become a distraction—for the team or player.
Additionally, if Rosen is the starter, Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone will have to try and make it easy for him on the field. In essence, they cannot expect Rosen to do too much—regardless of how innately talented he is.
This means giving him manageable, easy throws to execute. It also means relying heavily upon stud running back Paul Perkins to stabilize the offense and take pressure off of the eventual starting quarterback (whomever that may be).
Navigate Through Tough Four-Game Stretch
UCLA will face a gauntlet of a four-game stretch to begin its conference play.
A home game versus a tough BYU team kicks off a period in which the Bruins then go to Arizona, host Arizona State and finally finish off the quartet of murderous games with a contest in Palo Alto versus Stanford.
This is a crucial early portion of the season for UCLA. There's no question this stretch will likely define the season going forward. If the Bruins can navigate through this period unscathed, they've got a good shot at winning the Pac-12 South.
If not, things could become difficult in terms of winning a division title.
Finish Season Strong
While UCLA gets a bit of a reprieve in the middle part of its schedule (Cal, Colorado, Oregon State, Washington State), the Bruins end the season with two tough contests versus Utah and Southern Cal—both games taking place on the road away from the Rose Bowl.
Utah has never been an easy place to play for a myriad of reasons. Additionally, the Utes have played the Bruins extremely tough in the Mora era.
The contest versus Southern Cal is always interesting. Although UCLA has defeated the Trojans in three straight years, anything can happen in a rivalry game—especially versus a talented opponent the caliber of USC.
To complicate matters even further, both of these opponents reside within the Pac-12 South Division. There's a plausible chance that these games could determine the winner of the division—thus ensuring a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Even if UCLA is not in contention for a division title once it faces Southern Cal, a fourth straight win would be a significant development—particularly in terms of program perception and in regard to recruiting in the Greater Los Angeles area.