Jim Mora leads a new coaching regime that looks to turn around UCLA’s fortunes
UCLA won the Pac-12 South title last season, but the Bruins still finished 6-8 overall and coach Rick Neuheisel was shown the door after four years.
Neuheisel talked big when he arrived at UCLA, his alma mater, but the Bruins never lived up to the bluster. He went 21-29 in his four seasons (he didn’t coach the Bruins in their bowl game), and UCLA lost at least six games in each of those seasons.
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While UCLA won the South Division title last season, USC actually had the best division record. But because USC was ineligible (NCAA probation), the Bruins represented the division in the league title game. In their annual meeting, the Trojans laid the lumber on the Bruins to the tune of 50-0.
Coach: Jim Mora (1st season)
Last season: 6-8, 5-4 Pac-12
Spring practice dates: April 3-May 5
(minimum 7 starts last season):
Offense (6): T Jeff Baca, H-Back Anthony Barr (moving to linebacker), G Greg Capella (moving to C), TE Joseph Fauria, TB Johnathan Franklin, QB Kevin Prince
Defense (8): CB Andrew Abbott (moving to S), CB Aaron Hester, E Damien Holmes, E Datone Jones, LB Patrick Larimore, T Cassius Marsh, FS Tevin McDonald, CB Sheldon Price
Special teams (1): P Jeff Locke
The new coach is Jim Mora, a former NFL head coach who hasn’t coached on the collegiate level since 1984, when he was a graduate assistant at Washington, his alma mater.
UCLA was, at best, mediocre offensively during Neuheisel’s tenure. A big issue for Mora and new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who was at Arizona State last season and is familiar with the league, is finding a quarterback who can throw the ball effectively. A big problem for Mazzone: There doesn’t appear to be one on the roster.
There is a nice group of tailbacks headed by Johnathan Franklin, though he’ll be running behind a revamped line that lost two full-time starters. One positive should be the return of T Xavier Su’a-Filo, who started 13 times in 2009 before going on a two-year Mormon mission.
TE Joseph Fauria has all-league potential, and the wide receiver corps looks OK. The receivers have been unproductive because the quarterbacks haven’t been able to get them the ball.
Lou Spanos, who has been an NFL assistant for the past 17 seasons, is the new defensive coordinator. There are holes everywhere on defense. The Bruins allowed 190.6 rushing yards per game, along with 26 rushing TDs for the season. They also allowed 226.6 passing yards per game, along with 28 passing TDs.
P Jeff Locke should contend for All-America honors. But the Bruins need a new kicker.
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