If it's Friday, it's Q&A. JoeBruin15 and Patroclus from Bruins Nation answered our questions about their beloved Bruins. Be sure to check out our answers to their questions as well!
STL: Brett Hundley. No way to talk UCLA football in 2014 without starting there. Almost 6,600 yards passing in his first two seasons, 51 TDs to 20 INTs. And oh yea, another 940 yards on the ground with 18 TDs. No wonder he was considered a top-flight NFL prospect last season. He is a legitimate dual threat, but seems more like a pass-first QB who can make plays with his feet when needed. What makes Hundley so special, and how does Coach Mora's offense take advantage of it?
JoeBruin15: I think it has to do with his ability to read the defense. On his first play from scrimmage against Rice two seasons ago, he took off for a 72-yard touchdown run. But, as he told Pac-12 Networks Analyst (and the former UCLA coach who recruited him), his plan all along was to hand the ball off on that play to Jonathan Franklin. But, then he saw the Defensive End collapse down, so he kept it and took it to the barn.
STL: Hundley is the pre-season headline grabber, but last year's big story was two-way phenom Myles Jack (known in Canada as "Kilometres Jacque"). He won the PAC-12 Offensive AND Defensive Freshman Player of the Year awards. USA Today called him a "runningbacker." Do you expect to see Jack focus more on one unit or another? If so, on which one do you think he'll have the bigger impact this season?
JoeBruin15: Through Spring Ball and Fall Camp, Myles Jack (actually, in Canada, it's spelled "Kylometres Jacque") has focused solely on defense. I think that's where his focus will be. Coach Mora admitted that it was a mistake playing him only on offense last year versus Arizona State. I also think our running back unit which was one of our weaknesses last season is in much better shape this year. Jordon James is healthy. Paul Perkins will get a lot of touches. I'm expecting to see newcomer Craig Lee get a lot of carries because he seemed very explosive in the Spring. So, I think there's less need to have Jack on offense. But I'm sure we'll see him carry the ball at some point, but I also think defenses will be more prepared for that.
Patroclus: While I do think that we will see Myles running the ball again at times this season, his focus will be on the defensive side of the ball. One thing to keep in mind about his use on offense last season was that for as much talent and promise that he showed the coaches, it was a mix of injuries and ineffectiveness through the depth chart at running back that led to Myles getting those significant carries. From what the coaches were saying toward the end of last season, he probably would have gotten a few touches anyways, but it was necessity that gave him enough opportunity to make a name for himself.
STL: Just by counting heads, the Bruins don't lose a lot off last year's team: 8 starters return on each side of the ball. But WR Shaq Evans and LBs Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt are not easy guys to replace. Who are the young guys whose development could fill the gaps for those departed stars? Who are the newcomers you expect to make a splash?
JoeBruin15: WR Eldridge Massington is newcomer whose name you will hear a lot. I also expect Devin Fuller to have a breakout year at WR. And, while technically a TE or Y Receiver in our offense, Thomas Duarte should see a lot of balls thrown his way. Defensively, I think it's all about three letters: Owa. That's short for Owamagbe Odighizuwa (pronounced Oh-wah-MAH-gah-bay Oh-DIGGY-zoo-wah). Players have complimented him by saying that "There are humans. And then there is Owa." in reference to his size and strength. He's not a newcomer, but he's back from an injury that led to him redshirting last year.
Patroclus: On defense, keep an eye out for Kenny Young, a true freshman ILB that the Bruins pulled out of Louisiana on signing day. He began making an impact as soon as he got to Westwood to start the summer and has won Zumwalt's former starting spot inside in the base (non-nickel) defense. Nose tackles rarely make a splash - at least to the average fan - but Kenny Clark is a guy who I think will have a huge impact on the Bruin defense this season. He was the least heralded member of last year's recruiting haul at D-line (though still a consensus 4-star recruit), but by the end of the season emerged as our starting NT.
STL: Before Mora's arrival, it had been a bleak couple decades in Pasadena. After dominating much of the 1980s, and racking up eight straight wins over cross-town rival USC in the 1990s, UCLA slipped into mediocrity under Karl Dorrell and then alumnus-turned-troubadour Rick Neuheisel. Did it hurt more to see UCLA struggle, or to see the Trojans thrive at the same time? What's been the biggest change around the program since Mora arrived?
JoeBruin15: UCLA's rivalry with the University of Stupid Criminals is unlike any other in college sports. The ACC's Duke-North Carolina basketball rivalry comes close, but even those schools aren't as close geographically as UCLA and the University of Sleazy Cheaters.
That said, I think it hurt more to see UCLA struggle. Even during the Dorrell era, we still managed to beat $c once. But, to watch our program go from being #1 in the first BCS standings to irrelevancy really frustrated us. Frankly, that frustration is what led to the creation of Bruins Nation 9 years ago. So, at least, there was some good that came out of it.
With Rick Neuheisel, it was disappointing that he wasn't able to succeed at turning the program around, but, make no mistake, he deserves a lot of credit for recruiting the players who make up the base of this year's team. Unlike Karl Dorrell who left the cupboard completely empty from a recruiting standpoint, the same cannot be said for Coach Neuheisel and, to this day, Coach Neuheisel has the respect from a lot of Bruin fans because, even after being fired from his dream job, he still bleeds blue and gold.
As far as those other guys are concerned, I think ESPN finally got it right this week when they called it a "clown college" mentioning having the lone national title stripped along with Reggie Bush's Heisman Trophy, 4 head coaches in the past 12 months, and now their captain being caught in a huge lie like Manti Te'o. They've proven that they have very little character and they will do anything to win and that's just sad.
Patroclus: Our own struggles by far - at least in terms of our program's overall standing in the conference and inside Los Angeles rather than looking purely at USC's standing at the time. Think of it this way, the Hokies have lost some of their luster (assisted by our 42-12 Sun Bowl beatdown of Tech last New Year's Eve), but I don't imagine their slide down the football pecking order makes losing to them on the field or the recruiting trail feel any less bad. Seeing the trojans fail is an added bonus, but if the Bruins are successful throughout the season and take care of business on rivalry Saturday, that's all that really matters.
BTW, It is great getting to answer this question a few hours after Josh Shaw gave yet another opportunity for the trojans to embarass themselves in front of the nation. [Ed. note: And then things got even weirder. Seriously: Click that link. We'll be here when you get back.] That last decade (the worst decade for UCLA Football since the 1930's BTW) was brutal to live through, but having the Trojans as our rival makes football all the more fun. The jokes write themselves while the cheating, corruption and other embarassing moments just arise as if from thin air from their campus.
STL: Virginia is 0-4 all-time against the PAC-12. The last two times we've hosted PAC-12 teams, they've been rude houseguests: a 52-7 drubbing at the hands of Mark Sanchez and USC in 2008, and last year's 59-10 thrashing by the Oregon Ducks. Not too many Cavalier fans are optimistic about our Hoos' chances on Saturday, but what is a potential weakness of this squad that Virginia could exploit?
JoeBruin15: Jetlag? Seriously, though...the running back unit is probably the weakest despite getting much stronger. If this team stays healthy, the sky's the limit.
Patroclus: Force our running backs to carry the offensive load. If Anthony Harris, Quinn Blanding and the rest of your secondary play up to the level that they (and Lambert) think they can achieve, and the front-7 can somewhat contain Hundley's legs, you've got a shot of at least keeping the game managable. At least until the Jack gets unleashed.
STL: Finally, but most importantly, time to give us your predictions. Who ya got, and why?
JoeBruin15: First, I've got Owa, Myles Jack and the defense knocking Greyson Lambert back to the sideline. It may be because of injury or performance, but I don't think they are going to let his comments from earlier in the week go without a response. I've also got Hundley for throwing for over 300 yards and 2 TDs and rushing for another hundred and 2 TDs. Final score: Bruins 42 Cavaliers 14.
Patroclus: I'll take the under on Hundley throwing for 300 yards, as I think Brett will be able to take a rest in the 4th quarter and give either redshirt freshman Ashantii Woulard or Jerry (son of Rick) Neuheisel a couple of series behind center. I don't think this will be quite as large a blowout as the recent UVa v. Pac-12 games, but I do see the Bruins rolling. I'll go with 38-10.