Posted on July 8, 2021
This UCLA outlook is the fifth of 12 preseason previews to seem over as many weeks as we depend down the times to the beginning of the Pac-12 season on August twenty eighth.
Each preview is comprised of 9 sections: Overview, Best-Case Scenario, Worst-Case Scenario, What Should Happen, What Must Happen, Greatest Strength, Biggest Concern, Deciding Factors, and Schedule Analysis.
Nothing is ready in stone as rosters and depth charts proceed to evolve over the summer time. In the tip, preseason prognostications typically show to be no higher than good guesses at finest.
Chip Kelly enters his fourth season in Westwood with a file of 10-21 and three consecutive dropping seasons. Despite having arguably a Top 3 quarterback within the Conference, Kelly has but to place it collectively.
But after a number of seasons of treading water on the recruiting path, momentum has turned. The Bruins’ Class of 2021 is ranked 4th within the Pac-12 and consists of three 4-Star recruits to associate with 5 former 4-Star transfers, including depth to a roster that returns 19 starters.
And in a sign of the potential of this 12 months’s squad, all 5 offensive linemen are again on a group that scored 35.4 factors per sport with the nation’s Twelfth-best dashing assault.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson has lethal choices in tight finish Greg Dulcich and wideout Kyle Philips, whereas Brittain Brown returns within the backfield and is supplemented by Michigan switch Zack Charbonnet.
There’s not many causes to doubt UCLA’s capacity to attain factors.
But with a protection that’s allowed 33.2 factors per sport within the Kelly Era, there have to be enchancment on that facet of the ball if the Bruins are to safe their first profitable season since 2015.
DTR stays wholesome behind an skilled offensive line that produces an much more profitable run sport than final season.
Brown and Charbonnet’s one-two punch lays the groundwork for the senior quarterback to search out Dulcich and Philips excessive, whereas concurrently opening holes for Thompson-Robinson to benefit from himself.
The energy up entrance results in DTR’s most effective season of his profession, securing UCLA’s first bowl look in 4 years.
On protection, USC switch Jay Toia contributes early and infrequently, whereas freshmen 4-Star defensive linemen Quintin Somerville and Tiaoalii Savea crack the rotation. With 10 starters returning, the unit has its strongest season since Kelly took the job.
Worst Case Scenario
Injuries nag Thompson-Robinson periodically all year long, contributing to a different season of poor decision-making within the passing sport. Interceptions abound in pivotal drives, squandering the specter of arguably the perfect tight finish within the Pac-12.
But extra damagingly, Brown and Charbonnet are unable to match the manufacturing of final 12 months’s potent dashing assault. The stunted run sport throws a wrench into Kelly’s whole gameplan, placing undue strain on his protection to step as much as the plate.
And though the protection performs higher than anticipated, the inefficiency within the UCLA backfield holds again a group seemingly destined for a bowl sport.
What Should Happen
The Bruin offensive line guides one of many nation’s prime run video games.
Led by two featured backs, DTR exponentially frustrates opposing coordinators by gashing opponents for first downs. The three explosive threats on the bottom drive defenses to overcompensate, opening up the sphere for the Bruin receivers to make performs.
The result’s Kelly’s most potent offense since coming to Westwood.
And on the again of a protection that returns all however one starter, UCLA reaches a bowl sport and emerges with a win.
What Must Happen
The points on protection date again a number of seasons to the tail-end of the Jim Mora Era.
Since the tip of the 2015 season, the unit has given up 30 factors or extra per sport, and has surrendered 40 factors or extra in 19 contests.
Such systemic and constant failures are arguably the explanation for the dearth of success in Westwood over the previous six years.
Fixing these issues have been a continuing and ongoing battle that Kelly has but to resolve, and till he does so, it’s unlikely that this system will return to its potential.
Yet, his protection generated 9 interceptions in seven video games final 12 months, whereas producing 11 whole turnovers. If manufacturing like that continues into the 2021 season, the Bruin protection may exceed expectations for the primary time in half a decade.
When on prime of his sport, Dorian Thompson-Robinson is without doubt one of the finest quarterbacks within the Pac-12. At occasions all through his profession, poor determination making has led to interceptions, however his management, ability, and willingness to run the ball units him above many of the quarterbacks within the Conference.
And with Dulcich, Philips, and Chase Cota to cross to, the complete offense is able to placing up sufficient factors to topple any opponent the Bruins face.
Despite the departure of Demetric Felton, the UCLA backfield ought to shine behind its offensive line. Without any evident weaknesses, the complete Bruin offense ought to take one other step ahead in 2021.
With an offense set to do harm, the causes for concern are nearly completely targeted on protection.
Nearly the complete unit returns from a roster that gave up its fewest factors per sport in three seasons. But Defensive Coordinator Jerry Azzinaro’s system gave up greater than 500 whole yards in two of the seven video games performed in 2020. And in three of UCLA’s 4 losses, his squad allowed 40 factors or extra.
Shoring up the cross protection figures to be the important thing.
Opponents by no means had worse than a 50% completion price in opposition to the 4-2-5 scheme, and the non-traditional set gave up a median of 12.2 first downs via the air per sport.
On the opposite hand, in all however two video games, Azzinaro’s unit held its opponent to only one landing on the bottom.
Norte Dame switch Jordan Genmark Heath and North Texas switch Cameron Johnson have been introduced in to assist, whereas freshman security Josh Moore may discover his means onto the sphere.
But Stephan Blaylock and Qwuantrezz Knight can’t do it on their very own, and the pair want a 3rd and fourth participant within the secondary to emerge.
All 4 of UCLA’s defeats final 12 months got here by a landing or much less. In these 4 losses, the Bruins misplaced the turnover battle in all however one.
With a 12-to-6 ratio within the defeats, being careless with the ball arguably price the Bruins these video games.All seven of UCLA’s fumbles got here within the contests it misplaced, offering a transparent catalyst to which Kelly and his employees can level.
In distinction, the Bruins dedicated one mixed turnover within the three video games it gained. It’s clear what wants to alter.
If the Bruins do a greater job of caring for the ball, notably by limiting fumbles, they might discover themselves profitable these shut video games they misplaced final season.
A Week 0 match in opposition to Hawaii in Pasadena kicks off the marketing campaign. In years previous, this is likely to be a more in-depth contest than some anticipate. But with Nick Rolovich now at Washington State and momentum constructing in Westwood, a double-digit victory is predicted.
LSU involves L.A. the next week in what could possibly be an embarrassing defeat at house. If UCLA retains the sport respectable, it could be a springboard to a profitable season.
After a bye week, Fresno State caps off the nonconference slate on the Rose Bowl. A 2-1 file previous to Pac-12 play begins is a transparent expectation.
A street sport at Stanford begins the convention season, adopted by a battle with ASU in Pasadena. The matchup with the Tree could possibly be a toss-up, and the battle with the Sun Devils has upset potential. Emerging with a cut up is a legit expectation.
A visit to Tucson precedes the hardest stretch of the 12 months. After going through the Wildcats, UCLA travels to Washington and Utah, with a showdown in Pasadena in opposition to Oregon in between. If UCLA manages to get a couple of win throughout this stretch, will probably be higher than many anticipate.
A rematch in opposition to Colorado is adopted by the USC sport, whereas the 12 months is closed out in opposition to California. Although the matchup with the Trojans figures to be robust, the Bruins ought to discover a technique to win at house in opposition to the Buffs and Bears.
At the tip of the 12 months, a six-win season and bowl look ought to be within the playing cards for Kelly and DTR. And with the firepower to get it finished, UCLA ought to finish the 12 months with a bowl victory and profitable season.