Since 1978, UCLA has produced numerous go-to wide receivers who had big seasons.
From J.J. Stokes, who made 82 receptions in 1993, to Freddie Mitchell, who grabbed 77 passes in 2000, to Craig Bragg, Kevin Jordan and Sean LaChapelle, who each had 73 catches in a season, the Bruins always seem to have a main target in their passing game.
But not this year. After four games, UCLA's leading receiver is tight end Logan Paulsen with 10 catches. Wide receivers Brandon Breazell and Matt Willis are tied with tailback Chris Markey with nine, followed by Marcus Everett and Junior Taylor with eight each.
At this pace, UCLA's leading receiver will finish the season with no more than 30 catches. That has happened only twice for the Bruins over the last 27 years.
"We need to make plays to help us put up more points than what we're scoring," said Taylor, UCLA's most experienced wide receiver, who sat out the last nine games last season because of a knee injury.
Taylor, who had only one catch in UCLA's 31-0 victory over Stanford last week, may not be getting a lot of passes thrown in his direction, but he's doing the little things to help the Bruins' win.
"Junior is one of our senior leaders on the offensive side," Coach Karl Dorrell said. "He's been a positive leader for us all season long. He's battling through injuries, not just the knee injury ... but he's had little nagging injuries like turf toe and a sprained ankle....
"He's a stabilizing force. He really doesn't say much through the course of the game, but you know what you're going to get from him when he's playing. He's frustrated right now because he wants to do more, but yet he knows that he has to get himself at the health level that he can be a strong contributor and there is no question that he will get to that level."
Taylor, who ranks 19th on UCLA's all-time receiving list with 84 catches, said he would like to be a go-to receiver now but understands that the Bruins spread the ball around.
It's just when UCLA's offense struggles to score touchdowns, Taylor can't help but want more passes thrown in his direction.
"Right now, our defense is doing a great job, but we have to start finishing drives on offense," Taylor said.
"October is a big month for us. We have Arizona this week, followed with trips to Oregon and Notre Dame and then we close the month with Washington State. Our defense will not be able to do what it has been doing for 60 minutes against these high-powered offenses.
"We know that it's a long season with a lot of games left, but I'm anxious. I'm a senior who worked so hard to get back after my injury. I want to put my best foot forward with every game."
With sophomore defensive tackle Chase Moline sidelined because of a back injury and junior William Snead switched from defensive end to tight end, redshirt freshman Jess Ward (who had two tackles against Stanford last week) and freshmen Darius Savage and Jerzy Siewierski have been working as backups to starting tackles Kevin Brown and Brigham Harwell.... The status of cornerback Michael Norris and wide receiver Joe Cowan, who have not played this season because of knee injuries, remains uncertain but both players seem to be closer to returning, according to Dorrell.... Running back Kahlil Bell did not finish practice because of a left leg injury.