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The Big Questions

Five questions facing UCLA heading into the season:

September 01, 2007|Chris Foster

1 Has the time come for Big Ben to strike?

For the Bruins to live up to expectations they have to be a quality team week in and week out. To be a quality team, the offense needs to make the same leap in ability and confidence that the defense made last season. For the offense to get there, quarterback Ben Olson has to live up to the potential he established when he was a senior in high school. Olson won the job in the spring and, if he performs up to billing, the Bruins can dare to dream. If not, well, Patrick Cowan and the nightmare of a quarterback controversy await.

2 Does offensive coordinator Jay Norvell know that third and eight is considered a passing situation?

The Bruins were ultra conservative on offense last season, which led to Norvell being brought in from Nebraska. His offensive philosophy is "the ability to use every single player equally and force people to play the whole field." If that works the way it's drawn up, Norvell may have the kind of impact in his first season that defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker did last year.

3 Is there a thin blue [O]-line?

Musical linemen occurred in the spring, with Chris Joseph moving from guard to center, Noah Sutherland moving from tackle to guard, and Aleksey Lanis moving out of the starting lineup. After all that shuffling to put the five best linemen on the field, other concerns have surfaced -- the biggest being guard Shannon Tevaga's injured shoulder. First-year offensive line coach Bob Connelly said there was a big gap between the starters and their backups when he arrived last winter. It has been closed some, he said, but depth remains an issue.

4 Does Theotis Brown, father of Bruins cornerback Trey Brown, have any eligibility left?

The Bruins are light in the offensive backfield. Highly touted freshman Raymond Carter was lost for the season to a knee injury. That leaves tailback for Chris Markey and Kahlil Bell. That can be enough, provided both remain healthy. Chane Moline is the only other tailback with game experience. Fullback is even dicier. Michael Pitre had off-season surgery on his left knee, then missed most of training camp after re-injuring the knee. Trevor Theriot has performed well in practice, but Dylan Rush, a converted defensive end, and walk-on Chad Moline, a converted linebacker, are the only depth.

5 Grandpa Dorrell, will you tell us again about the year you ended USC's Pacific 10 Conference reign and went to the BCS championship game?

In other words, will Coach Karl Dorrell ever be able to bounce grandchildren on his knee while describing in detail UCLA's greatest football season since Red Sanders? Or will 20 returning starters and a bushel of preseason predictions amount to a red-faced moment? Even if the national title game is out of reach, a Pac-10 championship and Rose Bowl could be calling to Bruins players. With that come pressures and potential pratfalls -- see game in Pullman, Wash., on Oct. 27. How well the Bruins manage the expectations will determine their fate as much as blocking schemes and pass routes.

-- Chris Foster

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