An update on UCLA's football team as the Bruins open practice today in preparation for their Sept. 1 opener against Tennessee at the Rose Bowl:
Facts and figures
* 2007 record: 6-7; Pacific 10 Conference: 5-4 (fourth place).
* Bowl: Las Vegas, lost to Brigham Young, 17-16.
* Starters returning: 12. (offense 6, defense 6).
* Look out! Do the Bruins have enough quality offensive linemen? If not, do they have enough quarterbacks to get through the season? Darius Savage, a converted defensive tackle, starts out at one guard and Scott Glicksberg, a converted tight end, is at the other. But those spots seem stable compared with the right tackle slot, where a casting call may be needed.
* Shhh! The Bruins' defense will seem library-like this season. Gone are Bruce Davis, Trey Brown and other outspoken members, leaving behind more of a lunch-pail, tight-lipped gang. Defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker will save a fortune on earplugs. One concern is the secondary, where cornerback Alterraun Verner is the only returning starter.
Ones to watch
* Ben Olson, Sr., QB: He was once the apple of every recruiter's eye, but Olson's career has soured because of injuries and inconsistency. He gets one last chance, provided he retains the job in training camp.
* Reggie Carter, Jr., LB: Moves inside to replace middle linebacker Christian Taylor. Has more skills than Taylor and might be just as nasty on the field.
* Player to Be Named, RT: Someone will play right tackle and, if the left-handed Olson is the quarterback, that someone (gulp) will protect his blind side.
* Brian Price, So., DT: Good, and should only get better. Price is the type of dominating defensive lineman often seen at that school across town, the one that seems to go to a lot of Rose Bowls.
* Michael Norris, Sr., CB: Gets the first crack at replacing Brown at cornerback. But a passel of freshmen might push him.
* Kevin Craft, Jr., QB: There is plenty of talent among the incoming freshmen, especially at tailback with Aundre Dean, Johnathan Franklin and Milton Knox, and in the secondary with Tony Dye, Aaron Hester, Rahim Moore and E.J. Woods. But Craft, who passed for 4,231 yards at Mt. San Antonio College last season, may be the most vital skill-position player when Olson's past problems are figured into the equation.
* Kahlil Bell, Sr., TB: The Bruins' leading rusher suffered a torn knee ligament in November but progressed rapidly in rehabilitation and has been cleared to practice.
* Raymond Carter, Fr., TB: His 2007 season ended on the second day of training camp, when he tore up his knee during a drill. He is fit, eager and ready.
* Patrick Cowan, Sr., QB: A knee injury during spring practice ended his 2008 season, and possibly his football career. Still, he'll never have to pick up a dinner check in the Los Angeles area as long as a UCLA alum is around . . . So tell me about 13-9, Pat . . .
* Sean Sheller, So., OT: Inherited the right tackle spot in spring practice, then suffered knee and ankle injuries in an off-road vehicle accident this summer and will sit out the season.
The offense is in the hands of Norm Chow, with the line being developed by Bob Palcic. Both have impressive resumes. But the trickle-down effect will take time. The Bruins will play faster this year. They will also throw more often to their running backs and tight ends. Expect more excitement, which the Bruins hope will be a good thing.
A final exam for the offense comes Dec. 6, when the Bruins play USC: Chow versus Trojans Coach Pete Carroll, his former boss.
Quick, what team has held USC to the fewest points the last two seasons? That's right Bruins fans, your boys. UCLA limited the Trojans to 33 points, while Nebraska gave up 77 and Notre Dame 82. The central figure has been Walker. He has veterans and talented newcomers to work with this season. The middle will be strong with Price and senior Brigham Harwell at tackles and Reggie Carter at middle linebacker. Verner should be one of the Pac-10's best corners.
The kicking game is on solid footing. Kai Forbath made 25 of 30 field-goal attempts in an exceptional first season that ended with an attempt that might have won the Las Vegas Bowl being blocked. Aaron Perez was second in the conference in punting. The Bruins lost Matt Slater, who returned three kickoffs for touchdowns last season. Norris and Raymond Carter are among the contenders to replace him.
Practices are open to the public and will be held on campus at Spaulding Field, unless noted:
* Today-Aug. 8, 3 p.m.; Aug. 9, 4:30 p.m. (first day in full pads); Aug, 10: 9 a.m., 5:15 p.m.; Aug. 11, 3:30 p.m.; Aug. 12, 9 a.m., 5:15 p.m.; Aug. 13, 3:30 p.m.; Aug. 14, 9 a.m., 5:15 p.m.; Aug. 15, 3:30 p.m.; Aug. 16, 5 p.m. (scrimmage at Drake Stadium); Aug. 18, 9 a.m., 5:15 p.m.; Aug. 19, 3:30 p.m.; Aug. 20, 9 a.m., 5:15 p.m.
Home games at the Rose Bowl; times Pacific and p.m.:
*--* Sept 1 Tennessee 5 Sept. 13 at BYU 12:30 Sept. 20 Arizona noon Sept. 27 Fresno State 12:30 Oct. 4 Washington St. TBA Oct. 11 at Oregon TBA Oct. 18 Stanford 1 Oct. 25 at California TBA Nov. 8 Oregon State TBA Nov. 15 at Washington TBA Nov. 28 at Arizona St. 6:30 Dec. 6 USC 1:30 *--*
* Tickets: By phone, the UCLA ticket office is (310)UCLAWIN; Ticketmaster, (213) 480-3232; online, uclabruins.com.