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UCLA VS. NO. 18 TENNESSEE / Today at the Rose Bowl,
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Those Baby Blues

Neuheisel's young, rebuilding Bruins are inexperienced in key spots, and could be in deep in opener

September 01, 2008

UCLA begins its first season under Coach Rick Neuheisel today, and Times staff writer Chris Foster looks at some of the key issues and matchups for the Bruins' opener against the Volunteers.

O, where art thou?

Tennessee is nationally ranked while UCLA is building, but the teams have this in common: Both are unveiling new offenses run by inexperienced quarterbacks who have had difficulty differentiating receivers from defenders.

Norm Chow, UCLA's offensive coordinator, has community college transfer Kevin Craft trying a safe-'n'-sane, pitch-and-catch plan. Tennessee's Jonathan Crompton will run the "Clawfense," a multi-set show new coordinator Dave Clawson ran at Richmond last season.

The outcome may be determined by which team averages the most yards per catch . . . on interceptions.

The Bruins' defense, led by tackles Brigham Harwell and Brian Price and middle linebacker Reggie Carter, will also have to stop Arian Foster, a 1,000-yard rusher in 2007.

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Pick your poison

Craft will have to be aware of Volunteers safety Eric Berry.

As a freshman last season, he intercepted five passes and returned them an average of 44 yards.

Crompton must be aware of UCLA cornerback Alterraun Verner, who picked off four passes last season, returning one for a touchdown.

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False front?

UCLA's offensive linemen have heard for a month about their inexperience and inability.

"I'm tired of hearing everybody say all this stuff about us," center Micah Reed said. "This is our chance to step out there and make it happen."

If the Bruins can run, if the Bruins can protect, the Bruins can win.

If not?

"Wish that I was back on Rocky Top, down in the Tennessee hills . . ."

Tennessee has no such problems on its line. The Volunteers' front includes four players who started all 14 games last season and a fifth who started seven.

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Recess is over, kids

UCLA will start freshman Rahim Moore at free safety, and as many as 10 other freshmen might play. On national TV. Against an Southeastern Conference opponent.

It raises a question: What's the difference between a welcome mat and a doormat?

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Play it again, and again

By the end of the season, Bruins faithful will be able to answer age-old question: Which band is most obsessed about a song? Tennessee and "Rocky Top," or USC and "Tribute to Troy"?

It's doubtful either will be music to a UCLA fan's ears.

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By the numbers

*--* UCLA (2007) -- Tenn. (2007) 22.4 Scoring 32.5 22.3 Scoring defense 27.3 182.6 Passing off. 262.5 151 Rushing off. 139 333.6 Total offense 401.5 234.1 Passing def. 238.6 109.2 Rushing def. 164.6 343.2 Total defense 403.3 *--*

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