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UCLA football: Examining key issues as Bruins open training camp

The quarterback situation, big changes in Coach Rick Neuheisel's staff, depth concerns in the offensive line and Neuheisel's shaky job status are among uncertainties the Bruins must address.

August 07, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • Richard Brehaut (12) and Kevin Prince (4) will battle for the starting quarterback spot at UCLA this summer.
Richard Brehaut (12) and Kevin Prince (4) will battle for the starting quarterback… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

UCLA's football team begins practice Monday, and by early December Athletic Director Dan Guerrero could be looking for a new coach for a third time. The Times' Chris Foster looks at issues that may decide whether Rick Neuheisel remains the Bruins' coach.

Prince of the city?

UCLA has a quarterback controversy . . . on paper and in cyberspace. In the real world, there seems only one thing to hash out: Can Kevin Prince remain healthy?

Prince will be pushed by junior Richard Brehaut and freshman Brett Hundley. But Prince won the job in 2009. He won the job in 2010. If he's healthy, why should 2011 be any different?

Prince has recovered fully from knee surgery, but there are cadavers that have been poked and prodded less. Still, he appears to be the Bruins' best shot at success this season.

Brehaut was 2-5 as a starter after Prince was injured last season. Neuheisel has indicated that Brehaut still doesn't fully understand the offense: "He can't be a guy who knows 80% of it."

Hundley showed promise during the spring and may get playing time in doses, but he will miss at least a couple of weeks after having knee surgery.

Next!

What does a head coach do when a 4-8 season causes the ground to quake beneath his feet? He shakes up his staff.

Out: Offensive coordinator Norm Chow, defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough, defensive line coach Todd Howard and receivers coach Reggie Moore.

In: Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson, defensive coordinator Joe Tresey, run-game coordinator Jim Mastro, defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield.

The offense is run by committee. Neuheisel coaches the quarterbacks. Johnson is the offensive coordinator and works with the receivers. Mastro is the tight ends coach, but will handle the run game.

The Bruins will remain a "pistol" team, which is why Mastro is here. He coached the offense at Nevada. Johnathan Franklin rushed for 1,127 yards last season. But the passing game was a mess, in part because UCLA did not incorporate the pistol's passing scheme.

Line dancing

Depth remains an issue for offensive line coach Bob Palcic. Players recruited three years ago to be the anchors are gone — Xavier Su'a Filo (Mormon mission), Nik Abele (medical retirement) and Stanley Hasiak (flunked out).

Still, Palcic cobbled together a line that produced a 1,000-yard rusher in 2010 and the depth might be better, provided Jeff Baca returns from a broken ankle in September.

Defense wins championships . . . and saves jobs?

Tresey's attack philosophy should have some oomph. The return of defensive end Datone Jones (broken foot) will help, and the Bruins have depth on defense, especially in the front seven.

There will not be first and second teams, just waves of players, or so goes Tresey's plan.

Five guys to watch

Guard Albert Cid: Citrus College transfer could make offensive line stronger.

Cornerback Brandon Sermons: Fit again after broken leg and Bruins are thin at the position.

Kicker Kip Smith: There's currently a black hole where Kai Forbath once kicked.

Linebacker Eric Kendricks: Solid depth behind Sean Westgate at weak side linebacker.

Defensive end Damien Holmes: Role may be significantly increased.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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