2016 SI college football preseason Top 25 team preview: No. 23 UCLA
- Led by quarterback Josh Rosen, UCLA comes in at No. 23 in SI's 2016 college football preseason Top 25 rankings.
Key returning starters: QB Josh Rosen, OT Conor McDermott, WR Darren Andrews
Sophomore Rosen, who threw for 23 touchdowns on 3,669 yards last season, is poised to be a star, although he’ll need to curb his 11 interceptions of a year ago. The Bruins should turn to a more pro-style offense this season to cater to Rosen’s skills, and despite an impressive backfield, they’re looking at a depleted receiving corps and offensive line.
Key returning starters: LB Deon Hollins S Jaleel Wadood, CB Fabian Moreau
A season ago, UCLA’s secondary allowed a Pac-12-best 203.2 yards per game, and in 2016 it brings back all of its starters. Elsewhere, though, the Bruins will need to be stouter against the run; switching from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 should help, as should the return of junior defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes, who missed 2015 after tearing his ACL, will help in that effort.
Leader in rushing: RB Nate Starks. As a sophomore a year ago, Starks split the backup duty to starter Paul Perkins, who’s gone to the NFL; he averaged 6.4 yards per carry on 50 attempts.
Leader in receiving: Theo Howard. The freshman is a four-star recruit out of Westlake High in Los Angeles, and with the no. 1 receiving job up for the taking, he should be able to establish himself early.
Leader in tackles: LB Jayon Brown. He wled the team in tackles a season ago with 93 and should lead the team again as a senior.
Leader in interceptions: Randall Goforth. The senior tied for the team lead with two a year ago, and he may move at least part-time from safety to corner in 2016.
Opposing coach's take
“The Bruins lost eight players to the NFL draft, but [sophomore] quarterback Josh Rosen still gives them a chance. He’s smart, so when he has a ton of time, he’s really good. Bang him up and he tends to force things. New offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu’s more pro-style attack should actually suit Rosen better. But it’s hard to blend a no-huddle, fast-paced, bubble-screen vertical game with a two-back, power, play-action pass game. It’ll be interesting to see how that evolves.
Defensively, they lost special guys but also have special ones back. If [junior] defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes is fully recovered from his [left] ACL injury, he’s a huge problem and changes their whole defense. As talented as their D has been, it has kind of reflected their offense the last couple of years: There was a ton of athleticism but not a lot of physicality. Running right at them is a key.
Safeties Randall Goforth [a senior] and Jaleel Wadood [a junior] headline a stacked secondary. I don’t know
if you’re going to get many big plays because they have such good speed on the back end, but you’ve got to keep chipping away.
There’s times they look like the best team in the country. A week later they don’t look interested. If they show up dialed in, good luck.”
Versatile OLB Mique Juarez, who flipped from USC to UCLA, looks like the perfect replacement for Myles Jack, who left for the NFL after his junior year. Although the Bruins bring back all of their starting ’backers from a year ago, the 6' 2", 230-pound Juarez, who enrolled early, is expected to see immediate playing time.
|Sept. 3||at Texas A&M|
|Sept. 17||at BYU|
|Oct. 8||at Arizona State|
|Oct. 15||at Washington State|
|Nov. 3||at Colorado|
|Nov. 12||Oregon State|
|Nov. 26||at Cal|
Top 25 rankings
|24||San Diego State|