Starters returning: 6
Starters returning: 7
September 10, 1978
While USC and Washington have to make do with unproved quarterbacks, the Bruins have a known quantity in junior Rick Bashore, which might be the edge that gets them into the Rose Bowl. Bashore started 10 games as a sophomore, even though he suffered a cracked rib and collapsed lung, and he passed for more than 1,000 yards, only the second UCLA sophomore to do so (Gary Beban was the first, in 1965).
But it is Bashore operating the split-back veer running attack that really worries opponents. He can hand off to runners like Theotis Brown, seventh-leading rusher in Bruin history and first-team All-Coast two years ago; James Owens, a world-class high hurdler who gained 938 yards last season; or sophomore Freeman McNeil, wooed by scores of schools. The blocking up front would be stronger had Center Brent Boyd not broken a bone in his foot in spring practice, one of several serious spring injuries. Boyd, who has already had one operation, is probably out for the season. Sophomore Larry Lee moves from guard to replace him.
The defense figures to be rugged, led by Nose Guard Manu Tuiasosopo, from far-off Samoa, and Free Safety Kenny Easley, from almost as far-off Chesapeake, Va. Easley is the only freshman ever to be named All-Pac 8 defensive back. And Coach Terry Donahue's Irish eyes light up when he talks about two-time All-America Jerry Robinson, who was miscast as a receiver during his freshman year but is now a certain first-round pro selection as a linebacker.
"I think Jerry's consistent performance is the key thing," says the young coach. "To me, what makes Robinson an outstanding football player is his ability to practice hard. He is one of the most unspoiled superstars I've ever been around."
Perhaps UCLA's biggest hurdle comes right at the start, an unusual season-opening conference game at Washington, where the Bruins have won only once (two years ago) in 18 years.