#42 UCLA 2018 Football Preview

UCLA Bruins
Overall Rank: #42
#7 Pac-12
 UCLA Logo
One of the biggest storylines of the coaching carousel in the 2017 season was where would Chip Kelly end up at as head coach for 2018. There was a lot of speculation about Florida, but in the end UCLA stepped up and made the necessary financial commitment and landed Kelly. This is a bold move by the Bruins after what they went through with Jim Mora in 2017. Kelly should be comfortable in the Pac-12 as he was lethal with his offenses at Oregon, going 46-7 as head coach of the Ducks. This will be one of the more fascinating stories to follow all season long across college football.
2017 Record: 6-7, 4-5
2017 Bowl: Cactus Bowl vs. Kansas State (17-35 L)
Coach: Chip Kelly (First season at UCLA, 46-7 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Chip Kelly
Defensive Coordinator: Jerry Azzinaro
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Bolu Olorunfunmi, RB, 565 yards
Passing: Devon Modster, QB, 671 yards
Receiving: Theo Howard, WR, 594 yards
Tackles: Adarius Pickett, SS, 85
Sacks: Jaelan Phillips, OLB, 3.5
Interceptions: Darnay Holmes, CB, 3
Other Key Returnees: TE Caleb Wilson, RG Michael Alves, LT Andre James, DT Chigozie Nnoruka, ILB Krys Barnes, OLB Keisean Lucier-South, CB Nate Meadors, K JJ Molson
Key Losses: QB Josh Rosen, OT Kolton Miller, LB Kenny Young, C Scott Quessenberry, WR Jordan Lasley, DL Matt Dickerson, DL Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, OL Najee Toran
There is nowhere to go but up with the running game for the Bruins as they ran for 113.4 yards per game last season. Bolu Olorunfunmi and Soso Jamabo will give Coach Kelly some depth to work with at running back. Olorunfunmi rushed for 565 yards and five touchdowns last season and should see those numbers improve quickly in 2018. Quarterback must be addressed as Josh Rosen has gone off to the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals. There will be three people in the mix for the starting quarterback job as Devin Modster, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and grad transfer Wilton Speight will battle it out in fall camp. Modster and Thompson-Robinson are the best fits for Kelly’s up-tempo system as they are dual-threat quarterbacks, but Speight does have experience from playing at Michigan. Theo Howard is the top returning playmaker at wide receiver and will lead a group of young, talented players that will need to hit the ground running and contribute right away.
This is going to take some work for defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro as UCLA struggled all season long in 2017. The Bruins surrendered 287.4 yards per game on the ground, which was dead last in all of college football. The switch to a 3-4 scheme should mask some of the talent issues along the defensive line and buy the staff time to rebuild that unit. Linebacker should be fine despite the graduation of Kenny Young as Jaelan Phillips and Keisean Lucier-South are back at outside linebacker. Paul Rhoads will coach the secondary, which won’t take as much heavy lifting in 2018. UCLA was a top 40 pass defense, allowing only 196.3 passing yards per game. Adarius Pickett, Nate Meadors, and Darnay Holmes are back and should only get better under the tutelage of Coach Rhoads. JJ Molson had a nice sophomore season at kicker as he made 17 of 21 field goals and should have more opportunities this season in close games.
The Bottom Line:
A trip to Norman to take on Oklahoma in week two highlights an interesting non-conference schedule. Fresno State comes to the Rose Bowl in week three in what could be a potential trap game for the Bruins. The Pac-12 schedule opens at Colorado, which is never easy for any visiting team and then Washington will open the home conference slate on October 6th. That game is going to be a fun battle between Coach Kelly and Chris Petersen as the Huskies have had their share of issues at the Rose Bowl against UCLA in recent years. Fast forward to October 20th and the Bruins will have four of their last six games at home and, if everything comes together, that is when you’ll see UCLA make a surge forward in year one under Coach Kelly. The 2018 season will have some bumps in the road, but it should result in about seven wins and optimism for the future in Westwood.
Projected Bowl: Las Vegas Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 113.4 (116th in nation, 11th in Conference)
Passing Offense: 344.5 (4, 2)
Total Offense: 457.8 (22, 3)
Scoring Offense: 32.5 (36, 5)
Rushing Defense: 287.4 (130, 12)
Pass Defense: 196.3 (31, 2)
Total Defense: 483.7 (123, 12)
Scoring Defense: 36.6 (117, 11)
Turnover Margin: -0.69 (115, 11)
Sacks: 1.69 (99, 10)
Sacks Allowed: 2.23 (75, 7)
Madness 2019 NFL Draft Rankings:
#39 Caleb Wilson
Madness 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#33 Dorian Thompson-Robinson
#93 Bryan Addison
#168 Chase Costa
#232 Tyler Manoa