Respect Builds For UCLA Football
When the Pac-12 Conference football media day was held at the Sony Studios in Culver City last week the biggest news was UCLA being picked to win the conference’s South division.
This has been USC’s territory for a long time.
But UCLA beat USC last season, 38-28 and now the media has picked Arizona State second and USC only third.
Oregon was picked to win the North even though highly successful coach Chip Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles. Stanford was picked to finish second. Oregon was also the choice to emerge as the overall conference champion.
The media day drew a large turnout from all the conference teams. It was a big day for Culver City, getting the event which frequently has been held at a hotel near LAX.
UCLA had a terrific 2012 season, winning the South and qualifying for the conference championship game.
Coach Jim Mora Jr., in his first season, changed the culture with his no-nonsense approach.
But he wants a lot more.
‘We made progress last season but we’re nowhere close to where we want to be,” said Mora.
There’s some rebuilding to do, particularly in the offensive line and secondary.
All prominent players in the secondary graduated, leaving Mora to say “I have no idea who’ll be playing there but someone always emerges.”
Two reasons for optimism are the return of quarterback Brett Hundley and linebacker Anthony Barr.
Once a running back at Loyola High, Barr has become an All-American on defense. He’s 6-foot-4 and 15 pounds heavier than last season at 255.
“He’s bigger and he’s also faster,” said Mora.
It was Barr who crushed USC quarterback Matt Barkley last season, causing a shoulder injury that ended Barkley’s season.
While UCLA fans eagerly await the upcoming season they realize the Bruins’ schedule is extremely tough. UCLA must play at Stanford and Oregon on consecutive Saturdays in October.
The opening game will be against Nevada on August 31 at the Rose Bowl. UCLA’s second game will be at Nebraska.
Later the Bruins will find out if they can defeat USC two years in a row.
And they’ll be without running back Jonathon Franklin, who became the Bruins’ all-time rushing leader before graduating.