This week I have another team with a new coach in the house. Let’s see what Carlos Sandavol from Go Joe Bruin has to say about Jim Mora and crew:
1. Who are the most dangerous returning players on offense?
That would be Johnathan Franklin and Joe Fauria. Franklin has been incredible during practices up to this point, and Joe Fauria just happens to be a 6’8” monster with incredible hands. New UCLA OC Noel Mazzone’s offense should help them both in their productivity.
2. Who are the most dangerous returning players on defense?
Patrick Larimore. He was our defensive MVP, and though he’s had his injuries, he’s expected to produce at an incredibly high level. He’s got all the tangibles and intangibles, and with UCLA DC Lou Spanos implementing a 3-4 scheme, Larimore’s going to have the spotlight on him even further. Tevin McDonald’s also going to be awesome for us.
3. Which freshman player do you expect to make the most impact right out of the gate?
If he starts — he’s a tad injury prone, it seems — it’s easily Ellis McCarthy, the five-star DT that headlined our 2012 recruiting class. He’s a huge-ass DT, and that’s significant because, as you know, a 3-4 defense requires to have a big dude taking up as much space as possible. If not, though, Jordan Payton, a four-star WR, could be explosive.
4. Which player from last year will the team miss the most?
Nelson Rosario and Derrick Coleman, maybe. Even then, though, most feel this team will be set, and the losses aren’t that bad.
5. What is one major aspect of your team’s gameplan that you expect to be different from last year?
The pistol. Or, as we like to call it in Westwood, the piss-toll. Everyone hated that offense, and now Mazzone’s bringing his attack into the forefront. We will finally be able to utilize our receivers’ talents and we’ll finally get to see our quarterbacks actually throw instead of taking forever to “read the defense” if that’s what they were actually doing.
6. What is your biggest concern heading in to the season?
The secondary. We have Aaron Hester and Tevin McDonald, but after that, we had to move Dalton Hilliard to safety to cover our lack of depth there. It’s that bad, I feel.
7.What game are you most excited about and why?
Aside from the USC (South Cal) game? Perhaps California, for me personally, since they expect to beat us and we expect the game to be a total toss-up. Cal fans HATE when we beat them, and though it won’t matter all that much to them, I’d like to put them in their place.
8. What is the overall expectation of how this team should finish?
I can’t speak for the fan-base, since they’re incredibly divided. One contingency of crazy-ass fans expect “nine wins” and beating South Cal. That contingency sticks together on EVERYTHING because they’re clinically crazy. More conservative fans think a six-win season is fair because Mora needs to adjust. Personally, I think we should win seven games. Rice, Houston, OSU, Colorado, ASU, and, I’m sorry, Arizona. That’s six wins, and then I’ll consider Wazzu a “toss up” alongside California, and I expect we win 50% of toss-ups (preferably Wazzu, though, because we finish off with Stanford and South Cal, and going out on a three-game losing streak sucks). We’ll lose to South Cal, Nebraska, Stanford and Utah, along with either California or Wazzu.
The most important thing, though, is that we stay competitive in all games. Losing to South Cal by more than 14 seems unacceptable, and not giving Nebraska, Stanford and Utah a fight would be disappointing.