UCLA spring football practice preview for 2017. The Bruins are hoping for bounce-back season with a healthy Josh Rosen, a new offensive coordinator and some young playmakers on defense.
Last season was supposed to see the Bruins take a huge step forward. Josh Rosen was expected to elevate his status from star freshman to Heisman Trophy candidate, and UCLA was believed to be a contender in the Pac-12.
However, injuries and lack of a running game severely hindered the Bruins. They couldn’t run the ball effectively at all, and their one-dimensional offense proved to be beneficial for opposing defenses. UCLA was No. 127 in rushing offense, having averaged 84.25 yards per game on the ground. And it managed to score only 13 rushing touchdowns.
But now the Bruins are back with some newly signed blue-chip prospects set to join the team and help return the team to the top of the conference.
Here are three storylines to watch as UCLA’s spring football practice starts Tuesday.
UCLA Spring Football Practice Storylines
1. Josh Rosen’s Health
Rosen’s letdown year was mostly due to his season being cut short by a shoulder injury. He had successful surgery on it in November. Despite the whispers of potential nerve damage, the expectation is for Rosen to be back at 100 percent going into the 2017 season. That’s good, because UCLA won’t have Mike Fafaul to turn to this time around if Rosen isn’t able to survive the year and stay healthy.
He’ll have help on the field, though. The Bruins are welcoming back their top two leading receivers from last season. Darren Andrews and Jordan Lasley combined for 1,329 yards and nine receiving touchdowns on 96 receptions, and both could see their numbers go up with a healthy Rosen.
2. Jedd Fisch’s Offense
Of course, part of the equation for Rosen’s return to dominance lies in the job Jedd Fisch does as UCLA’s offensive coordinator. Fisch worked well with the quarterbacks in Ann Arbor the past two seasons, serving as Michigan’s passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
So, it will interesting to see how Fisch helps Rosen in his junior season. But Fisch also has to fix the running game. Soso Jamabo was a 5-star running back out of high school. The talent is there. To give him only 82 rushing attempts is unacceptable. But the Bruins also have Nate Starks and Bolu Olorunfunmi, who can both light it up, too. If enabled, they can form a potent three-headed monster in the backfield.
3. Young Defenders
UCLA has been churning out talented linebackers over the past few years, and Mique Jaurez was expected to be the next great Bruin to fill that role of being a star linebacker. Some personal issues held him back, though, but if he can get it turned around and see some action, the Bruins may have a young, dangerous defense.
In the 2017 recruiting class, UCLA signed 5-star defensive end Jaelan Phillips and 4-star defensive tackle Greg Rogers, who both have the ability to start from Day 1 and disrupt offensive lines in the Pac-12 as true freshmen. Former 5-star cornerback Darnay Holmes also has the potential to thrive in the Bruins’ secondary. The future is bright for the UCLA defense.
The Bruins’ spring game is set for April 29.