5 questions for UCLA football before spring practice – San Bernardino County Sun

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Josh Rosen opened the 2015 UCLA football season, and his college career, with a gloriously thrown 55-yard strike that could have gone for a touchdown.

“Could have” turned into a theme for the Bruins.

The team could have challenged for the Pac-12 crown. The defense could have carried the Bruins. Injuries, however, torpedoed a once-promising season before it turned a month old. With one game left, the Bruins could have ended the year on a high with a bowl win, but failed to stop the run and instead finished the year at 8-5 — a good mark, but the worst record in the Jim Mora era.

So Mora promised to add strength and size. UCLA is in for a change on offense. Kennedy Polamalu’s power is in, Noel Mazzone’s spread is out and Rosen is still at the reins. A top-10 recruiting class will come to campus.

The Bruins start spring camp Tuesday facing questions on all sides of the ball as they try to leap the last hurdle toward a conference championship.

Here are five pressing questions for UCLA:

What will come of the new offense?

A main storyline of spring camp will be the installation of Polamalu’s scheme and Rosen’s progression in the revamped offense. Polamalu, a former USC fullback and assistant, is expected to bring a pro-style look that features tight ends and fullbacks. There will surely be several position changes during spring camp as the team tries to create depth at those new positions.

With a new offensive coordinator and positions coach, Rosen will try to follow up his stellar freshman campaign. He led all true freshman quarterbacks in the nation in passing yards last year, but, as three turnovers in a loss to USC showed, he was not exempt from the growing pains of an 18-year-old.

Who emerges from the pool of receivers?

UCLA lost its two top receivers from last year in Jordan Payton and Thomas Duarte, but reloaded with a talented pool of freshmen. Incoming wide receivers Damian Alloway, Demetric Felton, Theo Howard and Adewale Omotosho were all four-star recruits. Howard seems to the jewel of the group, as he was ranked at the No. 7 receiver in the country by Scout.com and No. 5 by Rivals.com.

Of the returners, Darren Andrews leads with 443 yards and 43 catches from a year ago. Eldridge Massington played in 12 games last year and caught 11 passes for 119 yards. Kenneth Walker had seven starts in 13 game appearances and caught nine passes for 231 yards.

Cordell Broadus, a former four-star receiver who didn’t show up to fall camp last season, will return to the team for spring practices as a walk-on.

How much will a 4-3 defense help?

UCLA was eighth in the conference in rushing defense (198.5 rushing yards allowed per game) and allowed 300 or more rushing yards in a game three times last season. The only Pac-12 team that gave up more 300-yard rushing games was conference cellar-dweller Oregon State.

Mora stressed the need to get bigger on defense after getting trampled for 326 yards against Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl in December. He could use a 4-3 scheme to patch up the run defense and wake up the pass rush. However, the Bruins have to replace nose tackle Kenny Clark, who opted for the NFL draft after he was named first-team All-Pac-12 and recorded career highs in tackles (75), sacks (six) and tackles for loss (11).

Defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes is back after tearing his ACL last year and figures to be a big piece in the UCLA defense. The Bruins also stocked up on defensive linemen on Signing Day, including four-star tackle Boss Tagaloa, who is listed at 6 foot 2 and 295 pounds.

Which freshmen will have an immediate impact?

After signing a top-10 recruiting class, the Bruins have several prospects who could be in line for significant playing time. Linebacker Mique Juarez, the big fish of the 2016 recruiting class, is the natural replacement for NFL-bound linebacker Myles Jack. Juarez is enrolling for spring camp and will challenge for a starting spot.

JJ Molson will immediately take over kicking duties for Ka’imi Fairbairn and Jordan Wilson jumped to the front of a thin tight-end group.

“Jordan Wilson, he’s going to play right away because he’s our tight end,” Mora said with a chuckle at his National Signing Day press conference.

Who will back up Josh Rosen?

With his return to UCLA, quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo will not only get to mold Rosen, but the former Washington quarterback will also have to help the Bruins get depth at that position. The Bruins have Mike Fafaul, who has played in three games, and signed two quarterbacks in Devon Modster and Matt Lynch. Only Lynch will enroll in time for spring quarter.

Modster is a four-star recruit according to ESPN, Scout and Rivals, while Lynch is a three-star prospect out of Broomfield, Colo. Modster is ranked the 13th-best pocket passing quarterback in the nation by ESPN.

5 questions for UCLA football before spring practice – San Bernardino County Sun