College Football's New Look

"We don't expect there to be another Johnny Football," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. "We expect it to be whoever his name is. There's never been one like him and there probably won't be one after him. When we got here, nobody really knew who he was or what he was capable of."

LOS ANGELES -- If you want to know why UCLA football suffered a long, debilitating case of mediocrity, consider that from 1999 until last year, the Bruins did not have a single offensive lineman drafted.

Or that guard Xavier Su'a-Filo, chosen by the Houston Texans this month with the first pick of the second round in the NFL draft, is the first Bruins offensive lineman to be drafted that high since Jonathan Ogden in 1996. That's so long ago that Ogden has a bust in Canton -- the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted him last year.

When coach Jim Mora arrived after the 2011 season, he began to transform the Bruins into a more physical bunch. UCLA won the Pac-12 South in 2012 and went 10-3 last season.

"We're big and physical and athletic up front on both sides," Mora said, "and that's where it always starts in football. Always. I believe that. I think most coaches do."

Perhaps so, but it was not until Mora arrived with strength coach Sal Alosi that the Bruins put that belief into action, including signing 14 offensive linemen in Mora's first two recruiting classes.

Injuries forced three freshmen onto the field last season, and the Bruins paid a price for it: Stanford limited UCLA to 266 yards and sacked quarterback Brett Hundley four times in a 24-10 victory. But a year later, tackle Caleb Benenoch, guard Alex Redmond and center Scott Quessenberry have made the offensive front a strength, even with the departure of Su'a-Filo.

Mora, knowing that he could trust his line to protect Hundley, installed a package of plays in the spring in which Hundley takes the snap under center. Mora knows the package will be a nice addition on Hundley's résumé for the 2015 NFL draft. But that's not why he introduced the package.

"We want to work out a little more power run game and play-action pass from under center," Mora said. "... The motivation was to continue to grow our offense and expand. It's certainly going to benefit Brett. It's going to benefit everybody. It's going to benefit our centers, our guards."

And they, in turn, will benefit UCLA.

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin breeds 1,000-yard rushers at a rate similar to the amount of cheese that's produced in these parts.

But the centerpiece of the Badgers' backfield in 2014 just may end up being the most dynamic runner of them all.

Go ahead and put Melvin Gordon on the Heisman Trophy short list right now. He returns for his redshirt junior season after rushing for 1,609 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago. He averaged 7.8 yards per carry and had four runs of 60 yards or more and three of 70 yards or more, both tops in the country.

"I didn't come back because I wanted to win the Heisman," Gordon said. "I came back because there are still things we want to do as a team, and I know I can be a more complete player, a player that helps everybody else raise their level.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...