Quarterback Brett Hundley is returning to UCLA. That has Bruins fans giddy.
It is a key component to the Bruins' possible ascension into the preseason top 10. But that alone won’t do it.
Defense, as they say, wins championships. Here are three reasons the Bruins should make the jump in 2014:
--Linebacker Myles Jack. Every defense needs an impact player who keeps opposing offensive coordinators up late at night. Jack has already developed those skills as a freshman. He made a splash as a two-way player when he played at running back, but he is much more important on the defensive side. The Bruins lose linebackers Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt. Jack softens that blow.
--The secondary. The Bruins had to replace all four starters in 2013. By the end of the season, there was little doubt opponents passed at their own risk. Defensive back coach Demetrice Martin is known as a recruiter, but the numbers say he develops talent as well. The Bruins were third in the Pac-12 in fewest passing allowed, fewest touchdown passes allowed and third-down pass defense.
--The trio. The Bruins brought in three defensive linemen in last season’s freshman class, two had tremendous impact. Defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes and nose tackle Kenny Clark look like anything but freshmen. Defensive Kylie Fitts can be equal to those two, but needed wrist surgery and missed the last half of the season. Add to that the return of Owamagbe Odighizuwa.
The Bruins have big questions to answer as well.
Besides losing Barr and Zumwalt, the Bruins have to replace defensive end Cassius Marsh, leaving UCLA without three of its best play makers. Linebacker Eric Kendricks underwent ankle surgery in December, his second in six months. Depth on the front will be a concern, with only four players with game experience.