Brett Hundley can get off to a running, and passing, start toward winning the
A year ago,
Winston might be the favorite to win again this season, but a lot of preseason leaders have fallen short in recent seasons. Johnny Manziel was the reigning Heisman winner last season, and
Football teams always preach team over individuals, but expect Hundley to be given every opportunity to shine.
Virginia has safety Anthony Harris, who led the nation in interceptions last season with eight. Also back is defensive end Eli Harold, who had 15 tackles for a loss a year ago and finished the season with three sacks against
The Cavaliers have nine returning starters on defense, which sounds nice. The problem is, last season's defense gave up 59 points against
Virginia allowed an average of 33.2 points per game, with five teams scoring 40 or more — and that's in a season it was able to miss Florida State on the ACC schedule.
A year's experience should help, but how much?
The Cavaliers may be without freshman defensive lineman Andrew Brown, who battled turf toe during training camp and then suffered a shoulder injury. Brown was the Gatorade national player of the year at Chesapeake (Va.) Smith High last year.
Here's the catch
Hundley does not lack for receivers, the Bruins' deepest position. UCLA has size (Thomas Duarte, Eldridge Massington), speed (Devin Fuller, Kenneth Walker) and elusiveness (Jordan Payton, Devin Lucien, Mossi Johnson).
That group will be working against the strength of the Virginia defense. Besides Harris, the Cavaliers' secondary returns cornerbacks DreQuan Hoskey and Maurice Canady and safety Brandon Phelps. All have started more than 20 games. Cornerback Demetrious Nicholson, who has 112 starts, is questionable as he tries to return after undergoing toe surgery in May.
UCLA lost linebacker Anthony Barr, defensive end Cassius Marsh and linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, all impact players who are now in the NFL. Yet, there should be no drop-off.
Myles Jack and Eric Kendricks return. Both are among the
Virginia counters with an offense that … Well, the headlines have included phrases such as "encouraged by unproven wide receivers" and "rebuilding the offensive line."
Greyson Lambert, who completed 44% of his passes off the bench last season, has leapfrogged 2013 starter David Watford as the Cavaliers' starting quarterback.
The one known commodity is running back Kevin Parks, who has had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons rushing.
This is only the eighth time in 40 years UCLA has played a game in the Eastern time zone. The last time was a 30-21 victory over Temple in the 2009 EagleBank Bowl.
The Bruins have a 2-5 record in the seven Eastern games before that.