UCLA football preview: offensive line

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Rick_240 Divine intervention is rarely requested before a season begins. But these are unique times for UCLA and Coach Rick Neuheisel.

Asked at Pacific 10 Conference media day whether he will know who will be on the offensive line each week, Neuheisel replied, “I’m going to pray like heck that we do.”

Such was the state of the offensive front last season, when the Bruins used nine different combinations (none were effective).

UCLA ranked 111thout of 119 BCS Division teams in total offense and 116th in rushing yards per game.

Nothing the UCLA offense has planned matters without a dramatic improvement on the offensive line. Quarterback Kevin Prince is insignificant. Running backs like Christian Ramirez might as well be running in place. Receivers Terrence Austin and Taylor Embree will just be running wind sprints.

That’s the bad news. The upside is that Neuheisel and his staff are not banking only on diligent prayers.

The Bruins have seven new faces among their linemen this season.


That, Neuheisel said, “will create competition.”

It may create more than that. There is a chance that as many as four of the five starters could be newcomers.

Kai Maiava, a transfer from Colorado, will start at center, giving line coach Bob Palcic a 6-foot-1, 309-pound rock to build around.

Stanley Hasiak and Xavier Su’a-Filo are the jewels of the freshmen class. One or both could earn a starting spot.

Eddie Williams, a transfer from Mt. San Antonio College, and Nik Abele, a freshman from Irvine, both cleared academic hurdles this summer and will be admitted.

Jeff Baca started eight games at left tackle as a freshman, but could get moved around.

“We’ll see where everyone fits,” Palcic said.

Returners Nick Ekbatani, Darius Savage and Mike Harris are other returners who will get a long look.

Change in attitude was noticeable during summer workouts.

“They’re showing me something that I haven’t seen in a while,” linebacker Reggie Carter said. “Aggressive blocking, staying on blocks.”

That, and a little prayer, might get the Bruins to a bowl game.

-- Chris Foster

Saturday: quarterbacks

Sunday: running backs

Monday: wide receivers

Tuesday: tight ends

Thursday: defensive line