Spring football is typically a tedious but necessary grind. It’s a chance for coaches to evaluate and players to impress.
UCLA’ sessions this year, which begin Tuesday, will have a little more intrigue.
The Bruins will be without offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, who has been suspended while alleged NCAA violations are investigated. UCLA also is breaking in a new defensive coordinator, Tom Bradley, a longtime Penn State assistant.
Those situations should be interesting to watch. But generating the most buzz is the competition at quarterback.
UCLA has climbed from mediocrity in three seasons under Coach Jim Mora, but if the Bruins are to take another leap it will be with a new quarterback. Brett Hundley, who led UCLA to a record of 29-11 as the starter the last three seasons, is headed to the NFL.
Jerry Neuheisel, the top backup the last two seasons, has an advantage in experience. He came off the bench when Hundley was injured against Texas last season and engineered a Bruins victory.
But the player who the most eyes will be on is Josh Rosen, a freshman who left Bellflower St. John Bosco High early so he could participate in spring practice and try to win the quarterback job.
It is unlikely that either player will emerge from spring as the announced starter. That is expected to be decided during summer training camp. However, it’s never too early to show a command of the playbook and the huddle.
Elsewhere, positions are more settled. The Bruins have 18 starters returning.
Here’s a look at four other situations to watch between now and UCLA’s spring game on April 25 at the Rose Bowl:
What will be the effect of Klemm’s absence?
On the field, not much at all. UCLA returns nearly every key player on its offensive line. Center Jake Brendel, who will be a senior in the fall, could probably handle a lot of the coaching. He and the other veterans on the unit know what Klemm expects from them.
Away from practice is where Klemm may really be missed. The NCAA’s evaluation period, where coaches can visit high school players and players can visit coaches at the university, begins April 15. Klemm has been a top-flight recruiter, and if he is unable to take part that would be a hit to the Bruins.
What changes might Bradley make to the defensive scheme?
Bradley was Penn State’s interim coach when Joe Paterno was removed after the Jerry Sandusky scandal. He had been considered something of a head-coach-in-waiting under Paterno, but the university cleaned house after the allegations against Sandusky, another longtime assistant, became public.
Bradley successfully used a four-man front at Penn State, which allowed only 16.4 points per game from 2004-11. However, the offenses in the Pac-12 Conference will offer an entirely different challenge, particularly in the passing game.
Bradley showed the ability to adapt last season in his role as assistant head coach and defensive line coach for West Virginia, where he faced the eclectic offenses of opponents in the Big 12 Conference.
The Mountaineers’ defense allowed 33.3 points per game in 2013. That dropped to 27.6 under Bradley last season.
Who replaces Eric Kendricks?
Kendricks had sideline-to-sideline range, which is one reason he won the Butkus Award as college football’s best linebacker.
Kenny Young, a freshman last season, appears to be next in line. He has ample skills, as well as the size at 6 feet, 230 pounds. He picked up playing experience, as well as absorbing lessons from Kendricks, last season.
Who will be limited physically this spring?
Linebacker Kenny Orjioke (knee), running back Steven Manfro (knee), linebacker Cameron Griffin (shoulder), defensive back John Johnson (shoulder), receiver Darren Andrews (knee), tackle Simon Goines (ankle) and receiver Austin Roberts (knee) should at least be ready for some work this spring, even if they can’t go through an entire practice.
Offensive linemen Scott Quessenberry and Caleb Benenoch, who are both rehabilitating after off-season surgery, are expected to be more limited.
UCLA spring football practice
When: March 31 through April 25.
Where: Spaulding Field, UCLA.
Practice days: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday this week, plus April 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22 and 23.
Times: Practices on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays begin at 7 a.m. Mondays begin at 4:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 9:30 a.m.
Access: Practices are open to the public (except April 18) and free, though there are no seats at Spaulding Field.
The spring game will be played April 25 at the Rose Bowl beginning at 10 a.m.