The top three wide receivers from last season return and all had more than 30 receptions. Terrence Austin had 53 catches, the most by a Bruins receiver in six years. Meanwhile, sophomore Taylor Embree led the team with 531 receiving yards last season, but shoulder surgery will keep him out of spring practice. Junior Dominique Johnson had 34 catches last season. Linebacker looks to be the strength on defense.
Help is needed
The Bruins' running game was among the worst in the nation in '08. UCLA also allowed an average of three sacks per game. Clearly, upgrading the offensive line is a must. Five linemen who started at least seven games are back, so there is some experience for the coaches to work with. Better quarterback play would help the running game. Kevin Craft threw almost three times more interceptions (20) than touchdown passes (seven) last season. That's unacceptable. A new starting tailback is needed, too.
Keep an eye on
OT Nate Chandler: Chandler, a sophomore, came to UCLA as a tight end but has bulked up to 290 pounds. Last season, he played both tackle and tight end. This spring, he'll be given a chance to concentrate on tackle and will be looking to distinguish himself there.
OT Sean Sheller: Sheller, a junior, was expected to start last season, but he wrecked his knee in an offseason accident and missed the season. He's back and ready to make up for lost time. He'll contend for a starting job at left tackle.
His time is now
Much has been expected from Micah Kia since he arrived in 2006. He has started 15 games over the past two seasons, but he still has been somewhat of an underachiever. His progress might have been stunted by coaching changes. This season will mark the first time he's had the same line coach for two consecutive years. The Bruins are counting on Kia to significantly raise his level of play in his final go-round. Another to watch on the offensive line is center Kai Maiava, a sophomore transfer from Colorado who is expected to win the starting job.
As is the case throughout the Pac-10, the quarterback competition at UCLA will dominate discussions this spring. Craft will have to make substantial progress to hold off redshirt freshman Kevin Prince and true freshman Richard Brehaut for the starting job. Just as important is a need for a stronger offensive line. The Bruins frequently were physically whipped up front. Spring scrimmages should give an indication of the effectiveness of the offseason strength and conditioning program.
Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.