College football never ends, and during the next few weeks, teams will be getting ready for the 2013 season in their spring practice sessions. Here's a look at the UCLA Bruins and what they'll be working on this spring.
Spring practice began: April 2
Spring game: April 27
2012 record: 9-5
Returning starters: 11 (six offense, five defense)
UCLA coach Jim Mora Jr. heads into his second spring with a lot of momentum. His first season saw the Bruins win their most games since 2005 and beat archrival USC for the first time since 2006. More important, he made long strides toward changing the culture of the program and, as a result, UCLA played with more toughness, confidence and consistency than it has in quite a while. The rising program should be the favorite to win its third-straight Pac-12 South championship this fall.
The Least You Need To Know About UCLA This Spring
-- The Bruins need to find a running back. UCLA's all-time leading rusher, Johnathan Franklin, has graduated and a replacement must be found this spring. Junior Jordon James is experienced and versatile and he'll get the first crack at it, but keep an eye out for exciting redshirt freshman Paul Perkins, who wowed observers during fall practices. The Bruins also caught a break when senior Malcolm Jones decided to return to the team as a walk on after leaving the squad following the 2012 season opener. Senior Damien Thigpen and sophomore Steven Manfro are also in the mix, though they are normally used as receivers in offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone's scheme.
-- The secondary must be rebuilt. The Bruins lost both starting cornerbacks to graduation, plus starting strong safety Tevin McDonald, who was recently dismissed from the team. Sophomore free safety Randall Goforth started five games last season but experience is lacking elsewhere in the secondary. Sophomores Anthony Jefferson and Marcus Rios as well as redshirt freshman Ishmael Adams should get the most turns at corner this spring, and junior Dietrich Riley and senior Brandon Sermons will rotate in with Goforth at safety. This is a unit that probably will not be fully settled until fall, when several highly touted recruits arrive to compete.
-- Brett Hundley needs a backup. Hundley set UCLA single-season marks for passing and total offense as a redshirt freshman in 2012, and he'll be expected to elevate his game further this spring. However, no other quarterback on the roster has taken a snap for the Bruins, which means developing some depth behind Hundley is critical. Redshirt freshman T.J. Millweard has good size and arm strength and, in time, he should emerge as a quality backup. Redshirt freshman Jerry Neuheisel is also in the mix. Both will get long looks in the spring.
-- Playmakers in the passing game must emerge. The Bruins don't appear to have an immediate replacement for tight end Joseph Fauria, who was a nightmare in the red zone for opposing defenses last season. Senior wide out Shaquelle Evans is solid, but sophomores Devin Lucien, Devin Fuller, Kenneth Walker and Jordan Payton must step up and provide Hundley more receiving options down the field. The first three, in particular, have the potential to do that, and Payton is a physical receiver who is better at catching balls in traffic. Speedy freshman Eldridge Massington is also in for the spring. If the Bruins can identify some playmakers from this group, they'll be in good shape heading into the fall.