Third-year coach Karl Dorrell thinks UCLA takes step forward in 2005

Aug. 29, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Karl Dorrell liked the attitude around the UCLA weight room on Monday morning.

"They were pretty excited. There was a buzz," the Bruins' coach said. "We're excited about getting out of camp and getting ready for an opponent."

Dorrell, heading into his third year at UCLA, believes this is the season the Bruins take a big step forward. They open the season Saturday night at San Diego State.

The Bruins were inconsistent in the first two years under Dorrell, finishing 6-7 his first season and 6-6 his second.

UCLA had a good - although sometimes inconsistent - offense last year, and Dorrell believes it will be improved this season.

"We're three years into it (his system) now, so it's a lot more in depth, has a lot more flexibility than it had the first year," he said of the Bruins' offensive scheme. "That's just because there's more experience here. The core of the offense is in the program, so our young players have a pretty good inkling of what it is.

"As they gradually become starters or backups or what have you, they have a pretty good knowledge base of what we're doing, so it (his offense) is pretty much intact now."

Quarterback Drew Olson, who started all 12 games as a junior last year, recovered quickly from surgery in January to repair ligaments in his left knee, and will start against the Aztecs.

Redshirt freshman Ben Olson, one of the nation's most highly regarded high school passers in 2001, pressed Drew Olson for the starting job in camp, but recently hurt his left (throwing) hand and is listed day-to-day heading into the San Diego State game.

Ben Olson, not related to Drew, has returned to college after redshirting at BYU in 2002 before spending two years on a church mission.

Drew Olson completed 196 of 341 throws for 2,565 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, and Dorrell believes he has improved.

"The (knee) injury was a pretty good wakeup call for him. He ended up being in much better shape this year than he's ever been, looks quicker than he's ever been," the coach said. "He's sharper with his decision-making out there on the field.

"It's been a number of things for him. His experience has helped, and the injury helped him mature a little bit and put things into perspective."

Dorrell also expects a good season from tailback Maurice Drew, who rushed for 1,007 yards as a sophomore last year.

"We do expect him to be even better, with his experience, for one," Dorrell said. "He'll be a much smarter player, and he understands our offense a whole lot better than three years ago. Those things are natural when you've been a key part of a program for three years. He's physically in great shape, didn't miss a practice through camp.

"But we don't expect to overload him. Chris Markey is going to get some playing time, Kahlil Bell is going to get some playing time. We don't want to run the horse into the ground. We want to make sure we're keeping him fresh, and we've got some good change-ups with the other two guys coming in."

Defensively, Dorrell lamented the loss of senior tackle Kevin Brown, who had ankle surgery last week and is expected to be sidelined for at least six weeks.

"He's obviously a very talented player and we're not going to have him early on," Dorrell said. "But we've been used to this type of pattern, with the young defensive line last year, guys who had to grow up early.

"We're not as young (on the defensive front) as we were a year ago. We may still have a young player or two who has to play for us, which is better than having six or seven new guys having to play for you."