The UCLA Bruins are set to roll into 2013 after landing the best recruiting class in the Pac-12 last season. The Bruins enjoyed a solid turnaround to 2012, starting the season 9-2, beating USC for the first time in over half a decade, and coming very close to beating Stanford in the Pac-12 championship and returning to the Rose Bowl. But three straight losses to end their season (including an absolute rout against Baylor in the Holiday Bowl) tempered enthusiasm.
Still, things are looking up for UCLA. With USC coming off a very disappointing year, the Bruins are almost set to take Los Angeles as their territory after letting the Trojans run wild for a decade. The Pac-12 South looks to be a place where UCLA could set up shop and contend for conference titles season after season with no other team looking particularly ready to establish dominance. While Oregon and Stanford battle it out in the North, the Bruins will only have to worry about beating one of those teams.
UCLA will start their season against Nevada at home in 2013. The big game for the Bruins comes two weeks later in Lincoln, when UCLA heads to Nebraska in a rematch of last year's high-scoring tilt in Pasadena. So the Bruins have a lot to play for leading into the start of next season, with tough matchups (at Stanford and at Oregon being a brutal October back-to-back) looming later on in the year.
Spring practice start date: The Bruins kick off spring practice fairly late (the last team in the Pac-12 to get started) on April 2nd.
Spring game date, location, TV info: The UCLA spring game takes place Saturday, April 27th at 5 p.m. PT in the Rose Bowl.
Approximate returning starters: UCLA is returning eight starters on offense and six starters on defense. The big one is quarterback Brett Hundley, who figures to be a dark horse Heisman contender if the Bruins can improve upon their performance from last season. UCLA also returns four of their five offensive linemen and the majority of their front seven, including star outside linebacker Anthony Barr (who will be legitimate a Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year candidate).
Biggest addition: UCLA will only have one early enrollee from their 2013 class, as Eldridge Massington enrolled early. The Bruins have plenty of talented wide receivers in their rotation, but the former USC verbal should get a chance to make his mark.
Biggest loss: UCLA will have to make do without top running back Johnathan Franklin. Franklin was the primary engine for the Bruin offense in their resurgence through the Pac-12 South, and Jordon James and Damien Thigpen will asked to take over the load. The Bruins also lose their jumbo tight end Joseph Fauria, who could always be relied on for a big catch last season, and three members of their secondary.
New coaches? Jim Mora's coaching staff will remain primarily intact, with only the loss of tight ends coach Marques Tuiasosospo to Washington.
New schemes? UCLA will tend to stick to the systems they put in place last fall, with Noel Mazzone running an offense designed to put players in space and move them from side to side. Defensive coordinator Lou Spanos will try and ensure the Bruin defense plays physical and in front.