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Article:2008 UCLA Football Preview: Quarterback

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Last season, the quarterback play of Ben Olson, Patrick Cowan, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, and Osaar Rasshan, proved to be quite frustrating for UCLA and its fans, as the unit combined to hit just 47.6% of their passes with a horrific touchdown to interception ratio of 13-15.

However, new UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel added the esteemed offensive coordinator and quarterback guru Norm Chow to the fold this past offseason. His hiring has brought much attention to the program, as Chow, who was fired by the Tennessee Titans and is the former USC offensive coordinator, was expected to turn Cowan and Olson into top of the line pro-prospects. However, it will be increasingly difficult for Chow to develop either of the senior quarterbacks because Cowan tore his ACL in the spring (out for the season) and Olson broke a bone in April (out for 6-8 weeks).

With Olson and Cowan missing the rest of spring practice, junior quarterback Kevin Craft, son of former San Diego State coach Tom Craft, and redshirt freshman Chris Forcier took the majority of the team’s snaps. However, both players struggled and many fans and beat writers continue to believe that neither Craft nor Forcier looks like a legitimate Pac-10 quarterback at this point.

During the final spring scrimmage back in April, Craft went 11-of-24 for 95 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. His counterpart, Forcier, went 4-for-6 for 52 yards and showed a strong tendency to tuck the ball and run too quickly. It’s tough to make much of a spring game but neither played really wowed anybody.

So baring a major setback, it is expected that Olson will be back in time for the start of training camp in a few weeks and compete with Kraft and Forcier for he starting job. Simply based on his ability and experience, it is likely that Olson would win the job provided that he is fully healthy. When Olson came out of high school back in 2002, he was regarded as one of the top college prospects and was recruited by numerous schools. Therefore, there is still a possibility that he could finally approach the potential that made him one of the nation’s top hurlers six long years ago.

As it stands now, nobody is sure what to expect from either Olson, Kraft, or Forcier, considering the coaching changes and injury concerns that swarm around the UCLA quarterback position. We will know much more when the season kicks off on Labor Day against the Tennessee Volunteers.

Position Grade : C+

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