Swanson: Questions abound as UCLA football team opens fall camp

PUBLISHED August 2, 2023 at 4:21 p.m. | UPDATED: August 2, 2023 at 4:47 p.m.
LOS ANGELES — You might have sweated to prepare for this test, but until you do all the required reading and absorb all the lessons on the schedule, you’ll just be guessing. There are that many question marks for the UCLA football team as it begins fall camp this week on campus.
But what the heck? Give it a shot, anyway.
1. Who is going to be UCLA’s starting quarterback in 2023?
(A) Dante Moore
(B) Ethan Garbers
(C) Collin Schlee
(D) All of the above
What are you looking at my test for!? No cheating!
Fine. I think it’s going to be Moore, the five-star freshman with the rocket arm, over Garbers, the redshirt junior who’s returning, and Schlee, the Kent State transfer who’d be the first name you’d cross out if you’re using the process of elimination to improve your odds of guessing correctly.
The college football landscape might look like a whole new world, but the Bruins have themselves a good, old-fashioned quarterback controversy, and it’s exciting. Different styles, different situations – but Moore will emerge: If he’s going to be UCLA’s quarterback of their Big Ten future, why waste any reps that will help him prepare?
Of course, there’s no telling what this head coach does until we get to that chapter.
2. What will the Bruins’ record be?
(A) 10-3
(B) 9-4
(C) 8-5
(D) 5-8
Don’t look over here – I have no clue. I’m skipping this one and moving on to …
3. True or false: The Bruins will continue the trend of improving their record every (non-COVID) season under Kelly since the coach took over in 2018, when they finished 3-9.
Well, shoot. They went 9-4 (6-3 in the Pac-12) last year, so … no. Primarily because there is, as you can see, just so much guesswork involved. But don’t expect much of a dip in UCLA’s final Pac-12 season; it’ll be important to maintain momentum heading into a tougher Big Ten schedule next season.
4. After losing offensive linemen Jon Gaines II, Atonio Mafi and Raiqwon O’Neal to the NFL, the Bruins return only right tackle Garrett DiGiorgio and center Duke Clemens up front. How big are the Jordan-brand shoes that will have to be filled by Purdue transfer Spencer Holstege and College of the Sequoias transfer Caleb Walker?
This one’s easy: Really big!
5. True or false: UCLA will benefit from bringing back eight starters and about 75% of its defensive personnel.
Hmm. On one hand, these players all should benefit from having played together. Continuity is cool. Experience is valuable.
On the other, it can be tough to get excited about more of the same when the Bruins’ defense in 2022 was entirely too generous, giving up 403.3 yards per game – 87th most in the nation and the eighth most in the Pac-12.
But then you’ve got to factor in new defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn…
Can I see what you put down?
6. What conference will Oregon and Washington be a part of in 2025?
(A) Pac-12
(B) Big 12
(C) Big Ten
(E) Pac-8
Conference alignment is looking like just a bunch of dominoes lined up, with UCLA and USC having pushed over the first pieces for the Pac-12 last year by announcing plans to join the Big Ten in 2024. Colorado has since entered the transfer portal, bound for the Big 12 next year, which has the Ducks’ and Huskies’ programs possibly teetering in other directions too.
Where they fall, well, we’ll learn that in due time. But built-in disadvantages for the Pac-12 are being made ever more clear.
7. About how many Pac-12 football games did UCLA receiver Kam Brown watch when he was a kid?
(A) 25
(B) 15
(C) 5
(D) 2
The answer is D.
“I caught a couple,” said Brown, who grew up in Colleyville, Texas, and transferred west from Texas A&M ahead of the 2021 season. “It was hard, though. Over there, you’re barely awake when the game is on.”
8. True or false: UCLA will be the best-conditioned team in the Pac-12 this season.
Senior linebacker Darius Muasau would tell you that’s true. That Keith Belton, UCLA’s director of football performance, has made sure of it with regular 300-yard shuttle runs that had Muasau and his teammates feeling like they could go another whole practice after Wednesday’s first one.
“We’re going to be the best-conditioned team out there in the Pac-12 this season, so that’s something he really put an emphasis on,” Muasau said. “And I felt great running out there today. … Flying around, I wasn’t tired at all. I wasn’t huffing and puffing, and I’m pretty sure all the boys was feeling the same.”
Now it’s just a matter of determining how many points all that running and sweating will be worth when the scores count.

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