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UCLA football media day

Rick_240 UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel sounded like a coach who has more talent at his disposal during Monday's media day.

Reaching the postseason is the bar Neuheisel has set, meaning anything worse than a 6-6 record is unacceptable. But he took that a little further, possibly with recruiting in mind, saying that, "we're playing for the now," even with a roster that is heavy on sophomores and freshmen.

"There are some arguments, some ways of thinking that, ‘Let’s take it on the chin and get these guys ready and reap benefits down the road,’ " Neuheisel said, reiterating, "we’re playing for the now. It is not an unheard thought that experience will win out over potential.

"A year ago, we were placing guys in positions because that’s what we had, now with the arrival of another recruiting class, there will be competition."

Neuheisel painted with broad, ambitious strokes, saying, "I want to get back in the winner's circle. I have been in the top 10 three times at the conclusion of seasons. I want to be back there again. If not this season, then next season."

Climbing that ladder will require a better offensive line, first and foremost.

Acquiring linemen was the emphasis of recruiting, and six were brought in, as well as Kai Maiava, who transferred from Colorado last summer. Maiava will start at center. Neuheisel's trip around the Pacific 10 Conference last season left him with, "a good idea what we need to get in place to compete and have success against the powerful teams in our conference."

Topping the list, Neuheisel said, was having, "an offensive line capable of controlling the line of scrimmage or at least getting a stalemate. That's absolute imperative."

Neuheisel was optimistic (yes, relentlessly so) that renovation project was well underway.

"Last year, we had only nine or 10 offensive linemen, and only two had played before," Neuheisel said. "Because of our increased numbers and size, we're a better-looking outfit."

The Bruins enter camp with 18 offensive linemen.

-- Chris Foster

Photo: Rick Neuheisel coaches his team against USC at the Rose Bowl last December. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times.

 
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