A year ago, UCLA defeated nonconference foes Alabama and Michigan, had nine of its 12 games decided by seven or fewer points and played in a bowl game for the third time in the last four years.
This season, coming off that 6-6 year, UCLA has the talent and experience to return the program to the level it enjoyed in 1997 and 1998.
During that span, UCLA compiled a record of 20-4, won two league titles and a school-record 20 consecutive games and earned back-to-back Top 10 rankings for the first time since the 1987 and 1988 seasons.
UCLA returns 17 starters from last season seven on offense and eight on defense plus its punter and placekicker.
"I am excited about this football team because we have a great group of starters coming back who have invaluable experience," coach Bob Toledo said.
On offense, the Bruins return 1,000-yard rusher DeShaun Foster at tailback, 2,000-yard passer Cory Paus at quarterback, 50-catch receiver Brian Poli-Dixon at wideout, center Troy Danoff, tackles Mike Saffer and Bryce Bohlander and fullback Ed Ieremia-Stansbury.
On defense, the returnees include the entire front line of tackles Rodney Leisle and Anthony Fletcher and ends Rusty Williams and Mat Ball, linebackers Robert Thomas and Ryan Nece, free safety Marques Anderson and cornerback Ricky Manning, Jr.
Punter Nate Fikse and place-kicker Chris Griffith, both All-Pac-10 second-team selections a year ago, round out the returning starters.
Other key returnees include tight ends Bryan Fletcher and Mike Seidman, wide receivers Jon Dubravac and Tab Perry, tailback Akil Harris, guards Shane Lehmann and Blake Worley, quarterbacks Ryan McCann and Scott McEwan and fullback Matt Stanley, 1999 starting defensive end Kenyon Coleman, linemen Sean Phillips, Dave Ball and Ken Kocher, linebacker Marcus Reese and cornerbacks Joe Hunter and Keith Short.
Key losses include wide receiver Freddie Mitchell, UCLA's single-season receiving yardage leader, offensive guards Brian Polak and Oscar Cabrera, tight end Gabe Crecion, outside linebacker Tony White, cornerback Jason Bell and safety Jason Zdenek.
Several red-shirt freshmen gained valuable learning experience from their first spring practice and should make significant contributions this season, including offensive linemen Eyoseph Efseaff, Paul Mociler, John Ream and Steven Vieira; tailback Manuel White; receiver Craig Bragg, defensive back Ben Emanuel and linebackers Tim Warfield and Ray Cassaday.