Posted by Bryan Fischer
NEW YORK -- UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel knows what it takes to win the Pac-12. He won the then-Pac-10 while at Washington and had the team in the upper echelon of the conference annually before being fired. After a pair of rough 4-8 seasons bookending his time in Westwood however, there's plenty of work to be done if the Bruins are to advance in the conference standings. Yet the coach, who briefly sat down with CBSSports.com during Pac-12 Media Days, believes the team will finally turn the corner this year.
"I have high expectations, I always start the seasons with high expectations," Neuheisel said. "When you're coming off a year like we did, you can't wait to get that taste out of your mouth."
Neuheisel is one of four coaches to be rated as having a warm coaching seat heading into the season by senior writer by CBSSports.com Dennis Dodd. The UCLA alum drew laughs at Media Day in Los Angeles when he joked about being happy to just be invited despite his status on the hot seat. He did note that he was just joking and actually hasn't felt the heat despite what some fans or media members think.
"I really don't feel it," he said. "It's just been brought to my attention so many times that it's like the elephant in the room so let me just talk about it so we can get that behind us. I have never been worried about losing my job, never one time in my life. I've lost my job before for reasons that have been well documented. But I've never lost my job because I wasn't doing a good job.
"I'm doing as good as job as I possibly can and working harder than I've ever worked."
This season is, of course, about wins and losses though. Neuheisel is hoping 2012 is a momentum builder for the program despite having a difficult schedule which includes hosting Texas and traveling to Stanford. Though there are five new coaches, including two new coordinators, there are several players coming back that are worth getting excited about. Running back Johnathan Franklin was a revelation last year and topped 1,100 yards rushing despite an anemic passing attack to take the pressure off of him. If the defense can be turned around and not give up 30 points per game (30.3 to be exact), you can understand why Neuheisel is much more hopeful about the upcoming season if they can stay healthy.
"I'm excited about the guys I have recruited," he said. "I feel they have confidence in me and our coaching staff. I feel like as many things that have bounced the wrong way so far in the three years, we're due some good bounces. I'm always optimistic in that regard and never been more optimistic about a year."