LOS ANGELES (AP) -The way Rick Neuheisel sees it, starting off with a big-time opponent on national television is virtually a no-lose situation.
``To have that kind of exposure, people talking about UCLA football in anticipation of this game is terrific,'' UCLA's first-year coach said Monday. ``We want to be a national recruiter. We want to have people across the United States to look at this game and say, `That would be a cool place to play.'
``In terms of getting our program where we want it, this is important, to play on this kind of stage. You don't have to look very far for an example of somebody who did just that - right across town, (USC coach) Pete Carroll. He went out and played all these kind of games and fared favorably and obviously built a program that certainly is among the best if not the best right now.''
The Bruins open their season at the Rose Bowl against No. 18 Tennessee next Monday. Coming off a 6-7 season in which coach Karl Dorrell was fired, Neuheisel's rebuilding job got trickier when UCLA's two top quarterbacks, Patrick Cowan and Ben Olson, got hurt and third-stringer Kevin Craft was pressed into duty.
Cowan (knee) is out for the season and Olson (foot) is expected to be sidelined for some two months.
Along with those key injuries, UCLA's offensive line was thin on experience and depth heading into fall camp, and injuries have thinned it even more.
Asked if he thought the Bruins would gain from the national exposure even if they lose to Tennessee, Neuheisel said obviously he would prefer that things go well for them, but they probably would benefit long-term even if they don't.
``To go and lay an egg would probably have an initial negative repercussion, but you can always point to the fact they (TV) wanted to see UCLA. They want UCLA because of the Los Angeles market and so forth. And we're not going to lay an egg the next time.
``I don't like to talk in those terms because I prefer to look at it as if it's going to go well.''
A former Bruins' quarterback, Neuheisel has a 66-30 record in eight years as college head coach, four seasons each at Colorado and Washington. Among his hires after he took the UCLA job last December were Norm Chow as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and DeWayne Walker, retained as defensive coordinator.
``I'm really, really happy with staff I've put together and the way they work with one another, the way we get things accomplished and get to the heart of the matter rather than dancing around issues because of egos and stuff,'' Neuheisel said.
The Bruins' success early in the season will depend heavily on the play of Craft, a junior college transfer who started five games at San Diego State in 2006. Craft did participate in UCLA's spring practice, but got regular work with the first-team offense only after Olson broke his right foot on Aug. 9.
Neuheisel said both Craft and backup Chris Forcier, a redshirt freshman, have made progress.
``I do think Kevin and Chris Forcier are on the verge of blossoming into very good players. Hopefully it could be as soon as Monday night,'' the coach said. ``But even if we take our lumps early in the season, I do believe they have the makeup to be good players.
``We're blessed to have a great quarterbacks coach in Norm Chow, so hopefully it can be sooner than later.''

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