Bruins’ QB has no regrets

first_imgLOS ANGELES — If things had worked out differently, Ben Olson might be playing against Utah in the last game of this season rather than the first.However, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound highly touted quarterback will lead the UCLA Bruins against the Utes on Saturday at 5 p.m. MDT at the famed Rose Bowl in the season opener for both teams.Olson was a big deal four years ago, spending a year at BYU after being the top prep recruit in the nation the year before.Soon after the 2002 season ended, Olson left on an LDS mission to Canada. But instead of returning to BYU, where he could possibly be the starter now, Olson transferred to UCLA, where he’ll make his first college start against the Utes in front of a crowd of 70,000-plus.The affable Olson said he is happy with his decision to move to UCLA and claims he has no hard feelings toward BYU. He’s just excited to be making his college debut Saturday afternoon.”Things have been going really well,” he said. “I’ve been preparing myself to be the starter since last year. I’m looking forward to playing Utah.”When he came out of Thousand Oaks, Calif., as the top quarterback recruit in the country and enrolled at BYU, Olson could have gone anywhere he wanted. Everyone was after his services, and after narrowing his choices to Michigan, Tennessee, USC, UCLA and BYU, he decided on BYU.”I felt that was the place for me to go at the time,” Olson said. “They were 12-2, No. 1 in the nation in offense and I’d grown up watching BYU.”Olson came within an eyelash of playing in 2002 and losing a year of eligibility and, who knows, perhaps continuing his career in Provo if he’d finished the season at QB.The Cougars went up to Utah State in early October and fell behind 34-7 at halftime. BYU coaches decided at the half they would let starter Bret Engemann play one more series and then give their freshman a try if things didn’t improve.However, Engemann promptly led his team on a touchdown drive and stayed in the rest of the half as the Cougars rallied to a 35-34 victory. Olson stayed on the bench that night and for the rest of the year. But he harbors no hard feelings toward his former school.”I loved it,” Olson said of his time at BYU. “I have nothing but good things to say about BYU. It’s a great place, a great school.”So why did he leave Provo?Olson said the coaching change had something to do with his decision — Gary Crowton being replaced by Bronco Mendenhall — but that wasn’t the main factor.”I tried to re-evaluate when I came back from my mission,” Olson said. “I grew up watching UCLA and decided UCLA was the place for me.”While he points out that he played in two games last year, throwing four passes, Olson acknowledges, “it’s been awhile” since he played a full season.It was 2001 to be exact, when Olson threw for 2,989 yards and 32 touchdowns for Thousand Oaks High, where he was the CIF IV Offensive Player of the Year, a first-team USA Today all-American and the No. 1-rated prep player in the country.After his redshirt season at BYU, Olson left on his mission, which he calls “such a rewarding experience. I’ll never regret that decision for the rest of my life.”He said he never thought about football on his mission and it wasn’t until returning in November 2004 that he decided to transfer.Last year, as a freshman in Westwood, Olson was battling senior Drew Olson (no relation) for the starting job when a small fracture in his throwing hand sidelined him for the first month of the season. He only played in two games against Oregon State and Arizona, where he completed two of four passes for 11 yards.The big left-hander could surpass those numbers on his first series or at least by the end of the first quarter of Saturday’s game. Olson is eager to perform in the Bruins’ offense.”We’re going to have a pretty balanced attack,” he said. “We’re using the West Coast offense, which is multi-dimensional with a variety of looks.”As for Utah, Olson is expecting a tough game. “We know they’re a well-coached team and they like to bring a lot of pressure,” he said. “We’re not underestimating them in any sense. They’re a very solid team and we have a lot of respect for them.” E-mail: sor@desnews.comlast_img read more