UCLA coach Karl Dorrell isn't taking Saturday's season opener with Utah lightly.

"They are dangerous," said Dorrell. "You can tell in how they play. You can tell they're just a very well-coached program."

And that's not all.

Dorrell thinks the Utes have stepped it up a notch since Kyle Whittingham took over for Urban Meyer as head coach.

"They're going to be a formidable foe year in and year out," said Dorrell. "I know they are."

Utah, he added, has been successful in the Mountain West Conference and is making tremendous inroads by beating very good programs and winning bowl games.

"There's no doubt this is a very, very good football team and a great challenge for our team, given our inexperience and their experience coming in," said Dorrell. "So it's going to be an exciting and great challenge for us on Saturday."

The first meeting between the Utes and Bruins since 1974 has multiple story lines. UCLA has won all seven previous contests, but Utah has won four straight over Pacific-10 opponents.

Extending the streak to five, explained Whittingham, won't be easy. The Utes have their work cut out for them.

"I think they very well could be the most athletic team we play all year long. Why wouldn't they be? They have Pac-10 facilities, Pac-10 budget, they have it all. Why wouldn't they be an outstanding football team?," said Whittingham. "We expect to see a bunch of guys out there who can really run. That's just the nature of UCLA's football team over the last couple years."

Whittingham, though, acknowledges that season openers are often a best-guess scenario.

And the biggest unknown surrounding this one involves former BYU recruit Ben Olson. The UCLA quarterback, a sophomore, will be making his first collegiate start.

"He'll be ready to play," said Dorrell, who admits it'll be nice to get past the hype surrounding Olson's long-awaited debut. Olson was a highly touted California prep star who signed with BYU before serving an LDS Church mission to Calgary.

"I know we'll be ready to play and hopefully get this stuff behind us," continued Dorrell. "So we can continue to move forward and keep building for the season."

Dorrell is confident Olson has all the tools to take off and be a great success, even greater than his predecessor, three-year starter Drew Olson.

"I think Ben is well ahead of the curve in terms of where Drew was at this point and time," said Dorrell. "I think his maturity going on a mission and coming back has really helped him. He's a very focused kid — very demanding of himself, very demanding of getting things executed the right way by providing that leadership on the field.

"We think it's a plus," he added. "I think he's in a great position right now."

Utah plans to change that. Whittingham said the Utes plan to pressure Olson and make him as uncomfortable as possible. It's nothing new. It's a philosophy they take into every game.

"That has been the case for several years now. We're not going to deviate from that," said Whittingham. "We are who we are defensively and it has been a successful recipe. With that, you still have to pick your spots and you can't be careless. You have to be intelligent how you go about your blitz packages."

EXTRA POINTS: Linebacker Kyle Brady practiced for the second straight day and has been cleared to play Saturday. He'll wear a brace on his right knee ... Tuesday was Utah's last practice in full gear ... The Utes have 33 players from California on their roster.

E-mail: dirk@desnews.com