Here Come The Aztecs, Photo Credit: aztec00pimp's photostream
Let's start the Monday of our game week by immediately compiling notes related to preseason overviews of the San Diego State Aztecs. Everyone here should be familiar with the toplines by now. Bruins are going to take on an Aztecs team that will be coming in with a brand new coaching regime, headline by Brady Hoke and two extremely familiar names in Gary Long and Al Borges. Brady Hokes took over the San Diego State program after putting together a nice program at Ball State where he finished with an impressive 12-2 record in his last season. Hoke's impressive coaching resume is also highlighted by a stint at University of Michigan. From the NYT's Quad's preview of the Aztecs:
The Aztecs should feel blessed to have him. In addition to his head coaching stint at B.S.U., Hoke spent eight years as the defensive line coach under Lloyd Carr at Michigan (1995-2002). Hoke added the title of associate head coach for his final season in Ann Arbor. Hoke was mentioned in connection with the open Michigan job after the end of 2007 season, but the job eventually went to West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez. If for no other reason than his impressive assistant experience, Hoke is a solid hire. Add in his highly successful rebuilding job at Ball State, and he becomes a great one.
So that should get everyone's attention (who is day dreaming about an automatic victory next Saturday at the Rose Bowl. Plus Hoke is going to be flanked by two assistant coaches, who have had their share of impressive stints at big time programs, including here at UCLA.
Moving on to personnel matters, the Aztec offense is going to be headlined by sophomore quarterback Ryan Lindley:
Coach Borges will have sophomore Ryan Lindley as his quarterback, as long as someone like Drew Westling or Kelsey Sokoloski doesn't jump over him on the depth chart. Last season Lindley stepped in as a freshman and took countless hits for this team. He saw the highs and the lows of what can be a very long season, throwing for a career-best 433 yards and four touchdowns versus Idaho in a lopsided win, but also having back-to-back games versus New Mexico and Colorado State in which he threw for just 156 and 166 yards, respectively.
Having very little in way of a rushing attack, an approach that generated a mere 73.2 ypg to rank last in the Mountain West and 117th in the country, the Aztecs asked far too much of Lindley. As far as carrying the ball is concerned, Atiyyah Henderson will again be the focal point, and when given the opportunity he can produce, just as he did against Idaho (100 yards, two TDs) and Colorado State (177 yards, 2 TDs).
In an effort to move the ball down the field, senior wideout Roberto Wallace and junior Vincent Brown will be the primary objectives. The pair combined to average almost 100 ypg through the air a season ago.
It looks like Atiyyah Henderson will not play against UCLA due to a back injury. In absence of Henderson, look for Brandon Sullivan (a 5-11, 200 junior) to get carries. Didn't get to watch any Aztecs game last season (so chime in if I am off). So looking from the stats, it seems like Sullivan was used pretty sparingly last season. In other words, pressure is really going to be on Lindley to move the ball against Bruin defense on Saturday night. Lindley will be counting on an offensive line, which according to the NYT preview "returns three players with at least 10 games of starting experience." No doubt Hoke with his tough, no non-sense Midwestern background is going to prod these guys to become more physical this coming season. So they should present a decent test for Price, Carter and rest of the Bruin front-7 right away. More on the Aztecs after the jump.On the defensive side, here are the preseason notes from NYT:
The line returns both its starting ends in B.J. Williams and Jonathan Soto, which helps matters some. Williams the 2008 Aztecs with 3.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. Despite losing Allen’s production, the linebacker corps is the strength of the defense. It returns two stellar contributors in weakside LB Andrew Preston (82 tackles, 3.5 for loss) and middle LB Luke Laolagi (the team’s leading returning tackler with 99). Each has started more than 20 games in their career; they’ll be counted on for leadership on a defense that surely lacks confidence following last year’s finish. The secondary – we’ll touch on them in a moment – will rely upon their returning talent at corner, most notably the junior Jose Perez (two interceptions, tied for the team lead) and the senior Aaron Moore. There is no question that Long is among the most able defensive coordinators in the business, but he’ll have his hands full turning this defense into a competitive unit. The Aztecs may be more physical, especially against the run, but they’ll again have a hard time keeping points off the board. But San Diego State is a program in a rebuilding mode, what would you expect?
Don't forget under Rocky Long, the Aztecs will most likely be playing in Long's 3-3-5 formation. If you can remember back to the mid-90s, it took Long about an year to get his scheme in place (as the Bruin defense struggled a bit in his first year (96-97 season). However, once he had the system in place, it became one of the most memorable defense during last two decades at UCLA. More on the Aztecs' 3-3-5, from the SportsNetwork, which identifies LB Jerry Milling as the leader of the Aztecs defense:
Perhaps one of the biggest changes for the Aztecs this season is that the squad now has one of the better minds from the Mountain West Conference on that side of the line in Rocky Long. The former New Mexico head coach is bringing a change of pace to SDSU and players like linebacker Jerry Milling couldn't be more excited.
"Coach Long is a good coach, he brings that 3-3-5 attacking defense and I don't think there's a defensive player in the country that wouldn't want to play for coach Long and that defense. You're the aggressor as opposed to being on your heels...we're excited to play for coach Long and that defense this year."
Milling has appeared in 18 games for the Aztecs over the years, but has just two starts, yet is being looked to as a leader because of his senior status. Also among the linebackers for the Aztecs is returning starter Luke Laolagi, who placed third on the team a season ago in tackles with 99 and matched his career best with 13 stops against Notre Dame.
Up on the front line the unit boasts a number of returning starters in B.J. Williams, Jerome Long, Ernie Lawson and Jonathan Soto, the latter being one of the more experienced performers with 20 starts under his belt. In the case of Long, he jumped onto the scene as a freshman last year and is set for even bigger and better things this time around.
Senior cornerback Aaron Moore has as much experience as Laolagi on defense for the Aztecs, but early indications have him sitting behind Kwincy Edwards for the starting nod. As for the rest of the secondary, there are several players with experience under their belts, but when it comes to starting, that will be a new one for many of those on the depth chart.
Again, this is a team the Bruin simply cannot afford to overlook. These guys will come into the Rose Bowl with nothing to lose. They are going to be playing in a defensive scheme, which will allow them fly around the field. No doubt they will probably also be gunning for Kevin Prince in his first collegiate start and his first football game in two years since his senior year at high school. They are going to present a formidable test for a Bruin OL, which is going to feature 4 brand new starters (including two true froshmen) at OL, new faces at the TB and WR positions at the Rose Bowl.
In terms of the game plan, I actually expect Chow to keep it somewhat simple to keep pressure off his freshman QB. We have heard during the training camp how the main goal of the coaches this season is to average 4 yards per rushing attempt, and pick up chunks of yardage every play. That is what I am expecting to see next Saturday. I am expecting a UCLA football team to come out and focus on establishing the run with a ball control offense. If they experience success early on, then we can expect them to open it up a little more.
Neuheisel's team will need to stay locked in against a team that will be coming in fired up, with nothing to lose, and looking to establish their own physical brand of football under a no-nonsense head coach. So, let's hope our boys and ready, focused and not looking ahead.
We will compile more notes on the Aztecs as the week unfold. Meanwhile, if any of you have extensive thoughts to share from watching these guys please share them in this thread or in fanposts.