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Defense ...

I don't think I need to link to any specific site to show exactly how atrocious our defense was last season. Dorrell was forced to fire his DC Larry Kerr, after he didn't get it done during his three years in Westwood (KD also has had to fire his OC too). Anyways UCLA defense has been a huge joke under Karl Dorrell. It was one of the worst defenses in college football across the board. Isodore was on point when he commented our defense needs to be the #1 focus for improvement.

Now as we head into Dorrell's fourth season we have been hearing a lot of hype re. the new DC DeWayne Walker. Here is a gushing report from the Daily Bruin:

Since Walker joined the Bruin coaching staff in early February, there has been a noticeable change in the players.

The players are working harder in the weight room and appear to be more lively on the practice field.

"The guys are excited to be out there," Dorrell said. "The guys know that all the spots are up for grabs, and they are all going to have to earn that position."

At least some of that influence comes from Walker. Walker brings a background in the NFL to the Bruins and that no-nonsense approach has quite an effect on the Bruins.

This week in practice, the Bruins spent extra time working on the fundamentals: tackling and swarming for the ball.

"We are trying to be a smarter and more hard-working defense," Walker said. "I'm trying to get the guys to buy into our philosophy."

I hope you will pardon me for not doing jumping jacks after hearing the boilerplate off season clich?s like how our players have been working hard in the weight rooms and how they are now excited and practicing with a new attitude. We heard lot of that BS during the off seasons of the Toledo era too.

It is encouraging to see Walker dropping the usual sound bites of focusing on fundamentals. It jives with what Baba wrote opining on what Walker needs to do to get UCLA defense back on track:


While I contend that Pete Carroll is tool, he does one thing that I like. He dedicates a practice every week to work on tackling, ball security and creating turnovers.

This aggressive defensive mindset, to create turnovers, with sound technique like putting your hat on the ball, has vaulted their program. Creating turnovers do many things like getting you ball in good field position and deflating the opposing offense. Turnovers kill momentum.

Also, I doubt that anyone can really disagree, that over the years, that suc has been sound in tackling.

The other thing that being aggressive defensively does is make kids want to play for your defense. Not only talented defensive kids but talented defensive kids that are aggressive.

It is going to be interesting to see if we are going to see a UCLA defense that will by flying around the ball, swarming around the running backs dropping them from no gains, or limiting them to less than 4 yards per carry. One of the telling signs in that first game will be exactly how many tackles our safeties have to make in the backfield. God knows the defensive line was as effective as the Saddam's elite Republican Guards. You'd figure with Kevin Brown back, they can't do much worse than they did this past season.

22 lettermen are returning on the defensive side. As I mentioned KB is coming back, who should help. He is going to be helped out by Hickman, Snead, and Harwell on the frontlines. Our depth at LB is going to be an issue with Hale (who has legal issues to work out), Taylor and McNeil. They are the projected starters (CFN) backed up by Whittington, Holmes and highly touted RS frosh Reggie Carter. It's an inexperienced bunch. But then again Spencer Havner and Justin London despite all their pre-season hype didn't get the job done this past season. How bad the UCLA defense was last season? Well consider this one of the main highlights (only defensive "highlight" available on youtube) of last season which consists of Dennis Keyes laying a ferocious hit on Rhett Bomar, after the inexperienced freshmen QB gained a first down:

So it is going to be interesting to see how the UCLA defense comes out in the first game against Utah. We expect the offense to be in great shape with Southpaw Jesus taking snaps, who will be surrounding by a bevy of returning talent in backfield at the receiver positions. But what we are really curious to see how UCLA plays defense under Karl Dorrell's much hyped new DC out of the gate this upcoming season. And just in case you need a reminder on how crucial defense in building a balanced, powerful program in D-1 here is SMQ:
This jibes with SMQ's conclusion (made here, here and here) last December that, in 2005 at least, the play of defense was much more closely correlated with success than the play of offense. That's correlation, which is not the same as causation, as they say, but it's verifiably true that the top 20 teams in each defensive category last year had better aggregate records than the top teams in any offensive category. The average final statistical rankings of the top 25, and especially the top 10, were significantly higher in every defensive category than in any offensive category.
SMQ posted that while discussing the latest off-season cyclical nonsense about who plays in the best conference in college football. Anyways, going back the main point - a simple one - it's not too much to ask from Karl Dorrell's staff to finally put together a defensive unit that doesn't embarrass the name of UCLA every Saturday. If not it will be KD who will need to follow Axman and Kerr, accept responsibility, and leave Westwood.

We will know the answers soon enough. 88 days to go. Cannot wait.