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Defensive Thursday

The focus on defense continues to dominate the media coverage on the Bruins. Let's get right to what the papers are saying in Southland:

Bruin defense was off to a decent start this past weekend. But Bruin DC is not satisfied:

UCLA's defense proved, albeit for one game, that it was nothing like last year. The Bruins shut out Utah for three quarters and allowed just 10 points.

However, it was barely an above-average performance in defensive coordinator Larry DeWayne (BN) Walker's book.

I gave them a B-minus," Walker said.

So what will it take to earn an `A'?

"No points, no mistakes," Walker said. "It's going to be hard to get an `A'."

The Bruins can feel good about that performance, but it was Utah, after all, and the Utes hardly displayed the kind of offensive fireworks they had when Urban Meyer was coach.
Its nice to hear DeWayne Walker keeping Saturday in perspective. I like how he doesn't shy away from expectations. From the same article:
"I'm not going to be satisfied until we win the Pac-10 championship and become the best defense in the country," Walker said. "Those are lofty goals, but those are our goals. We worked harder this week and we're staying after them. We don't want them to feel they're bigger than the game."
Again we played just one game. Lets hope the team's performance continue to match the words coming out of Spalding Field.

Speaking of performance  Dohn profiles another freshman sensation - Al Verner - whose idea of excelling in academics is lot more than getting a passing grade in ball room dancing (emphasis mine):
After UCLA cornerback Alterraun Verner punctuated his strong debut with an interception return for a touchdown, teammates, coaches and even pundits remarked how he didn't act like a freshman.

There is a reason for that - he is barely a freshman. In fact, by the time the Bruins play in a bowl game, as long as they qualify, Verner will be a sophomore.

We're not talking athletically, an area in which the talented Verner is as green as the Rose Bowl turf. We're talking academically. Verner is so advanced that he entered his first fall training camp with 36 credits (28from high school), the number most UCLA freshmen accrue in their first full year.

In the world of big-time college athletics, where taking one ballroom dancing class makes a player eligible by NCAA standards, there is room for a kid like Verner.

"He's the kind of guy who could be the mayor of Los Angeles one day," UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said. "He's a different guy. He's on a different planet with that stuff."

Bruins coach Karl Dorrell compared Verner to Cormac Carney, UCLA's all-time leading receiver when he left after the 1982 season. Carney is a member of the academic All-America Hall of Fame and aU.S. District Court Judge in Orange County.
Great article. Just another reason the football program at UCLA is a little different than the lawless one across town.
Staying on the defensive side  OC Register's Robert Kuwada writes about Christian Taylor - the Bruin Mike LB - who is the defensive quarterback on the field:
Defensive end Bruce Davis said there were times when Taylor read the formation and called out the play before the Utes had a chance to run it.

"He sees formations and he recognizes formations so fast," Davis said. "He can go through what plays they run out of what formation, the down and distance. He takes all that in consideration and he just knows what's going to happen. He just makes everybody move faster."

Taylor, who is only 6-foot and 225 pounds and played strong safety in high school, relishes the challenge.

"I pride myself in that I do study a lot, I ask a ton of questions to the coaches and the coaches have challenged me to know as much as they know," he said. "Everything that they know I need to know, because when we play on Saturday, they're not there (on the field)."
Taylor had only 2 tackles last weekend, but did call a good game on the field and got himself in the middle of the action:

Mark Rightmire, OC Register Photo

Also in the same article Taylor talks about how the defensive attitude is different this year compared to last year:
"The whole thing with the defense (last season) wasn't necessarily personnel, it was all about attitude," Taylor said. "It was all about how we approached it and the confidence that we had going into the game, and that was mostly an attitude thing, I felt.

"The problem we had last year was not all 11 guys believed in what we were doing. And so some guys would try to alter that and do other things on their own. And when one person does that, it opens up a hole for somebody else. And then you take that hole, it's just a domino effect.

"You don't even know what's going on or what's going wrong because there are so many people doing there own thing and it just falls apart."
Again we need to contain ourselves a bit here. Bruins have started out strong for a  number of years now only to collapse down the stretch. We beat a good Utah team, but we are still not sure exactly where we are.  We are going to find out in the next few weeks when we will see whether or not we get off to an expected strong (5-0) start.

Moving over to the other side of the ball. While DeWayne's Walker unit did more than all right against Utah, offensive line coach Jim Colletto's unit had a really average performance against Utah. The OL's pass protection scheme was great but as we have written already in last few days the run blocking was suspect. LA Times' Lonnie White has this on the OL coach:
Despite the poor rushing total, offensive line coach Jim Colletto said he was pleased with the effort of his starters, center Robert Chai, guards Shannon Tevaga and Chris Joseph, and tackles Aleksey Lanis and Sutherland. Tevaga is the only returning starter from last year.

"They did better in pass protection than I expected," said Colletto, who has 39 years of combined experience coaching in college and the NFL. "With our running game, Utah did a lot more line twists on running downs and we had not even practiced against that.

"The thing is, we don't have the experience at this point yet to adjust that fast. But overall, I liked the way they played the whole game. They never got frustrated and when they were on the sideline, I had all of their attention."

Colletto, who joined Dorrell's staff this year after working the last seven years in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens, gave his linemen a lot to learn over a short period in training camp, which Sutherland said was not easy to execute.

"It was a little complicated at first," Sutherland said about Colletto's blocking schemes. "But once you get it, it actually makes things a lot simpler. We understand defensive fronts a lot better, so anything [a defensive front] goes into, we should know what is going on.

"We're starting to get more comfortable playing with each other. You can see that we're starting to jell a little bit."
We will see how these guys perform against Rice this Saturday. Let's hope they get all the issues worked out heading into the bye week.