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Spaulding Roundup: Shakeups & Adjustments

Some good news out of Spaulding field this Hump Day. Walker is shaking things up in response to numbers like these from first four games. From Dohn:

The Bruins allow 37.5 points and 415.8 yards per game, and are 106 th nationally (of 119) in third-down efficiency, allowing 48.4 percent of third downs to be converted.

"Where we're struggling is third and (2 to 6 yards)," Walker said. "There's some things we've been successful on the last few years, and I think teams are picking up on it, so we have to figure out how we can do better from the third and 2 to 6. We're awful right now, and we've got to get it fixed."

bucknellbruin already fanshotted one of the changes Walker is trying out in practice. He has inserted true freshman Dye (5-11, 190) in the nickel packages over red shirt freshman Courtney Viney (5-8, 150). Just by looking at the depth chart it stands out that Dye has the size advantage over Viney. More on the switch (and other shake ups) from LA Times reporter Chris Foster:

"We're giving him (Dye) a good look in practice," Walker said. "He's a bigger guy and a smart guy. He has the ability to do the things we want done. We're trying to find matches we think can help us."

That might also mean more time for Akeem Ayers and, possibly, defensive end Datone Jones. The Bruins have only four sacks through three games. They had 13 in the first four games in 2007.

Part of that was due to defensive end Bruce Davis. He tied for the Pacific-10 lead with 12 sacks. In 2006, the Bruins' Justin Hickman led the conference in sacks.

"It's kind of hard to replace guys like Davis and Hickman," Walker said. "Those are special guys. Even when we were not bringing pressure, they were able to get to the quarterback. We'll look a little bit at personnel."

Walker said that Ayers and Jones were players who could help the pass rush.

"It's something where we either have to blitz more or use more guys to cover," Walker said.

It will be interesting to track the development of kids like Ayers and Jones over next two years. From what I have seen to date, I love Ayers’s speed and I think it might not be a bad idea to stay with him at SLB than senior John Hale, who has really been struggling shedding blocks from that spot.

More on the defense from Dohn who had the following comments from CRN re. generating pressure on the QBs:

Despite opponents throwing the ball an average of 35.5 times per game, the Bruins have four sacks, and are not getting much pressure on opposing quarterbacks. UCLA's one-sack-per-game average ranks 102 nd, and the defensive line has accounted for three sacks - one each from starting ends Tom Blake and Korey Bosworth and one from reserve defensive tackle Nate Skaggs.

So how does UCLA get more pressure on the quarterback? "The answer is fundamentals, and the answer is zone pressure, and the answer is don't try; (use) three-man pressure and drop (into coverage)," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. "We haven't had a great edge presence so far, and it's maybe time to not try so much."

I think another issue to keep in mind is that our CBs like ATV has been giving opposing receivers a cushion because of the need to provide cover in case our safeties and LBs miss their tackles. In many ways it kind of reminds me a little (stay with me here) of our Ben Ball defensive strategery from last season. Remember the games LRMAM was out due to injuries? During those games our guards would sag off in their man to man coverage around the perimeter because they didn’t feel as confident in their interior defense without Luc inside. But when Luc came back in the rotation, DC and RW would feel lot more confident about exerting that suffocating man to man pressure up front. I think we have a little bit of the same deal going on here as well. Our CBs will be able to exert more tight coverage if they get better defensive coverage from their safeties (hello Brett) and the LBs and DEs up front. So hopefully giving Ayers and Jones more time will help that cause along with the insertion of Dye who might emerge as a more physical presence than Viney. Should be very interesting how it all shapes up on Saturday night.

On the offensive side of the ball, some good news at TE:

Tight end has gone from an area of concern to an area of surplus in the month since Logan Paulsen broke a foot against Tennessee. The coaches moved Nate Chandler back to the position from tackle and also decided to use freshman Cory Harkey rather than redshirt him.

"We don't pretend to have great depth, but all of the sudden the position looks like a position should look," Neuheisel said.

Moya is the primary receiving tight end, while Chandler is the better blocker. Harkey might be the most complete player. He injured an ankle against Arizona, but probably will play Saturday.

"I'm just getting back in the swing of things," Harkey said.

It is becoming apparent that Paulsen won't play this season. He said he must remain in a walking boot for another 21/2 weeks, though he hasn't decided whether he will redshirt this season.

Makes sense for Paulsen to get his medical redshirt this season and come back strong next year for what hopefully will be a final successful season at UCLA. By that time UCLA offense should be in even better shape with a year of Chow scheme under its belt.

Anyway, it is great to hear coaches shaking things up and not sitting still while dealing with adversity. Here is to hoping that the new kids like Ayers and Jones can use the experience this year to develop just like Hickman and Davis did under Walker last two seasons.