Given the way we have zeroed in on our defensive issues during last 24 hours, it makes sense to start our roundup with focus on defense. Chris Foster from the LA Times attempted to practice some journalism and get to the bottom of our defensive problems from this past weekend. All he got was meaningless coach speak from Chuck Bullough:
"They have had two weeks to prepare for us, so they know everything we do now," Bullough said. "We have a good package and we can move in and out of a four-man [front] and a three look. As we watch film, we'll see what will work this week."
Bullough said the pass defense against Washington State was poor because "they made plays and we didn't," but the Cougars were also able to exploit areas in the defense.
Yes, we know all about that 3 and 4 man front at this point. Bullough might think his defensive scheming was decent but from what we saw it looked less than ordinary against the worst team in the Pac-10. When asked about the need to change up his defense, Bullough's answer didn't provide a lot of comfort:
"We got a lot of young guys playing, so you can't get too complicated or it won't look pretty," Bullough said. "We can do more as they understand the concepts. If you make them start thinking too much, you'll take away their speed."
We are certainly sensitive to the idea that we have number of young guys breaking into our defensive lineups this year. So it makes a little sense for Bullough and his staff to ease them in a bit. However, there needs to be a fine balance between being too predictable and maintaining a foundation based on fundamentals, aggressiveness, and willingness to attack and win. If Bullough doesn't deviate from his mindset of sitting back and keeping scheme too easy for his "young guys," he is going to get eaten alive by Jeff Tedford and other good offensive coaches in this conference.
Certainly Kevin Riley has eaten Bullough and Walker's defense alive in recent years (emphasis added):
UCLA now faces Cal's Kevin Riley, who has 358 yards passing, five touchdowns no interceptions in his last two games against the Bruins. Both were victories.
"Washington State had a great game against us, and they knew the weaknesses in the coverages we were in," Hester said.
"We have to do a better job of disguising our coverages. The quarterback will just look and check off, check to a play that will beat our coverage. We worked on that a lot this week."
Hester, Sheldon Price and rest of the Bruin secondary have given up 311, 264, and 252 yards in their last three games as our pass defensive has gotten worse. That is not good news heading into the Bay Area this weekend. If these guys along with our DC do not feel the sense of urgency and come out with intensity to match it, it is going to be another gloomy Saturday in Berkeley.
Well the good news is that apparently the Bruins are having a decent week at practice at Spaulding. Coach Rick Neuheisel once again sounded pleased about Bruins working hard putting together "another good practice." Here is the video:
Note Neuheisel's concerns about Cal's offense as well. He mentioned how it was imperative for the Bruin D to keep the Bears corralled and thwart them from taking their "shots" with big plays. He also specifically mentioned the need for the UCLA DBs to do a "better job" when Cal airs it out as he pointed out the Bruins were "too passive in the coverage" during this past weekend. Hope the team is specifically working on those issues and gets some results this weekend.
CRN also talked about injuries and it's tough to hear the news about Nick Crissman. That's a setback for the kid. I will not be surprised at this point if he ends up taking a medical redshirt. Hope it all works out for him.
Kevin Prince looked almost at full speed and was running harder than he did Tuesday as his injured right knee continues to progress. He was not limited in any way for the second consecutive practice and looked sharp with his throws. "Everything was just fine," Prince said.
Gold also described yesterday's action at Spaulding as intense and summed it as "overall, very good practice":
When I forget to write about intensity, as has been asked about recently, it's because nothing sticks out. It's neither good nor bad. Today...was great. One of the louder practices in recent memory, and that stems from a really good scout team look. Because of the rain, UCLA pretty much split the artificial turf into two fields, and maybe all of the commotion led to the intensity. But overall, very good practice.
He singled out Ricky Marvray as one of the standouts (again):
Ricky Marvray just continues to impress me, with both the way he fights to get open and fights for the ball in the air. Tremendous job of finding seams in the defense, but more importantly, he makes the difficult catch. He had a really nice catch on a deep ball from Prince on the sidelines and and another nice grab in traffic later in practice.
Now only if Ricky can keep replicating that without taking in any penalties. You can read rest of Gold's notes here.
Elsewhere, Scott Reid from the OC Register wrote about freshmen (true and redshirt) stepping in as starters at DEs this weekend in Berkeley. Hopefully their new roles will inject some energy into our pass rush and enable the Bruin defense to exert some serious pressure on the Bears on Saturday.