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The Good, Bad and Ugly of UCLA Football and the Number 4

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I missed parts of the Stanford game so I thought I would make this Good, Bad and Ugly a bit more statistical.  The Stanford game at times showed what many here have known and talked about for a while:  This UCLA football team has a lot of talent.  Enough talent to compete with the number 4 team in the nation on the road.  But for mistakes, poor coaching decisions, this game could have been much closer. 

The Good

RN has recruited well.  How well?  Only once in the last 4 years has Stanford had a better recruiting class than UCLA.  And IMO we should not be too quick to condemn the effort RN has done in this regard. 

RN has vastly out preformed Karl Dorrell in this regard.  Dorrell needed to go in part because he could not recruit.  Dorrell used academic requirements as an excuse and quite frankly left the cupboard bare when he was fired, here is an old story on the topic:

Such players are all over the Pacific-10 conference, and while Bruins coach Karl Dorrell is asked to compete with USC, Oregon, Arizona State and Cal on the field, the playing field when it comes to recruiting is heavily skewed

"They are not going to win there, with any type of consistency, until they change the approach," said one former UCLA assistant who asked not to be identified. "It doesn't matter who the coach is, or how much they pay him. Until UCLA gets serious about winning, and they start easing it (the university's admissions standard) so a few more kids can get in, you can't win consistently there." 

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero declined an interview for this story after being informed of his topic. But Dorrell did speak. 

"There's tremendous challenges for recruiting that we have to be mindful of when we recruit," said Dorrell, the embattled coach who could be on the UCLA sideline for the last time Saturday when the Bruins face No. 8 USC at the Coliseum.

Dorrell's failure to recruit led to his downfall and gave RN a huge disadvantage when he started.  Dorrell tried to blame that on UCLA academics but RN has proved him wrong, as does Stanford with their even tougher academics. RN has done a solid job recruiting, which is part of the coach's job that people often forget.  However, the bad comes with the next part of the coach's job.  

The Bad

Before the season started Tasser 10 reported on this stunning statistical analysis by CFBMATRIX

Over the last 4 years, no one in the PAC10 now 12, has a worse net game effect than Coach Neuheisel.  -4 games per year in a 12 game season is one of the worst marks in the country for coaches still employed.   Sure, it is easy to point out that UCLA is an elite recruiting school and thus there are very few opportunities to add net positive wins.  However, UCLA has an annual recruiting rank over the last 4 years above Oregon and they are not losing 4+ games per year.

Normally, to turn this problem around, the rule of thumb is our motto - Recruit to win,, not win to recruit.  But, how do you recruit much better than a #15 rank over the last 4 years!  So if recruiting is not the issue then how about the scheduling.  Well, the PAC10 played a fully balanced 5/5 schedule so nothing unusual about that which takes us to the only factor left.  The Coaching Staff.

That's right, RN coaching is costing us four games a year.  While statistics can be deceiving, on what we have seen so far this year, it is hard to argue with this conclusion.

The Ugly

Some here say that RN's problems are he is too conservative.  I appreciate the point but I see it slightly different.  I think calling him conservative is an insult to true conservative coaches.  A conservative coach does the same thing over and over again, does not take chances, but generally they do those things well because they practice them so much. 

I don't think RN coaching style has any logic to it.  Look against Stanford he did do some outside the box and/or "gutsy" calls.  For example, he called for an onside kick in the third quarter.  Of course it was poorly done and seemed an odd time to call it but it was not conservative.  The low moment for the season to me being 12 man on the field penalty after a time out in the Texas game on a key third down.  A conservative coach would have known exactly what he wanted in that case. 

To me his biggest problem is I have never seen a coach worse at managing his players.  It almost seems like the backups are better than the starters.  Joe Fauria was dominating against Stanford, yet RN refused to call a play to him in past weeks and he is the second string TE.  Everyone here knows the Prince vs. Brehaut situation.  But how about this?  Starting Defense vs. Backup Defense for tackling in the front seven.  All UCLA fans agree tackling has been a huge problem this year.  So let's talk some tackling statistics. 

 

  • On the starting Defensive Line.  Let's use the Stanford game as an example.  Datone Jones again had 0 tackles.  Justin Edison had one assist.  Damon Holmes had 2 tackles and 1 assist and Cassius March had 2 tackles.  Thus the starting DL had 4 tackles and 2 assists for a total of 6. 
  • On the Backup DL Tepa had 1 Tackle, Odighizuwa One Assist, Donovan Carter 2 tackles and 3 assists and Eenesa 3 tackles.  Thus the backup DL, in less plays, had 6 tackles and 4 assists for a total of 10.   4 more tackles for the backups in less plays.  
  • The Linebackers had a good game as a starting unit but again, there were issues especially when you get into the season stats.  Glen Love is hurt and supposed to start but so far this year he has been badly outplayed by Jordan Zumwalt who was the second leading tackler in the Stanford game and the only person to have a tackle for a loss.  Eric Kendricks, the third leading tackler in the game has more tackles, more tackles for a loss and more sacks then Sean Westgate, not just for this game but for the season.  Yet Westgate starts in front of him.  While middle linebacker Pat Larimore is the leading tackler, it can be argued that the other two starting LBs are not as good as there backups.   

I could go on and on. 

Maybe it is too conservative, maybe RN is too indecisive.  All I know is it is not academics or players, and that four years is enough.