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Spaulding Report: Running vs. Memphis

Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone met the media today and talked about the need for his offense to establish and maintain tempo, and getting the ground game going appears to be a big focus now.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has been feeling the heat since the offense's terrible performance against Virginia last Saturday.  He met with the media this afternoon and maintained his sense of humor while acknowledging the significant shortcomings of Saturday's offensive output. He joked that the sun shockingly did come up on Sunday and he was surprised to be getting another chance, and then talked about some of his mistakes.

I don't think I gave our guys as many chances as I needed to, and let some of our young guys settle in to the game.

Mazzone's comments seemed to revolve around the idea that his play calling didn't allow the Bruins to establish a solid running game and build the offensive rhythm from there. While this approach may be the ideal, I'm still concerned about the Bruins' ability to establish a run game at all given the way the offensive line performed.

There was some big news for true freshman Nate Starks as it appears he is the one moving up the depth chart now that Steven Manfro is out for the season with a torn ACL.

It'll be fun to watch him [Starks] play Saturday night. A bit bigger kid for us, out of our norm. It'll be fun to hand him the ball. Note to self, Hand him the ball!

Two weeks ago, I would have bet that Starks was going to redshirt this year, with Jordan James, Paul Perkins, and Steven Manfro ahead of him on the depth chart, and with the (still) expected emergence of Craig Lee and the move of Adarius Pickett to RB, Starks seemed the odd man out.  No more. Starks will add a different dynamic to the Bruin running backs which have relied on a lot of slashers, but guys who had trouble generating yards when there weren't big holes up front.  Nearly all of the Bruins success on the ground against Virgina came with Paul Perkins taking the ball over the left side. A bigger body like Starks, who is the only RB listed over 200# on the roster, may be able to churn out 3 or 4 yards in the middle of the line where guys like Jordan James and Paul Perkins were getting dropped for little to no gain, and that could make the difference between a 3rd and 3 and a 3rd and 9.   FB Nate Iese added a bigger and tougher element out of the backfield in the 3rd quarter on Saturday when the Bruin offense should some blips of life, so maybe we'll be seeing the Nate and Nate show more going forward.

Mazzone was asked about his feelings on Coach Klemm and the performance of the offensive line.

He's done an awesome job. Historically, it's not like we haven't been able to run the football around here.  That's always been something that we've been able to do, so it's not like, "Aw hell, we suddenly forgot how to do it". We just got to be a little better at what we are doing at this point.

A lot better, actually. And there are multiple parts to it - the line, the running backs, and the play calling/scheme - that need to get fixed. And catching passes would help, too. Mazzone noted that Memphis had the top defense in its league last year and that this week will be a good test for the offensive unit to get back on track.

Many thanks to Jack Wang at InsideUCLA for the video today.

On the other side of the ball, sophomores DT Kenneth Clark and OLB Deon Hollins spoke with the media today as well.  Both of them had great games on Saturday, particularly Clark who finished with 8 tackles and occupied double teams much of the day which created opportunities for Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Eddie Vanderdoes in the trenches, and kept the Virginia OL from getting down to the linebackers allowing that unit to have an outstanding day.

Thanks to Jack Wang at InsideUCLA for the videos of Kenny Clark

and the video of Deon Hollins.