The U.C.L.A. Bruins continued preparations for their trip to Corvallis this weekend to play the Oregon State Beavers, the only team in the Pac-12 without a conference win. How's that for a comforting thought, Bruin fans?
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley spoke today about the difficulties of playing defense against an Oregon State team that presents many different faces, and may literally have two different faces taking snaps. OSU's starting QB Seth Collins is an electric runner, but he is expected to miss Saturday's game due to an injury (something with which I'm sure all Bruin fans can sympathize) and redshirt freshman Nick Mitchell has been named the starter this week. Bradley says he is an underrated runner, and that the Bruins do spend time preparing for different players and not just schemes.
Bradley also talked about the challenges the defense faced on Saturday by having so play so many snaps and utilizing players in certain positions who had never practiced in those spots, praising Jayon Brown, Cameron Judge, and Josh Woods specifically for their versatility and endurance. Bradley admitted that the personnel issues limited what they wanted to do from a strategic standpoint but the silver lining is that the defense is developing more depth than they expected.
Our friend Chris Foster at the LA Times had more to say about Jayon Brown and a previously unknown position of his, fatbacker.
It's undersized linebacker Jayon Brown, who became a bit of a roly-poly when he beefed up to play his favorite position.
"I needed to gain weight after my freshman year," said Brown, a junior. "I ate a lot of protein and came back with a little linebacker gut."
"It was mostly just a belly, a little round one," linebacker Aaron Wallace recalled.
The nickname "fatbacker" stuck and Brown, who smiles at just about everything, reveled in it.
"I wanted to do everything I could to be a linebacker," Brown said.
It's a great article on a kid who played linebacker at LB Poly but started out as a safety for the Bruins due to his 5-11 and 195 frame. Thankfully for the Bruins, he is now playing much bigger than his size - both literally and figuratively.
Center Jake Brendel talked to the media today about the challenge of playing Oregon State's aggressive pressuring defense. The Beavers played their best defensive game of the season last week against Utah, so the unit is headed in a positive direction. The OSU defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake came from Utah in the off season, so he certainly was well prepared to face the Utes. That also means that he was part of the staff that led a defense that rang up an incredible got 10 sacks against the Bruins last year, so he's also well prepared to face U.C.L.A. Brendel says he sees some similarities between this year's OSU defense and the Utah defense he faced last year.
Let's hope that we don't see any of those similarities on the field this Saturday. To Brendel's and his O Linemates' credit, they have surrendered fewer sacks this entire season (9) than they did in that one game last year, so they at least seem better prepared to handle that sort of pressure. Also, despite the pressure that Brendel saw on film, the OSU defense has only registered 10 sacks of their own all season. Brendel credited the cohesion and trust amongst his teammates on the offensive line as the main reason for their success in pass protection this year (so it's not the guidance of OL coach Klemm?)
Joey Kaufman at the OC Register added some notes about one enormous presence on the Bruins defense that has (knock on wood) been front and center, literally, through the season.
With UCLA's depth thinning at inside linebacker, junior defensive tackle Kenny Clark has added importance.
"His importance to the defense just rises and rises every single week," junior outside linebacker Deon Hollins said. "I was talking to EK (former UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks) the other day, and he said how lucky we are to have someone like him in the middle of the defense, because he's definitely an NFL-caliber player, just what he can do in the A-gap, clogging those running lanes is really big."
We've talked before about Clark's pro prospects, and it's hard to imagine a scenario that keeps him around Westwood for his senior year. He has been a man amongst boys for much of the Bruins season so far, but just think of a defensive line of Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes lined up next to each other all year. Not to dwell on it, but there are so many what could have beens.
Think healing thoughts, Bruin fans.