This week, the UCLA football team is preparing for Arizona. After Monday’s meetings and practice, Head Coach Jim Mora reports that the team made some big improvements last week while they were off, and the student athletes also had the opportunity to adjust getting back into the swing of going to school, as classes started last week. My hope is that the bye week also helped the team continue the ascension to a winning season.
The big headline is the loss of Nate Starks, who has undergone season ending MCL surgery. Unfortunately, it is his senior year. Coach Mora reported that he wasn’t sure if Starks is eligible for a medical redshirt, or if that is something that will be pursued.
Caleb Wilson has also undergone surgery. Mora reports that he has had a similar surgery to Fabian Moreau, involving the placement of plates and screws in his leg. It is now up to the next man to step up and fill these gaps.
We are hopefully going to see the return of Jaelan Phillips, Najee Toran, and others who were hurting after the first third of the season, including Theo Howard, who had his playing time cut down due to struggling with his receptions. Coach Mora said that his attitude is good and he is seeing improvement.
With regard to preparing for Arizona, the Wildcats have two quarterbacks that we could potentially face. Both are are capable passers that can also can run after holding on to the ball. Coach Mora discussed the pass rush and doing a better job on the line to sack the quarterback, no matter who they face. We all know sacks have not been a shining moment this year, so facing an elusive quarterback doesn’t give me much hope in this area.
Yesterday, Offensive Coordinator Jedd Fisch reported that the offense analyzed where they’ve come from so far this season in order to improve for the remainder of the season. With regards to replacing Caleb Wilson on tight end, Fisch also has the “next man up mentality”.
Arizona can mix their coverages on defense, and has held their opponents to less than 30 points for the most part. When it comes to getting the job done, Fisch just says, “we should not fall into the trap of trying to be another team”.
Here is Jedd Fisch from yesterday, courtesy of Thuc Nhi Nguyen:
Defensive Coordinator Tom Bradley also spoke to the media yesterday, and said that during bye week, they got back to fundamentals and “playing sound football”.
Arizona is not one dimensional. Arizona is good at avoiding sacks, which requires a solid, disciplined pass rush. Getting pressure on the quarterback is essential, but will be challenging on Saturday. The media asked if they ever look at film of the likes of Jayon Brown as examples, and he said they look at that all the time. Additionally, Kenny Young is back in his natural position at middle linebacker, which has added to the further improvements on defense.
Here is the full video of Bradley and, once again, thanks to Thuc Nhi Nguyen:
Both interviews were fairly short and not very specific. I like Tom Bradley, as he is always cordial to the media and never comes off as if you are bugging him with your questions, but we don’t really get any details as far as how the defense has used their challenges this year to make improvements. It was shocking to most of us that this unit struggled from the beginning. Hopefully the lack of details is just their way of hiding the good stuff that we’ll see on the field Saturday. Playing in the state of Arizona has been a challenge in the past, so let’s hope our Bruins can get this one done.