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UCLA Football: Defense Picks Up Speed As Bruin Quarterback Battle Continues

The trend of moving things faster on the field continues for the defense.

Defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro instructs the defense including Keisean Lucier-South during Spring Practice.
Joe Piechowski

It’s a new week, and a new set of practices. The media is still kept out a majority of the time, but we are covering practices nonetheless with help from our friends at the LA Times, LA Daily News and Bruin Report Online. I know, at this point in Fall Camp, people start asking questions about who is going to captain the offense and who the starters are going to be, but one thing I’ve noticed that’s a bit different this year is the fact that many are just letting Chip be Chip. Leave well enough alone and see what materializes on September 1. Of course, we all want to see progress and we’re definitely eager for some updates, but many fans have just put their faith in Head Coach Chip Kelly to get the job done and show us some on field results. I don’t think that attitude would have been afforded a less capable coach.

With that, we have some player interviews that we can dissect. The first interview was with Quentin Lake, a strong safety who is determined to ink his spot as a starter. His dad, former UCLA Bruins All-American Carnell Lake, has been seen around practices and is giving his son some sage advice.

One thing I took away from Lake’s interview was the use of the blitz. He said they’re blitzing more than last year and becoming a more aggressive defense. Can I get a HALLELUJAH?!?!? The secondary will get more pressure, but, according to Lake, they love it.

Lake also said that Adarius Pickett has become a big brother of sorts and he appreciates the mentoring to make him a better player. He is focused mostly on the strong safety and minimizing reps at the nickle position.

Lake also said the offensive play book is getting deeper—more routes and new looks thrown their way to mix it up, which will ultimately help the team on both sides of the ball. The quarterback battle is still in full swing, which is also giving the defense a tougher workout.

Here is Quentin (not Carnell) Lake’s full interview, courtesy of Tracy Pierson of Bruin Report Online.

Speaking of the quarterback battle, Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the L.A. Daily News haw an excellent three-part series on the quarterback battle. Part one focused on Devon Modster. Part two looked at Wilton Speight. Part three highlights Dorian Thompson-Robinson and his potential to bring positive change to the Bruin offense. At this point, he has some of the best skills out of the quarterbacks in question, but also the least experience. He didn’t sign early in December, but rather waited until the traditional National Signing Day in February. She quotes Chip Kelly as saying “retaining the quarterback’s commitment during the coaching change was of top priority”. He didn’t start a game until his senior year, but then developed into a four-star prospect and the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the country for his class, according to ESPN and Rivals.

The end result of this quarterback battle is going to be one of the best Westwood has ever seen.

Up next, we have Keisean Lucier-South. He too speaks of the more aggressive mindset of the defense, and the tone that defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro has set for the team. He expects them to “fly to the ball and play more physical”, so they are more prepared for game time.

Additionally, he speaks about how the strength and conditioning coaches have helped to increase his endurance.

Meanwhile, Ben Bolch of the LA Times has an article on the Bruin linebackers in general.

Here is Keisean Lucier-South’s full interview, courtesy of Tracy Pierson of Bruin Report Online.

Everything we keep hearing from players at this point is consistently pointing to “better”—everything is faster, more up tempo, more game like, better for endurance, etc. Every player interview I have seen, going back to last spring, has come across positively and speaks volumes for the changes that Chip Kelly is bringing to Westwood. I don’t mind being locked out of practice if that means his new policies will materialize into wins.

Cautious optimism is where I sit right now. I like what I hear. I like what little I’ve seen. So, now, I just need some proof when we kick off September 1.

But I have one last question to pose—what will progress look like to you? We can’t expect to go undefeated and some pundits even have us below .500 this year. What will confirm that Chip Kelly was the right hire? Fire away with your comments below.

Go Bruins!