While the full details have yet to be announced, UCLA will open Fall Training Camp on August 2nd this year. The only other detail we know at this point with respect to Fall Camp is the fact that “Westwood Fan Appreciation Day” has been scheduled for August 12th at 3pm. With the start of camp soon approaching, it’s time to begin the Bruins Nation Fall Football Preview!
So, today, we start by looking at the coaching staff.
First, let’s get the easy part out of the way.
There were no changes on the defensive side of the ball. Coach Tom Bradley is still the defensive coordinator along with Angus McClure, Scott White and, of course, “Coach Meat.” Each of them return for another season which bodes well for the Bruin defense as that was the bright spot of last year’s team.
The offensive side of the ball is a completely different story. Almost the entire staff has changed, deservedly so. Kennedy Polamalu was let go after a disastrous season offensively. Marques Tuiasosopo has left Westwood again for the second time in Jim Mora’s tenure. Receivers Coach Eric Yarber has left for the Rams. But, best of all, much-maligned Adrian Klemm won’t be returning either.
It’s no secret that many Bruin fans seemed to think that the offensive line, as a whole, performed best when Klemm was serving his two-game suspension for violating NCAA rules. So, that right there should improve this year’s team.
In fact, the only offensive coach from last season who is returning is tight ends coach Rip Scherer, which makes sense because he seemed to do a good job developing tight ends last season considering that we technically had no true tight ends in 2015.
So, who has Jim Mora brought in to coach the offensive side of the ball?
For those fans who don’t follow Bruins Football year-round, there’s been much buzz around the new offensive staff during the off-season. I use the word buzz because while there’s been much discussion, it seems that most fans who have been keeping an eye on things are taking a wait-and-see approach. They want to see results offensively. Unfortunately, that won’t happen until September at the earliest.
The new offensive coordinator is Jedd Fisch. Fisch most recently served on Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Michigan. Considering what Harbaugh has done for the Wolverines, I’m hopeful that Fisch learned enough there and can turn the offense around for UCLA. Reports during Spring indicate that Fisch is a stickler for detail. That alone says a lot as it seems to indicate that he will bring a much-needed level of discipline to a team that has been missing it so far during Jim Mora’s tenure.
Joining Fisch is another former Wolverine assistant in receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty. The fact that Fisch and Dougherty worked together in Ann Arbor should go a long way to improving the Bruins passing game.
Of course, in order for the passing game to improve, the offensive line needs to improve as well. Hank Fraley has been hired as the new offensive line coach. While many may say that the offensive line will improve just by not having Klemm coaching them, Fraley sounds like a guy who is also stressing the fundamentals. In the Spring, he spoke about having the offensive line be “technically sound.”
Last but not least is a familiar face. Bruin legend DeShaun Foster returns to Westwood to coach the running backs after spending last season with Texas Tech. Foster had previously served as a graduate assistant for three seasons under Kennedy Polamalu.
While many questions will remain until UCLA finally takes the field against Texas A&M on Sunday, September 3rd, the fact that the new offensive assistant coaches are emphasizing attention to the little details and the fundamentals looks to be promising. At the same time, putting a new offensive scheme into place takes time. At times during the Spring, the offense seemed to still be struggling with the new scheme. Hopefully, the new coaches are able to get things figured out for the team offensively as that will again be the key to success this year.