I'll be home for Christmas...
The UCLA Bruins were scheduled to have a final workout on Tuesday before getting a few days off to go home for the Christmas holiday. After that, they will get back to campus and then travel to San Antonio on Dec 28 in preparation for the Alamo Bowl on January 2.
FoxSports became the latest to weigh in with a preview of the matchup today and focused on the battle between the Bruins Brett Hundley and his counterpart at Kansas Sate, Jake Waters. For both QB's the Bowl game will be a last chance to salvage a regular season that ended in disappointing fashion.
Although its shot at a berth in the College Football Playoff essentially ended with a loss at TCU on Nov. 8, Kansas State had a chance to win its second conference title in three years. It couldn't do so, falling 38-27 at Baylor on Dec. 6.
The Bruins are looking forward to an always tough and well coached Kansas State team that will present some unique challenges. Though he is not the only one, WR Tyler Lockett looks to be the biggest challenge from the Wildcat's read-option offense.
But the biggest threat is receiver Tyler Lockett, who has 93 receptions for 1,351.
"Lockett won deep a lot this year playing against some really good teams," Ulbrich said. "We got to have great discipline, particular [in the secondary]. When you're in coverage, keep your eyes on your man."
KSU QB Jake Waters will be another top threat. Jack Wang shared some thoughts from UCLA's Butkus Award winning LB Eric Kendricks in the LA Daily News.
"He's nothing like we've seen before," said UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks. "Pac-12 quarterbacks, they kind of drop back and when they don't see anything, they scramble off that. He has designated runs for him, where he could throw out of. It's different. It's not like the Pac-12 running style. I feel like this is going to be a unique challenge for us."
We have certainly seen the Bruins struggle with dual threat QBs all season, and despite the different style that Kendricks sees, Waters may present the same set of problems that players like Oregon's Marcus Mariota, ASU's Mike Bercovici, and Utah's Kendal Thompson posed this season. The Bruins athleticism and aggressiveness on defense often becomes their own worst enemy when they over pursue and get out of position, leaving running lanes open or short routes uncovered. Waters will be able to make the Bruins pay if the defense is not well coached and prepared and gets loose with its assignments.
The Bruins linebacking crew will therefore be a huge key to the bowl matchup. Fortunately, that is one position where the Bruins, behind stars like Kendricks and Anthony Barr have shone in recent years. Ryan Kartje at the OC Registerlooked at the developing legacy at LB.
"It's a mentality now," said Kendricks, who will finish his career as UCLA's all-time leading tackler. "It's a swagger about us. That's what we take pride in. We're going to continue to try and get the best guys to do that."
Barr, who had 41 tackles for loss and 23 sacks in two seasons, already has proved himself to be a budding star with the Minnesota Vikings. Kendricks has been mentioned as a possible late first- or second-round pick in May. And sophomore linebacker Myles Jack, who Kendricks tapped on Monday as his replacement for leading UCLA's defense, already has NFL scouts salivating. Next season, they'll add at least one more five-star, Orange Lutheran linebacker Keisean Lucier-South, to the fold.
"There's an excitement about it," Mora said. "That doesn't mean we're going to get every linebacker that we go after. ... But (recruits) have interest in our linebackers, in the success that Anthony has had and that EK has had and what Myles has done and from Kenny Young coming in here to play early."
Next year's linebacking crew will also feature OLB Deon Hollins who really progressed this year from a great speed rusher to a better all-around player. Our friend Chris Foster at the LAT tweeted on Sunday that Hollins to practice this week after a mild concussion and we're sure that mom will take good care of him over the holiday break. The status of freshman Zach Whitely remains undefined, but he could be another big contributor to the LB corps.
Across the ball, center Jake Brendel must have bittersweet feelings about playing in San Antonio. He played high school in Plano which is just outside Dallas, so he should have plenty of family at the game. One family member who will not, unfortunately, is his sister. Again from Foster...
Lauren Brendel is a lieutenant in the Air Force who was stationed at Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio. She shipped out to Afghanistan last month.
"It could have been like a homecoming for me," Brendel said. "It's not really a bad thing. She is serving our country and doing her thing over there. I respect what she's doing. The circumstances are what they are."
Finally, I just found a second reason ever to root for Notre Dame. The first and previously only reason should be pretty obvious. The second was just announced today today when Foster at the LAT wrote that UCLA's all time leading running back Johnathan Franklin was just hired for a position in the ND athletic department.
Franklin, whose NFL career with the Green Bay Packers was cut short by an injury, has been hired by Notre Dame as an administrator for student welfare and development. He will coordinate outreach programs and workshops for the athletes.
"I'm really excited, and blessed how it came out," Franklin said.
Franklin created a LinkedIn account and was contacted by Mike Harrity, a senior associate athletic director for Notre Dame.
"They had me come out to Notre Dame for a weekend," Franklin said. "I met a few people and by the time I left, they had offered me a job. I didn't ask for an interview or even ask about a job. God always has a plan."
Knowing JetSki and the kind of incredible person he is, this seems like a perfect position for him within a college athletic program. He is a natural leader and motivator and a tireless worker, and he is the kind of person who inspires those around him to be excellent. Now I don't know if a spot in Notre Dame's athletic department will improve his candidacy for Mayor of Los Angeles (you gotta figure he already lost all of the Southern Cal votes anyway), but I guess JetSki does have to do something with himself between now and the next election cycle. Maybe we can get him to put some UCLA script on the side of some of those golden helmets in South Bend. Better yet, let JetSki get his feet wet there and then get him back to Westwood asap.
Good luck, Johnathan!