As UCLA’s defensive standouts started dropping like flies in the 2015 season, the Bruin run defense emerged as a national joke. The final punchline came in the form of a loss to Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl, when the Big Ten team with a losing record ran for 5.3 yards a carry on their way to a 37-29 victory.
It looked like the farce may have been renewed for a second season in 2016, when the Bruins allowed 5.0 yards a carry in their first two games. Then, the defensive standouts suited back up, and UCLA’s defense dominated a BYU offensive line with a reputation for being physical, and held the Cougars to under a yard per rush.
"I thought the guys did a really fine job last week. We only had three missed tackles in the whole game," defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said. "If we’re going to be good on defense, we have to be proud of our tackling."
Defensive line coach Angus McClure said that though Stanford uses different formations and personnel groups, their blocking schemes are similar to what the defense saw against BYU. He also believes that having faced an extremely physical BYU offensive line will help prepare them for the physicality of Stanford’s.
"We had an excellent game. We had a lot of synergy. The front seven, the linebackers, did a tremendous job. We did a nice job up front, and there could be a lot of carry over, no question," McClure told reporters on Tuesdsay.
Not only did having Eddie Vanderdoes, Takkarist McKinley, and Deon Hollins back help because they’re, like, the best players, but also because it allowed the defense to rotate nine guys on the line.
"I think if you’re able to use that many bodies, guys will be fresh and be able to execute what we want to do," McClure said.
The absolute shutdown of the Cougar rushing attack may have been just what the defense needed.
"I think it reaffirmed who we are as a defense," McClure said. "If everyone does their job, and everyone executes their assignments, and we play fundamental defense, we can be excellent."
Boss Tagaloa practiced Tuesday and should be available for the game on Saturday. Takkarist McKinley didn't participate, but McClure expects that he'll be able to play Saturday, as well. Oh boy, I sure hope.
It’s Hard Out There for a Frosh
For those wondering why Theo isn't playing more: pic.twitter.com/0y8Xhc1OGE— Matt Cummings (@mbcummings15) September 19, 2016
"Our receivers take pride in blocking, and knowing who to block, and how to block, what leverage to use," wide receivers coach Eric Yarber said to the media on Tuesday. "Those things take time to develop. He’s working hard at it, and I know he’s going to be a great blocker, and a great receiver someday."
They have a package for Howard, and are slowly bringing him along until he gains confidence and the game slows down for him. Yarber mentioned that Jordan Payton took about half of a season to get comfortable at the college level.
"If you play him in one-on-ones, you see his talent, his athleticism," Yarber said. "We just got to declutter his mind and slow the game down for him, and that’s going to happen."
Yarber Talks Drops
You get the sense that Yarber has been hearing a lot about how is position unit is dropping the football more than just about any other wide receiver group in the country.
"If the drops are spread over between receivers and tight ends and running backs, you got to see who’s going consistently drop the ball, or who’s going to consistently make the plays, and it takes a couple of games to find that out," Yarber said.
Yarber said that drops are the result of the receivers taking their eyes off the ball at the last second, or because of their hand placement. The receivers are getting on the jug machine before and after practice, and working on catching the ball at different angles.
"You got to catch at least a hundred balls a day so it’ll become natural to you."
Check out more from Coach Bradley, Coach McClure, and Coach Yarber below. Videos are courtesy of Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the LA Daily News.
DC Tom Bradley:
DL Coach Angus McClure:
WR Coach Eric Yarber: