If there has been a bright spot for the UCLA Bruins this season, it’s been the Bruins’ offense. Then again, compared to the way the defense has played, it would be hard not to consider the offense a bright spot for this year’s team. So, let’s take a look at the defense that the Bruin offense will have to face. The Stanford Cardinal’s base defensive formation is the 3-4. We’ll start with the Defensive Line.
The defensive line is anchored by senior nose tackle Michael Williams. Williams has eight solo tackles this season and two tackles for loss. He is joined on the line by senior Jovan Swann and sophomore Thomas Booker on the ends. Booker is second on the team in sacks with two while Swann has one.
Look for senior end Thomas Schaffer to also get some reps. Schaffer is 6’ 7” tall, meaning that if he can put pressure on the Bruin quarterback he may be able to tip some passes.
Seniors Curtis Robinson and Andrew Pryts will start at inside linebacker. Robinson is third on the team in tackles with 17 while Pryts has 15. Redshirt senior Casey Toohill and junior Gabe Reid will start on the outside. Toohill is tied for the team lead in tackles with 18 and leads the team in sacks with four. Reid is tied with Booker with a pair of sacks and he also has a quarterback hurry.
Look for redshirt senior Ryan Beecher to get some snaps on the inside while sophomore Tangaloa Kaufusi, the nephew of UCLA’s outside linebackers coach Jason Kaufusi, could see some time on the outside.
The secondary looks to be the youngest unit on defense for the Cardinal. The only starting senior is free safety Malik Antoine. The other starters are all underclassmen. Sophomore Kendall Williamson will start at strong safety while junior Paulson Adebo and freshman Kyu Blu Kelly are the starting corners.
Adebo leads the team with nine pass breakups. No one else is even close. So, regardless of who starts at quarterback for the Bruins, UCLA should throw away from Adebo and at the rest of the secondary, especially Kelly.
Stanford’s rush defense is tied for 36th in the nation while, at 113th, their pass defense is almost as bad as UCLA’s. That’s pretty close to Washington State’s passing defense which is ranked 116th.
So, it seems clear that throwing the ball and, specifically throwing it away from Adebo, is probably the best way for the Bruins to attack Stanford’s defense. If the Bruins want to have a chance to win tonight’s game, their best shot is to turn the game into a shootout like they did against Washington State. That’s probably the best way to attack this Cardinal defense and it may be the only way to a Bruin win tonight.
On the other hand, if Chip Kelly tries to stubbornly run the ball tonight, instead of focusing on the passing game, it will be another long night for Bruin fans.