Defense was a big topic after practice today. Defensive Coordinator Jeff Ulbrich met with the media after practice and talked about some of the changes on the defensive side of the ball. We've been hearing a lot this spring about the defense spending a lot of time working on their nickel package. Some of that is due to depth issues at OLB that made practicing in their traditional 3-4 tougher, but I'm sure some of it must be in preparation for spread teams like Oregon and ASU where the nickel may be the best matchup for our defense. Jack Wang at InsideUCLA had some nice notes on the topic today.
UCLA has run its nickel defense almost exclusively through the last couple of weeks of spring camp, something due partly to injuries but also to a bit of a schematic move away from the team's 3-4 base.
The Bruins are deep in the secondary after returning all four starters from last season and getting a breakout performance from safety Tahaan Goodman. They are less so at outside linebacker, where the rotation currently consists of Myles Jack, Kenny Orjioke and Deon Hollins. Going into nickel alleviates that problem a bit, and also allows Jack to move behind the ball and flash his excellent pass coverage skills.
"I'm not going to put myself into this 4-2-5 world, or if I'm going to be a 3-4 guy," defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said. "I'm going to let the players dictate where we go."
At least one player likes the change.
"I hope we stay that way," Hollins said. "We initially moved more nickel because we had a lot of injuries, but our nickel's looking really salty."
For you geezers, "salty" is a good thing for a defense.
Coach Ulbrich, who is sporting an quality playoff hockey caliber beard (also a good thing - Go Avs!) said that Ishmael Adams is having one of the best camps of anyone on defense, noting he "is a scrapper" (more of a good thing) and that his instincts and mind make up for his slight disadvantage in size. He also praised Owamagbe Odighizuwa, saying that he's excited about his prospects and that he thinks he will surprise people. Given what we think of Owa already, that's saying a lot.
Coach Ulbrich also talked about his replacement at the LB coach spot, MikeTuiasosopo, and he had more good things to say here, too.
Love him. He brings a ton of energy off the field and in the meeting rooms. He brings a whole another perspective and insight especially with his experience with the line, with the front 7. He's given us some small little adjustments and wrinkles that I think are gonna prove to be very successful for us.
And speaking of Coach Tui...here he is himself. Thanks to Ed Lewis at Bruin Sports Report for posting this.
video from BSRTV via YouTube
This is the first time I can think of seeing and hearing Coach Tui speak and, man, he looks and sounds like a football coach (very good thing). He talks about meeting Coach Mora for the first time in 1997 when they were both working with the 49ers (not a good thing ;-) ) and how their families crossing paths repeatedly after that.
Tui also had a lot of praise for Myles Jack, calling him "special" because he "works at his game", he's "a gentleman", and he's "a really smart player". That's an interesting observation on a kid that we all admire because he's such an obvious athletic freak of nature (clearly a good thing), but hearing those sort of subtle but important intangibles makes it easy to see why the coaching staff was so willing to put so much responsibility on him during his true freshman year. There are a lot of good athletes in FCS football, but good character will help separate those at the top, and Myles Jack is looking like that kind of young man. Tui also spoke highly of Kenny Orjioke and Deon Hollins for making a lot of progress this spring, as well.
The coach also talked about his experience with developing the pass rush as well as coaching the special teams, saying that he loves Steven Manfro and Adams as returners, and he gave some hints on his coaching philosophy as he meshes with a brand new coaching staff.
Me, personally, I don't change. I coach hard. I don't adjust my coaching style. I am who I am. I've coached linebackers before but certainly I'm getting myself reacquainted with the position which is exciting, but there's so much carryover to coaching the ends, especially in the 4-3 defense.
I like to think that I want to stay green. I want to keep growing. I don't ever want to feel like I've arrived in this business. So there's a lot of learning taking place for me personally, but the coaching, that doesn't change. You gotta bring it every day.