What You Need To Know About The UCLA Defense
– New defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro and line coach Vince Oghobaase – the former Duke star – have a whole lot of work to do.
The Bruin defense was dead last in the Pac-12 and among the worst in the nation, allowing 484 yards and 37 points per game. the biggest issue? The run defense couldn’t stop you and a few friends from gaining a nation-worst 287 yards per game.
The pass rush was okay, and the line got behind the line, but it couldn’t stop anyone’s running game – except, stunningly, USC’s. The Bruins gave up 3,736 yards, 35 touchdowns, and allowed fewer than 200 yards just three times.
The goal now is to have the front three attack far more it what will likely be a 3-4, but get ready for more production in the interior. There’s not a ton of size, but it’ll be an active group, putting the pressure on …
– The linebacking corps has to dominate – sometimes. With the 3-4 comes a new hybrid position with a player needing to turn into a pass rusher from an outside linebacker spot. There are plenty of options, but 6-5, 255-pound sophomore Jaelan Phillips is the right fit – coming off a 3.5 sack, seven tackle for loss season – and defensive end Keisean Lucier-South will try to fill the role on the other outside spot.
Leading tackler Kenny Young is gone, but Josh Woods is back for the interior. JUCO transfer Tyree Thompson has the upside to become a big factor, but Khys Barnes will become one of the team’s leading tacklers after coming up with 50 stop on the inside.
– The run defense was so bad that the secondary looked great by comparison. Playmaking safety Adarius Pickett is back – he might be the team’s leading tackler. The corner situation is strong with good-hitting Nate Meadors back on one side and Darnay Holmes a rising star on the other. With the more aggressive defensive style, this whole group will make a whole lot of big plays.
Biggest Key To The UCLA Defense
Stop giving up so many first downs. The defense was okay on third downs, but that’s partly because offenses didn’t have to get there too often – they were able to move the ball without much of a problem. Akron’s D allowed 328 first downs, Arizona gave up 321 – those were the only two that gave up more than UCLA.
The real problem? Again, the run defense – only San Jose State allowed more first downs on the ground, and now one else came even close to the 165 the Bruins allowed.
Get tougher up front, attack, and stop the run. Don’t do that, and it’ll be another long year for the D.