An early look at UCLA, from a UCLA fan

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Message board poster “KP Texas,” who has been on TSL for a while, is a UCLA football season ticket holder, and he took the time to put together this good look at the UCLA football program.

I’m a season ticket holder and a fairly reasonable fan when it comes to honest assessments of the Bruins. UCLA fans, for the most part, tend to be more emotional about basketball and kind of roll with the punches when it comes to football. Exactly the opposite of our cross town rivals (USC), and pretty much the opposite of the fan base around here. UCLA has always been a basketball school, although that seems to be slowly changing. It’s probably 60/40 basketball to football now. It’s probably fair to say it’s 90/10 football to basketball around here (VT), right? Pretty much the same as USC …

UCLA football is on the verge of becoming a top tier program. Jim Mora, Jr. has turned around the attitude at UCLA. We had a top five recruiting class last year, including many of the top players from Southern CA who were typically USC bound. You can coach up mediocre talent and get into the top 25. You have to have the horses to stay in the top 10 year after year. Mora is doing that, some of which you’ll see on the 31st.

The offense lives and dies with QB Brett Hundley. He’s a pass first QB, with the ability to get out in the open field and make things happen. He has trouble when he locks in on his primary receivers and waits too long to run. Last week against USC, they game planned more quick passes and delayed QB draws, and he had his best game of the season. There aren’t many D lineman or linebackers who can chase him down in the open field, once he gets out of the pocket. He’s a big boy at 6-5, 235, but is deceptively elusive. Most NFL scouts have him as one of the top 5 QBs in the draft, should he come out. He really needs another year to improve on his decision making … seems that most people around the program think he will be back next year. He will play on Sunday eventually.

There are plenty of other weapons on the offense, at least in the receiving department. It’s not unusual to see Hundley complete passes to 10-12 different receivers in a game. Our RB’s have been banged up all year, although were mostly healthy for the USC game last week. I’m sure they’ll all be ready to go in a few weeks. They rotate in and out with Paul Perkins and Jordan James getting most of the snaps. Both are speed guys, so the run game isn’t a power running game. Well, at least until we bring in the defense to play offense in the red zone…

I’m sure you’ve all seen the use of our defensive players on offense. Myles Jack is a freak. You’ll get a taste of some crazy red zone sets with three backs … Jack behind two defensive ends. We’re even throwing the ball out of that power set … it’s been pretty hard to stop. It will be interesting to see how much of it Mora goes with and how Bud Foster plans for it with a few weeks to study.

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Also, we have some issues on the O line. Injuries have decimated what was supposed to be a strength. Most of those injuries were season-ending, so the few weeks off won’t matter with healing. We’ll likely be starting three true freshman on the Oline. Against USC, we used more quick passes, bubble screens and QB draws to off set USC’s quick, aggressive line. I’d look for more of that on the 31st as VT seems to thrive on aggressive D play.

I’ve read around here on occasion that people think there isn’t defense played in Pac12. I’d actually say that defenses have begun to take over in the Pac12. Hundley gets a lot of the pub around the UCLA program, but I would say our defense won us more games this year than the offense. We have three seniors (LB Anthony Barr, DE Cassius Marsh, LB Jordan Zumwalt) who will be playing on Sunday soon. Barr could end up being the number one pick in next years draft when all is said and done. He’s a sick athlete and extremely quick off the end. Most teams have doubled him, which you have to do. USC tried to play him man-up last week and he abused the left side of their line most of the night.

We are young on D and tend to get in some bad places. We’ve started a bunch of true freshman this year on D, which tends to lead to stupid mistakes, bad positioning, overly aggressive mistakes. You’ll see a lot of Myles Jack, Eddie Vanderdoes and others on D. They could be special over the next few years but, have been a little inconsistent this year.

Weaknesses? I’d say Hundley’s decision making can be an issue on offense, although he’s coming off arguably his best game as a Bruin. He’s more good than bad though and is only getting better. Defense against the run has had some issues, although mainly against spread type offenses, which I don’t think VT runs much of…could be totally wrong. ASU’s QB killed us in the first half two weeks ago when our defense got in bad positions (too aggressive) and he scrambled at will.

Our losses: (1) Stanford, we had three chances down 17-10 in the 4th to tie up the game and couldn’t get it done. The defense stepped up and got stops but, the offense killed three straight drives with stupid penalties. Stanford added a late TD to win 24-10. (2) Oregon game was tied at 14 at the half. It was still a good game into the third and Oregon got going and mud stomped us in the end. Really the only game we weren’t in all year in the 4th. (3) ASU, we had the worst half of the season at the wrong time and still should have won the game. We had it first and goal with under five left and couldn’t get it done, and lost 38-33. That was a rough one to lose at home.

Another key to the game should be the whopping we took from Baylor last year in the Holiday Bowl (49-26). I’m sure Mora will have these guys thinking about that for the next few weeks. You can expect a focused team on the 31st. I’ve heard some people mention that UCLA feels like they should win this game, or that it’s a no-win situation for them because everyone expects them to roll. You might get some loud mouth fans spouting that garbage, although I don’t think you’re going to see a UCLA team come in with that attitude. Mora is building something at UCLA, and we need a convincing win this year in our bowl game to keep the positive momentum moving into recruiting.

As long as Hundley comes back next year, you’re looking at possibly a pre-season top 10 team. This game is a great opportunity for both teams, for UCLA to keep momentum going into next year and for VT to get over that “can’t beat the big teams” label of late. Not that UCLA is Alabama, but it would still be a solid win for VT. You get a shot at redemption over the Pac12 after that Stanford beat down … believe me, we know it was like to get beat down by that Stanford team.

— KP Texas


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23 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Thanks, KP for a terrific summary.

    With virtually zero runnng back firepower, I will be shocked if the Hokies can muster much of an offense.

  2. we better find out who are ever done back replacement is going to be. Kyle is rehabbing for the rest for the rest of his future. Same with Antone.

    Personally, if I were them. I probably would not play not with their injuries.

    If Logan does not turn it over and passes the ball well and plays good and our receivers catch the ball and Loeffler actually learns at least one thing from stiney about short yardage with LT that works = spread them out and QB sneak works ALL THE TIME…even when the defense knows its coming. If our oline has good game. and Our defense plays good…then we have a chance at an under the radar…significant win. UCLA losses are close ones to top talen and top ranked teams, more so than VT

  3. I’ve seen UCLA on TV a few times this year. (i’ve seen every VT game)
    UCLA is a very solid football team.
    It would be a great win for the Hokies, but it will take an A+ effort and a great game plan.

    The PAC-12 has become a lot more physical than us old-timers remember. A lot of these guys would be right at home in the SEC, BIG, etc.

    Can’t wait! Great matchup & opportunity for us to pull the upset.

  4. If anyone’s curious….
    UCLA record since 95: 132-102; finished in top 25 3 times:97(#5), 98(#8),05(#16/#13)
    UCLA bowl record since 1995. 4-9. Losses: Kansas, Aloha Bowl(95); Wisconsin, Rose Bowl (only BCS appearance 1999); Wisconsin, Sun Bowl(00); Fresno State, Silicon Valley Classic(03); Wyoming, Las Vegas Bowl(04); Florida State, Emerald Bowl(06); BYU, Las Vegas Bowl(07); Illinois, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl(11); Baylor, Holiday Bowl(12). Wins: Texas A&M, Cotton (98); New Mexico, Las Vegas Bowl (02); Northwestern, Sun Bowl (05); Temple, Eagle Bank Bowl (09).

    Virginia Tech record since 1995: 183-62; finished in top 25 15 times (don’t feel like listing them all)
    Bowl record since 1995: 8-10; 8 BCS Bowls, 2-6 (counting Sugar and Orange, 95 and 96).

  5. This is one of those cross country games where you don’t have much in the way of similar opponents to compare the teams. Tech’s recently history against Pac 12 hasn’t been great. Lost to Cal in ’03, lost to USC in ’04 (but good game), lost to Stanford in ’10 (not a good second half). I don’t like the location because there isn’t likely to be a good bowl game atmosphere. EP isn’t particularly close for either school, though a little closer for UCLA. I’m not sure how UCLA will react to a small crowd but Tech is more likely to bring it when the house is full.

    Have to admit that I don’t pay much attention to west coast teams. Oregon is known more for the neon unis and USC for their band rather than the names of their star atheletes (Reggie Bush excepted…we all remember him, though possibly for different reasons). I can’t name a single player for a Pac 12 team this year (or I couldn’t until KP Texas’ article). This won’t translate well when trying to drum up enthusiasm. Though I will root for the Hokies and we plan on having a bowl watching party here, I won’t be surprised if “UCLA in ’13” joins the list above.

    The one caveate to my pessimism is this. The offensive coaches have had these players for most of a year now. They’re going to get the OL as healthy as they’ve been since the start of the season. By now the coaches know who is capable of doing what. Maybe this is the first game in which we see what these new coaches are capable of doing. Perhaps we find out just what Loeffler has stored away in his playbook. But I’d sure feel a lot better if Edmonds was able to play.

  6. I look for UCLA to watch the VT offense on film and mail this game in as a W. This game won’t be looked at like a big game and UCLA will come into it thinking they can play average and win it. I see the Hokie defense knocking these young cats in the month and the offense will find a way to make some plays. It should be a good game and I think the Hokies have a great chance to win it if they can keep it close in the second half and not let UCLA wake up. Teams we have jumped on early and get a lead on have not been able to win the game. When we lose, we start slow and don’t recover.

  7. UCLA in a no win situation if they beat us lol. We’re obviously not a great team right now, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we lost, but it’s funny to hear that UCLA is some kind of powerhouse because they won 9 games two years in a row in the Pac 12, they’re actually ranked in the top 25, etc. -and that they’re guaranteed to be a dominant program from here on out because of one top 5 ranked recruiting class. We’ve had a significantly better/ more relevant football program for about the last 20 years. I’ve actually always liked UCLA (Cowboys fan and big Troy Aikman fan)….if I had to pick a 2nd favorite team they would be it, almost went there for undergrad….Question though-it sounds like their fan base is similar to UVA (slightly delusional as far as how they regard their football team); is that a fair assessment?

    1. UCLA has won a lot of games the last two years and recruited well. There is no reason to not to feel good about its program’s chances in this game and going forward. Now UVA on the other hand….

    2. No, I don’t think there are too many fans around UCLA that think the football team is some kind of powerhouse. There is more optimism because of what Mora has achieved in a short time. Don’t take that for arrogance though…far from it. We’ve been so mediocre to bad for over a decade that this seems like a whole new world. We are a still a basketball school…maybe that’s changing. Put it this way…there isn’t an empty glass case anywhere around the athletic department waiting for a crystal football.

      VT has been a much better program than UCLA over the last 15 years.

      1. Thanks I was just wondering. Like I said I really like UCLA…always root for them-this will be the first time I’m hoping they lose since it’s the first time they’ve played VT.

  8. I’m sorry, I missed it. Where is UVA going bowling again?

    Oh, that’s right… they aren’t going anywhere. Life is good!
    Geaux Hokies see you in El Paso!!!

  9. Two big IFs: IF our D stays steady and we get X or Kyle back with Faycson healthy we can hang with UCLA – IF the O that played at ECU, GT, and Miami makes the trip. Gonna miss Terrel for sure – but a good chance for JC to shine. Good Luck Boys – Logan have a great day and go out on TOP – for all the SENIORS!!!

    1. Who is Terrell? Trey Edmunds will be missed but his brother Terrell is not on the team yet. I believe that Chris Mangus has a higher ceiling than JC. JC hasn’t been the greatest at pass protection so why not give Mangus a go? The kid has speed!

  10. Nice info KP. As a USC alum it’s interesting to read a Bruin take. UCLA has definitely taken advantage of the NCAA penalties at Troy. As a VT alum this game scares me a bit especially if Kyle Fuller isn’t back. Let’s hope Bud has a great game plan.

    1. Couldn’t agree more…Mora has taken advantage of USC’s sanctions. I think the penalties were way too harsh but, it’s helped us get back on par with you guys…we’ll see if it stays that way for awhile.

  11. Looking at the recruiting rankings, UCLA is on par with Virginia Tech. Nothing special in terms of talent. This game could be more about coaching rather than who has the better players, but reading some of the perspective of a lot of UCLA fans… they swear they’re Alabama to Virginia Tech.

    1. You’re right, our recruiting has been in line with VT for about a decade…until last year. Usually that wouldn’t amount to much for at least two years, although you will see a lot of talent from those true freshman and a lot of them on the field on the 31st.

    2. but when you look at the talent on both teams for 2013, UCLA has big advantages. They have what, like 3 first round picks or something? And I wish we could pull in a top 5 recruiting class, even for just one year. UCLA may not be anything close to Bama, but they are just a so much better team than VT this year.

  12. Seen Hundley’s highlights. Maybe a bit better throwing and pocket awareness than Logan but I think if Logan gets it, he has much higher potential ceiling. Just my 2 cents.

  13. Forget the rankings, but looking at the teams your Bruins lost to VS. the teams (other than Bama) that our Hokies lost to is enough to scare this fan!!

    Go Hokies!!

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