What we know and what we don’t know

Midway through UCLA’s first spring ball under Jim Mora, lets take a look at what we know and what we don’t know…

* We know that the Bruins are going to be a make the playmakers happy…

As I wrote in Tuesday’s post-practice wrap-up, the UCLA offense has a big lead over the defense so far, for myriad reasons. One big one? Noel Mazzone’s offense rewards those who can provide a spark, something that’s been sorely missing for a long time. When is the last time UCLA had a real home-run hitter, or even a change-of-pace guy who could be counted on to bust a big run?
With more of a spread look, the playmakers are getting the ball quicker, and early indications are that they certainly know what to do with it. Guys who have been pretty much overlooked – Jordon James, Ricky Marvray, Steven Manfro, Damien Thigpen, etc. – have had new life breathed into them.

* We don’t know who’s going to get the playmakers the ball…

I had an interesting debate yesterday with another writer about all the quarterbacks kind of muddled together in the same category. True, but the general play is better than it has been the past couple springs, that’s for sure. Richard Brehaut has been the most consistent passer, Kevin Prince still has the foremost respect of his teammates and coaches and Brett Hundley has made some big strides this spring, ironically by taking shorter strides in his delivery, and Jerry Neuheisel has been surprisingly effective.
Still, the competition is nowhere near over, and I’m not so sure it will be by the end of spring, unless one guy really starts distancing himself. Way too close to call.

* We know that UCLA’s offensive line is going to be a cause for concern, probably all year

Fact is, the Bruins are not nearly as far along as they need to be up front. Temporary stop-gaps have been terribly inconsistent, and the overall youth of the unit has been on display, as bad snaps, false starts and a general sense of panic sets in at times. Xavier Su’a-Filo is coming along well for a guy who missed two years and Jeff Baca has been a steady senior presence.
But who else? Greg Capella has been hurt, Brett Downey has been pushed around and a rotating cast at guard has not done much to solidify things. You get the sense that Adrian Klemm is pretty frustrated with the play right about now, and he really sounds like he intends to test out some of his true freshman come the fall.

* We don’t know who’s going to bring the pain

Last year, by unanimous account, the defensive line absolutely dominated the offensive line. Datone Jones looked almost like Deacon Jones for much of the preseason, simply annihilating his man. Damien Holmes was a beast off the edge and Cassius Marsh got great push up front. Then we found out how bad the UCLA offensive line was, and all those grand expectations went out the window for the D-line.
Through seven spring practices, the Bruins haven’t gotten a tremendous amount of pressure on the quarterback, and it remains to be seen who’s going to be the big pass-rusher this year. Jones, back for his redshirt senior year, has been almost an afterthought this spring. Marsh has looked pretty good, as has Seali’i Epenesa and Brandon Willis at defensive tackle, but their ability to rush takes a backseat in the 3-4. Aramide Olaniyan has been pretty much working exclusively at backup linebacker, and Damien Holmes switch to linebacker has taken away some of his impact. Perhaps the inclusion of Ellis McCarthy will help turn things up, but what’s abundantly clear is that UCLA needs to improve on its No. 112 sack ranking from last season.

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  • MichaelRyerson

    All in all, a pretty somber report. Based on this our only would seem to be the offensive and defensive schemes will save us or at least elevate us to avoid another veil of tears. Where’s Owa in all of this? I didn’t see his name mentioned. Did I miss an injury? And is it thought possible Ellis McCarthy is developed enough to actually be a factor as a true freshman? I’m getting that queasy feeling again. damnit.

  • ucla-of-the-rockies

    MRyer: I’m with you. Queasy, kinda like listening to Brittney Griner address the media. Let’s just hope it’s more of a 24-hour bug. Gotta believe that when the No. 1 QB emerges and fully takes over, things ramp up to a new level.

  • rockyseto


  • Anonymous

    You don’t know Wtf you’re talking about. I’ve seen every rep of every practice, Jones has had a solid spring playing a new position in a new scheme. Donovan Carter, Owa and Willis have also been bright spots.

  • ty true BRUIN

    Hope its not the same as last year! D-line playing well against weak o-line! Hows tepa doing he’s good off the edge!? No clear quarterback? Smh that’s not a good thing when you have 2 seniors with tons of experience! I predict Torian White to start by fall if Brett Downy is. Still getting pushed around!!! Yupp queasy!!!

  • clone12

    Remember when the experts over at BN sniffed over the departure of DeWayne Walker because he was just another “mediocre” defensive coordinator who can be replaced by any regular person off the street?

    Just saying.

  • localbruin

    Let’s forget the conventional numerology. Practically speaking we will be playing a 1-8. We’ll have McCarthy and two hay bales on the Dline surrounded by 8 slow, smallish, undisciplined, technically deficient linebackers. We’ll be getting paved more often than the 405 freeway.

    The O and D lines probably grade out at the top of the Big West.

  • anon

    No one ever said Walker was an average defensive coordinator. What people said was he wasn’t ready to be a head coach yet. And nothing at New Mexico indicates otherwise…

    No more coaches-in-training. We need coaches that have experienced some level of success somewhere. Taking a wide receivers coach and making him the head coach? Taking a coach whose greatest offensive success was the Baltimore Ravens and who had to go back to a high school job to redeem himself?

  • The Blur

    BN ran me out of town for saying Walker was a good defensive coordinator. Nestor told me, “don’t rewrite history.” I asked him then to name a good one we’ve had. He erased my comment and never replied.

  • ProbationU

    Interesting group over there at BN…very tolerant of differing opinions.

  • ProbationU

    Not sure who these guys are at BN, but I used a John Wooden quote from the Pyramid of Success on Competitive Greatness…and they took that down too! When a site is censoring John Wooden, one has to question their Bruin heritage.

  • Anonymous

    All of you need to stop bothering the people from BN. They are busy compiling a list of candidates to replace Gene Block, Dan Guererro, Ben Howland and Jim Mora. Also, only the BN moderators are allowed to quote Coach Wooden.

  • ucla-of-the-rockies

    Sounds like Ozzie Guillen would make a great BN “moderator” …