Q: With a knee surgery before the season and a surgery on the other knee after the season, obviously, Ellis McCarthy was not 100%. Is it unrealistic to expect Brian Price-like impact out of McCarthy in 2013?
A: If you mean Brian Price as Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, then yes. Price as a sophomore? Probably still a stretch. It’s hard to imagine McCarthy going from 10 tackles in a season — injury-riddled as it may have been — to first-team all conference. He should be ready for spring, so we’ll see how his knees hold up then. Hopefully for him, they won’t present chronic issues.
Q: Prior to Fall 2012, I expected that Johnathan Franklin and Datone Jones would have good seasons, based on 2011. They both had great seasons. What accounted for their massive improvements?
A: Scheme changes on both sides of the ball helped. Datone Jones flourished in the 3-4 defense, particularly with Anthony Barr bringing so much pressure from the outside. Johnathan Franklin stopped fumbling — got past the mental baggage and did some hand-strengthening exercises — and benefited from Noel Mazzone’s spread. He also became very good at getting yards after contact, particularly as games wore on.
Q: Do you think the current FB coaches like to recruit players who have wrestled? Do you think they bring a more mentally and physically tough attitude that they’re looking for, as well as other qualities? Do you know of any past wrestlers who played Bruin FB?
A: Some of the skills no doubt translate across the sports, so it doesn’t hurt. As another example, the defensive line incorporated martial arts into its training. I don’t have an exhaustive list of past UCLA football players who also wrestled, but here are a couple: Nick Ekbatani (06-09), who lettered at Torrance’s South High and lost his leg in a motorcycle accident; Jack Ellena (1952-54) was an All-American in both sports at UCLA.
Shot put is also popular among linemen. NFL Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden won the 1996 NCAA title in the event.
Q: Do you think the Bruins are always bound to deficient on the boards? What do you think they can do to correct this issue?
A: At this point in the season, yes. They’re not as awful as their -20 margin against ASU, but they won’t be better than average. UCLA was able to hit the boards early at Stanford thanks in part to a diversified rebounding effort, but I’d be surprised to see that continue on a consistent basis. Outside of Kyle Anderson, the roster doesn’t have anyone with natural instincts on the glass. They’ve also had trouble just holding blockouts, which may get slightly better through the last bit of the season.
Q: The Bay Area has produced a treasure trove of quality basketball recruits and yet UCLA has yet to sign any of them. Instead they have focused (in both the incoming freshman and transfers department) their attention on the East Coast. Long term wouldn’t it be easier to maintain a recruiting base up north rather than one that is three time zones away?
A: The only true East Coast player on scholarship right now is Kyle Anderson (New Jersey). You could count Jordan Adams and Tony Parker since Atlanta is on Eastern Standard Time; that can be explained with the connections assistant Korey McCray has in the area. The UNC transfers (Larry Drew II and the Wear twins) all have SoCal roots, so the coaching staff didn’t start from scratch there.
Q: How do Oregon fans treat their opponents? In the stadium and the tailgate areas?
A: I haven’t made the trip to Autzen yet, but everyone I know who has been there gives it glowing reviews. Most consider it the best game atmosphere they’ve experienced, and no one mentioned particularly awful fans. Here’s one report of violence, but you can find those for a lot of stadiums, including the Rose Bowl.
Q: What is your favorite food joint in L.A.?
A: Always happy to talk food. My favorites among the marquee places are probably Philippe and Canter’s. (Good idea to pick up a bag of chocolate pastries from the latter after your meal.) For burgers, I like Umami and Pie N’ Burger in Pasadena. Plenty of Asian food to choose from all over the San Gabriel Valley, but two of my favorites are House of Mandarin Noodle in Temple City and dim sum at Sea Harbour Seafood in Rosemead. Nonna’s Empanadas near the Beverly Center is excellent. I also love Ethiopian food but haven’t been to any of the places along Fairfax in years.