Q: Seems like UCLA will have played at least 50 percent of their games against teams that have been ranked in the top 25 at some point this year. Is that typical?
A: Nebraska is the only UCLA opponent so far that was ranked at kickoff, so I assume you’re just counting the rest of the schedule. In that case, the question sort of becomes more about the strength of the Pac-12. The conference is much deeper than it has been in the past few years, but those middle six teams are clustered closely together. Oregon and Stanford are at the top, and UCLA and Washington are in a second tier after that.
Across the country, the Bruins’ are ranked No. 66 in strength of schedule. New Mexico State really dragged that down.
Q: Your thoughts on whether or not the Bruins can really hang with Stanford and Oregon at this point? And how are Brandon Willis’ skills on the O-line?
Right now, I don’t think UCLA can beat Stanford or Oregon. The Bruins can probably make it close with Stanford. Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm said today that Willis is picking up guard quickly for someone completely new to the position.
Q: I’ve noticed since last year that our tackling and flying to the ball has been for the most part outstanding! Is the difference you think because of Jim Mora’s and Sal Alosi’s defensive background. Cause I’ve noticed they don’t do too much tacking in practice and for them to play the way they have is quite shocking! How has Myles Jack and his ability to cover receivers changed our defense?
A: Mora has definitely emphasized playing aggressive and physical. Jack is an absolute stud already, and his ability to cover allows coaches to use him in a lot of different packages. UCLA likely doesn’t run nickel formations as often or as effectively without him.
Q: I remain concerned about the pass defense and in particular the depth at CB. Is Marcus Rios going to be cleared to play this season? Did John Johnson have season-ending surgery?
A: Rios is expected to be cleared at some point in the season. Yes, Johnny Johnson is redshirting after having shoulder surgery last month. He would very likely be playing if he hadn’t gotten injured during fall camp.
Q: Chances UCLA makes the Holiday Bowl?
A: I’d guess that or Alamo Bowl right now. Alamo picks before Holiday, but could elect to pick a team that draws more traveling fans, as it did last year with Oregon State. This is assuming Stanford and Oregon both make BCS bowls; I think you can also expect UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship, so the Bruins have an outside shot at the Rose Bowl.
Q: Which coach if any will be pried from Jim Mora’s staff?
A: I’d keep an eye on linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich and offensive line coach Adrian Klemm. Might not happen after this season, but some team will toss big money at them eventually.
Q: When Jim Mora yelled at Jack to go down when he was on the way to the house to ice the Utah game for a presumed final score of 41-27, did that cost the Bruins any votes with the writers and coaches?
A: UCLA moved up a spot in the AP Poll, so if it did, I don’t think it was significant.
Q: What happened to Lacy Westbrook? He enrolled in January even after the aneurysm surgery, but is not listed on the roster.
A: Medical retirement.
Q: Is Malcolm Jones injured or somehow on the “outs” with the coaching staff? Seems like we could have used him against Utah’s physical D.
He’s not injured to my knowledge. The staff isn’t thrilled with him publicly complaining about playing time, sure, but I think the main issue is still just other backs (James, Perkins) being better than him.
Q: Have you heard if UCLA’s fast start helped them gain traction with some of their wish list targets in recruiting? Juju Smith? Adoree Jackson?
A: UCLA looks good this season, and that should help close the recruiting class well. Shot at JuJu Smith is likely better than Adoree Jackson, who seems likely to go out of state.
Q: What are Wanaah Bail and Isaac Hamilton expected to contribute if eligible? Why not “save” them for next year since there are no recruits for 2014?
A: UCLA also still has time to pick up some guys for 2014. I’d be very surprised if it came up completely empty. You want Bail and Hamilton to play because presenting a better product during the season would help draw recruits, not to mention actually win games. I can’t think of a team that willingly redshirted a five-star basketball prospect for no other reason but to save him for next season.