Q: Where does UCLA go from here? This is year two of a great start and poor finish.
A: The season’s not over yet, so you can’t exactly call it a poor finish off of one game. So far, UCLA is still on an upward trajectory under Jim Mora, making its way through what was a much tougher schedule. The Bruins aren’t in the Pac-12 title game, but the rest of the division has also improved. If the team loses its next two games though — then it gets a bit dicey.
Q: Where does Myles Jack fall on the LB/RB Venn diagram this weekend?
A: In the middle, as long as Jordon James or Damien Thigpen can do some amount of work. I’d consider both game-time decisions at this point. You don’t want to run Jack into the ground going both ways, but you also can’t have Paul Perkins on all but a handful of third-down or short-yardage snaps.
Q: Assuming Fabian Moreau cannot play with the hamstring injury, who will start in his place at CB?
A: I think the staff would move Randall Goforth there and start Tahaan Goodman at safety. Priest Willis and Brandon Sermons are the other options at cornerback, and neither has been very good this season.
Q: How significant were the injuries to the O-line and to Jordon James in the way our season played out? If healthy do you think Brett Hundley looks much better and we are undefeated?
A: It’s hard to quantify because the injuries have been so numerous, but I don’t think they’ve made a dramatic impact if you’re strictly talking win-loss record. The perception of the season, however, would likely be very different. Brett Hundley’s bad games wouldn’t have looked as bad. The run game probably wouldn’t have flatlined as much as it did midseason, but it also wouldn’t have maintained its original pace. Some losses would have been closer, some wins would have looked more convincing. I think UCLA would still have two losses at this point regardless of the injuries, which could at least keep the hope of a Rose Bowl alive.
Q: Why didn’t Malcolm Jones pan out after being the Gatorade Player of the Year. Does SC have more talent than we do?
A: Jones was probably a bit overrated as a prospect. He was successful at Oaks Christian in part he was so much bigger than most of the defenders trying to tackle him. He also wasn’t exactly the hungriest player on the team before this season.
As for USC? It’s probably close to even on sheer talent.
Q: A few weeks ago, it seemed the Bruins were throwing a swing pass every other play as an extension of the running game (Oregon game comes to mind). Now it seems Noel Mazzone has done a 180 and rarely goes to it. Is this simply due to lack of RB depth at this point?
A: That’s a significant part of it, but I think Mazzone has also loosened the reins on the offense. He does love his swing passes though, and would probably use more if he had a full fleet of tailbacks.
Q: What are the chances that UCLA changes offensive coordinator or Noel Mazzone leaves for another job? If Noel is out, does Taylor go too?
A: I don’t think Noel Mazzone will get fired, but I could very much see him jumping elsewhere if that long-awaited head coaching offer comes along. He might also bite if someone offers a significant raise on his $375,000 salary, though his stock doesn’t seem as high as it was last season. It obviously wouldn’t be surprising if Taylor follows him in a hypothetical departure, but I don’t think that’s a lock.
Q: What’s the story with Barry Ware de-committing?
A: Bit of a numbers game at this point, with UCLA targeting some bigger names. Similar deal with Dionte Sykes, who also decommitted.
*There were a couple of questions about game matchups, which I’ll try and answer more thoroughly in game breakdown posts.