Q: Steve Alford has turned out to be a prophet when he noted in the preseason that defense and rebounding were issues with this year’s squad especially when the competition picked up. Is this something that can improve as the season goes on or is it what it is for this season?
A: “Prophet” is a little strong given that these were the same struggles UCLA had last year, and the roster hasn’t changed dramatically. You might see some marginal improvements, but I doubt the team will become above-average in either facet this season. The X-factor might be if Wanaah Bail can work himself more into the gameplan. The athletic 6-foot-9 freshman has yet to play more than 10 minutes in a game.
Q: I really expected Kyle Anderson to be more dominant by now given that Shabazz Muhammad is gone and he can shine. Fair assessment or unrealistic for a kid who’s a sophomore?
A: Averaging 13.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.7 assists is pretty good for any college player regardless of age. If you were expecting him to jump to around 20 points per game, that was probably unrealistic. It’s not Anderson’s game to just pour in buckets, but he’s the most dangerous triple-double threat in the conference. While he still has a lot of work to do offensively, his shooting this season is noticeably better than it was his first year.
Q: Where do you think our recruiting class ends up? Do you think we land five-star running back Joe Mixon?
A: Probably in the top 15. Hard to say about Mixon. He tweeted that his final three is UCLA, Oklahoma and Wisconsin — cutting out Cal from what was his top four. He’d done the same to the Bruins back in August, however, leaving them out of a 10-team shortlist. His announcement comes at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 4 but this could go down to Signing Day.
Q: Is UCLA likely to sign a QB in this recruiting class, and if so who might it be?
A: If the Bruins aren’t able to flip Brad Kaaya (Miami), they would probably have to count on a late add for 2014. UCLA landed Asiantii Woulard that way, but need some luck for something similar to happen two years in a row.
Q: Any players enrolling early?
A: The three-star trio of offensive guard Najee Toran, defensive back Ron Robinson and receiver/cornerback Mossi Johnson will arrive in January. Johnson was a 2013 recruit, but grayshirted.
Q: Do you think Eric Kendricks surgery and recovery will play a role in his NFL decision? Do you believe the injuries he’s battled will greatly affect his draft stock?
A: I don’t think it’s a serious concern that Kendricks might leave early. He’s still too small at 228 pounds to play inside linebacker in the NFL, and — as you said — was limited all season with various injuries (shoulder, back, ankle, etc.). Declaring now would be too big of a risk.
Q: Xavier Su’a-Filo is good and I think he’s gone. No way Brett Hundley is ready for the NFL. Concur?
A: Yes to both. I thought a few weeks ago that there was a chance Su’a-Filo stays, but I didn’t consider then that he is already about to turn 23 years old. The NFL advisory board sometimes sends back questionably low evaluations though, so a poor response could spur him to return.
I don’t think I’ve yet talked to one person who thinks Hundley is NFL-ready. He has the upside, but it hasn’t all clicked for him yet.
Q: Was there anything good to eat at the football awards banquet last Sunday?
A: I’m sure there was, but I wasn’t invited.