Under Jim Mora, UCLA taking more pride in special teams

To try and figure out why UCLA has turned around its special teams so dramatically over the last two seasons, senior linebacker Ryan Hofmeister is a good person to ask.

After transferring from Riverside City College, Hofmeister redshirted the 2011 season and saw how the team looked in its final year under former head coach Rick Neuheisel. Last year, he became a second team All-Pac-12 selection on special teams. He was recently voted a team co-captain for the second straight season.

In 2011, the Bruins ranked 76th nationally in opposing punt returns (9.13 yards per game) and 105th in opposing kickoff returns (24.05). Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

VIDEO: Myles Jack talks about UCLA’s season opener at Virginia

After weeks of growing hype, UCLA will finally be able to focus solely on their Aug. 30 season opener at Virginia. Linebacker Myles Jack summed up the team’s attitude succinctly on Monday: “We lose this game, and everybody goes away.”

Jack also talked about linebacker depth, the lack of two-way players nationwide, as well as whether or not he expects to play some running back this weekend.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Weekly Q&A — 8/23/14 Answers

Q: Two out of the three guys on ESPN College GameDay picked the Bruins to win the national title today. How realistic do you think this is? If we get past Oregon, would you agree to road to a NT becomes significantly more realistic?

A: Over the last three months or so, UCLA has gone from a consensus top-ten team to an increasingly popular pick for the College Football Playoff. And nothing about the Bruins have really changed in that span. You can argue either that opinions have either skewed too high on UCLA, or that they’ve merely corrected themselves to reflect the team’s true value.

Winning the Pac-12 is clearly a reasonable prediction, and doing so would likely result in a playoff berth. But jumping from there to taking home the whole damn trophy is a significant jump.

Q: If the Bruins somehow make it to the final four after just three years under Jim Mora (as some experts have predicted), wouldn’t you consider that one of the greatest turnarounds in college football history?

A: Auburn made the BCS Championship Game last season in its first season under Gus Malzahn, a year after it went 3-9 (0-8 SEC) under Gene Chizik. Bob Stoops took Oklahoma through a 13-0 title run in his second season, and that was after taking over a program that went 12-22 under his predecessor John Blake. Lou Holtz engineered quick turnarounds with both Notre Dame (5-6 to 12-0 over his first three seasons) and South Carolina (0-11 to 8-4 in his second).

Mora’s fast, but he’s a bit short of all-time fast.

Q: Will a two-loss Pac-12 champion be given a berth in the four-team playoff? Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

First look: Virginia Cavaliers

No. 7 UCLA Bruins vs. Virginia Cavaliers
Kickoff: 9 a.m. PT, Scott Stadium (University of Virginia)
Radio: AM 570

Coach: Mike London is 18-31 through four seasons in Charlottesville, and has taken the Cavaliers to just one bowl game: a 43-24 blowout by Auburn in the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl. He hired four new assistants in 2013, which only resulted in a 2-10 record — the program’s worst mark since 1981. Very popular on hot-seat lists.

Key players: Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Jeff Ulbrich adjusts UCLA defense for Pac-12 offenses

Before Jim Mora’s staff arrived at UCLA, just two Pac-12 teams ranked top-30 nationally in total plays: Oregon and Arizona State. In 2012, the Bruins joined the list along with Arizona.

Last season, the conference pushed even faster. Though UCLA and the Ducks dropped to 38th and 32nd in the country, the Pac-12 still had six teams that ranked top-30 in total plays: Arizona State, Cal, Arizona, WAshington, Washington State and Oregon State.

Does that affect how the Bruins design their defense?

“Enormously,” said defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich. “You know, I’d be a dumbass to kind of just do what we do. That’s the deal with defense. You’ve got to adapt. Offenses can force a defense to adapt in a lot of ways like our offense does to opposing teams. So we have to.

“You can’t do a lot of NFL concepts. Not only because of the offenses that you face, and with the hash marks — there’s just so many factors that make you adapt. But I feel like we’re getting closer.”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

VIDEO: Receiver Thomas Duarte talks about potential breakout

Last season, UCLA inside receiver Thomas Duarte tied the program’s freshman record with three touchdown catches. A hamstring injury sidelined him for most of training camp, but the 6-foot-4 sophomore still feels ready for a breakout season.

“I’ve grasped a whole different concept of the game,” Duarte said. “Just the experience I got from last year, and the coaching I’ve gotten … Definitely, this might be the year.”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email