Weekly Q&A — 9/3/5 Answers

Q: Tom Bradley vs. Jeff Ulbrich — Differences at practice, with the media, with players? What differences are we likely to see on the field?

A: Very different people, both in terms of personality and experience. On the field, UCLA should immediately benefit from having an experienced college defensive coordinator for the first time in the Jim Mora era. The defense arguably underachieved last season considering its talent, wavering between average and above-average for long stretches. Bradley, who is one of the most well-regarded coordinators in country, should turn that around.

Off the field, Ulbrich was a more fiery guy. You saw that in his sideline exchange with Mora during UCLA’s loss to Oregon last season. It’s difficult to imagine that happening with Bradley, whom linebacker Myles Jack called a “Yoda figure” back in spring.

As for media interactions, I’d give Ulbrich the edge. He was a bigger personality, and that resulted in some great quotes as well as useful information. Bradley is fine to deal with as well, but he keeps things closer to the vest.

Q: How does the D-Line two-deep look this year compared to last year? Last year it seems that sometimes they would get pushed around. Do players like Jacob Tuoti-Mariner, Eli Ankou, Matt Dickerson, Ainuu Taua, Rick Wade, and Najee Toran look much improved and/or ready to contribute?

A: Definitely improved, even though UCLA loses Owamagbe Odighizuwa. A full offseason of development for Takkarist McKinley will help fill that hole, but the JUCO transfer just isn’t that caliber of player yet. Tuioti-Mariner and Matt Dickerson both look very promising, and Wade looked physically ready to play at this level right when he arrived at camp.

Q: Any predictions on how many sacks the Bruin D will get against Virginia?

A: I’d probably put the over-under at 2.5.

Q: How long do you think Ishmael Adams is going to be out? Continue reading

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Q&A: Post-spring camp edition — 4/26/15 Answers

Q: Does UCLA “look” the part of a top-10, top-15 preseason team even with a new QB? Outside of the two-deep on the defensive line and QB, this appears to be the deepest and most experienced Bruin team in recent memory and certainly under Jim Mora’s regime.

A: I’d put them in the preseason top 15 without much hesitation. There just aren’t a lot of other good teams in the country that lost as little as UCLA did through the offseason, and the quarterback situation looked promising enough through spring.

Q: If the competition between Josh Rosen and Asiantii Woulard is close, do you think that they’d give the nod to Woulard with the intention of redshirting Rosen and giving him another year to develop? Considering that we could burn his redshirt at anytime and we have yet to see Woulard in actual game action, I think this is the best course of action. Your thoughts?

A: If it’s close, at least trying Woulard out in the first game could be a good option for the reasons that you mentioned. But until Woulard came on through the second half of spring, the competition didn’t look that close.

Q: Considering all the talent UCLA has returning on offense, it would seem like a good idea to go with the game manager/safe bet at which would be Jerry Neuheisel? Redshirt Rosen? Would Asiantii Woulard transfer if he doesn’t win the starting job?

A: I don’t think starting Jerry Neuheisel full-time is a good option, even with all the experience UCLA has on offense. While he’s very comfortable with the offensive scheme, his lack of arm strength would severely limit the team if opponents can scout that look through the course of the season. Continue reading

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Q&A: Mid-spring camp — 4/12/15 Answers

Q: Does Josh Rosen really look like he can play this season. Or is the media really hyping it up too much … truthfully?

A: I honestly think he’s looked like UCLA’s best quarterback through two weeks.

Q: What’s your take on how much better Rosen would have to be to make burning his redshirt worth it? If he’s going to be only slightly better than Jerry Neuheisel or Asiantii Woulard, then maybe it’s best to keep his year of eligibility.

A: Quantifying differences into clear “start or not start” thresholds is tricky, but if Rosen can translate what he’s done in practices into real games, I think that’s more than enough to make burning that redshirt worthwhile. Neuheisel makes good decisions, but his limited arm strength limits his potential as a starter. Woulard has talent, but hasn’t looked as good as Rosen this spring — and that’s after two-plus years in the program.

If Rosen does start, then UCLA also has the ideal roster to surround a true freshman behind center. The entire offensive line is intact, and basically every significant receiver and running back returns too. Jordan Payton said after the Alamo Bowl that whoever replaces Brett Hundley will get the keys to a Ferrari. That remains a good metaphor for the Bruins’ offensive situation.

Q: If we assume Rosen likely locks down the starting QB job, is Neuheisel still holding down the No. 2 spot on the depth chart or has Woulard displayed enough consistency to close the gap?

A: I think I’d still give Neuheisel the edge at No. 2, but Woulard did very well to end the second week of spring camp. I wouldn’t rule him out.

Q: From your observation, as a whole, which position group on offense and defensive seem to be the weakest? Continue reading

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Q&A: March Madness edition — 3/24/15 Answers

Q: What is the over/under on the number of times CBS/Tru/ESPN will reference “Heart….Break….City” between Wednesday and game time?

A: My very scientific analysis puts it at 27.

Q: Snowball’s chance in hell of beating Gonzaga, a team which Mark Few states is the best he has coached?

A: kenpom.com gives UCLA a 23 percent chance of pulling the upset, which feels right to me. I don’t think the Bruins really have an answer for Kyle Wiltjer, though.

Q: Do you lend credence to the sentiment UCLA should not have been selected to participate in this year’s tourney?

A: Talking purely about the quality of basketball the Bruins were playing at the end of the season, I think it’s clear they deserved to be in the field. But there were clear questions about their overall resume — particularly their inability to win on the road — which is why I, like many others, didn’t think they would actually earn a spot come Selection Sunday.

I think UCLA proved it deserved a spot by beating SMU. Goaltending call or not, the Bruins outplayed the Mustangs for most of the game before giving up 19 unanswered points. (Still crazy to look at that number!) Beating UAB isn’t particularly impressive since the Bruins were so much more talented, but you do what you need to get to the Sweet 16.

Q: Playing the “what if” game: What if the goaltending wasn’t called? SMU tips the shot ball by Alford, and Kevon Looney gets the rebound. Continue reading

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