Comment with your questions, and I’ll post answers by Friday night.
Q: Now that Utah has posted its first league loss, what do you think the Bruins’ chances are of winning the Pac-12 South?
A: Not bad, but I think UCLA basically needs to win out. Right now, I’d pick them to beat out everyone on the rest of their schedule except Utah — but that’s not an unwinnable game either. There’s also a chance that Arizona State can win out; in that case, the Sun Devils would hold a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Bruins.
Q: Is the fact that Christian McCaffrey, the nation’s all-purpose yardage leader at a gaudy 259.7 YPG, not ranked higher on the Heisman watch list proof of East Coast bias? (He was #9 as of 10/19 on E$PN.) Especially as he is the star of a top-10 team with one of the nation’s hottest offenses.
A: I was inclined to say no at first, but then I actually looked up some Heisman rankings and saw how low he was. McCaffrey is in the top-five on Sports Illustrated, on four of eight top-fives on CBS Sports, but only a consensus No. 7 on ESPN. Quarterbacks always have an advantage at the award, but McCaffrey is leading the country in all-purpose yards by 40 yards per game. Only two other players even top 200, and fourth place falls down to 175 yards per game. There’s no good reason that McCaffrey shouldn’t be a unanimous top-five pick unless people aren’t watching Stanford enough.
Q: For any top team to keep winning despite injuries, depth is crucial. Ohio State won the championship with their third string quarterback. USC walloped Utah behind freshman linebacker Cam Smith. Which UCLA offensive and defensive players can step up their games to take UCLA to the top?
A: On offense, the key is still for Josh Rosen to continue developing. If that happens, then the Bruins should be able to get rid of some of the lulls that have plagued them on and off this season. Kolton Miller played well enough at left tackle against Cal that UCLA can afford to rest Conor McDermott a little longer, and tailback Soso Jamabo should be fine against this soft part of the schedule while Paul Perkins (knee) and Nate Starks (head) are still out. Continue reading
Q: What would be the top three things you thing are missing from the UCLA football formula right now?
A: Schematic or playcalling changes on defense to compensate for personnel losses, rather than trying to make players fit into the same roles that injured starters once filled. A more creative offense, particularly in terms of mixing run and pass on first downs. Fixing whatever it is that causes this team to wilt when it’s on the cusp of taking the next step.
Oh, and going back in time to prevent Myles Jack’s knee injury.
Q: How can we salvage the season with seemingly our entire first-string defense injured?
A: The offense can’t afford to make any mistakes, or squander any opportunities. This isn’t going to be a very good defense even in a best-case scenario, so the team needs to make it easier on them by being to keep pace in shootouts. Better punting could help as well; Stanford had an average starting position near midfield while that game was still close. Maybe try some midseason walk-ons there to give Matt Mengel competition, if not beat him out entirely.
Q: Our defense does not seem to have changed much, even though we have a new DC in Tom Bradley. Do you believe that Mora is micromanaging the defense? If so, do you think he should let Bradley take over given our recent defensive struggles? Continue reading
Q: Some people have suggested that Myles Jack’s decision to leave the team and focus on the draft will hurt him because it shows he isn’t a “team player”. Isn’t that the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard?
A: Oh, I’ve heard dumber things. No one can question Myles Jack’s talent or potential, and he has a good chance to be a first-round pick even with his knee injury — which isn’t one that should severely limit him by the time he has to prove himself in pre-draft workouts. But is maturity a potential knock on Jack? Probably. It’s not that dropping out of school after a season-ending injury is so shocking in an of itself. I think Jack is better off focusing on rehabbing and training for the NFL draft, but front offices could certainly ask whether or not he could have waited until the end of the season to declare. Take that in context with his being ejected in three straight training camps — with the latest incident occurring in front of NFL scouts — and I don’t think it’s a complete non-factor. (I think those displays were also indicative of why he wasn’t voted a team captain despite his considerable abilities.)
Still, talent wins out in the end. Washington dismissed cornerback Marcus Peters last season, far more serious than anything Jack has done at UCLA. Peters was still taken No. 18 overall this past spring.
Q: What position do you think Myles Jack will play in the NFL? Outside linebacker? Strong safety?
A: I think he’ll stay at outside linebacker, maybe in a 4-3 scheme. His coverage ability is his best attribute, and that’s a premium skill at linebacker in today’s NFL. I think keeping him in the front seven is a better way to utilize his versatility, but he’s certainly a viable candidate to play strong safety too. It might depend on what the team that drafts him needs more badly.
Q: Who do you think will follow Myles to the NFL after this season? Will it be Kenny Clark or Eddie Vanderdoes or both? Continue reading