As usual, post questions below and I’ll have answers on Tuesday. Thanks.
Q: You have been around more UCLA football over the past year than any of us. Has your perception or expectations for the team changed after watching the first two games, or are you not surprised by their performance?
A: Before the season started, I thought that the hype had gotten a little out of control. Sure it had talent, but I figured UCLA to be more of a top-15 team until it proved otherwise — most likely on the outside looking in once the College Football Playoff rolled around. But I certainly didn’t expect the Bruins to look as inconsistent as they have through two games.
I still think there’s plenty of time for the Bruins to find their groove (on both sides of the ball) and win the Pac-12 South. As for knocking off Oregon (presumably the Pac-12 North champ) for the outright conference title — that looks real tough right now.
Q: I know Virginia and Memphis aren’t top-25 caliber teams, but am I dumb for thinking that they appeared to at least be .500 teams this year?
A: No, I think that could be the ceiling for both those teams, and they’ll be helped by playing in the ACC and the AAC, respectively. But they could also end up at three wins each. It’s just difficult to say given the small sample size at this point. Continue reading
Q: We have seen two straight seasons of tremendous offense and production from Brett Hundley. Why, then, is everyone panicking about our offense after one season-opening, trap away game against a solid defense? Is our offense really going to be that much worse because we lost Xavier Su’a-Filo and Shaq Evans?
A: No offense to Shaq, whom I always enjoyed talking to, but he wasn’t an irreplaceable talent. While there aren’t any potential Biletnikoff winners on the roster, UCLA has enough depth at receiver.
The bigger problem is Su’a-Filo’s absence, which I think Saturday’s game at Virginia really exposed. No amount of recruiting Klemm does was going to be able to instantly replace UCLA’s best offensive lineman in 15 years. I doubt UCLA’s line will continue to look as awful as it did on Saturday — especially after what Klemm said today — but the hole Su’a-Filo left as a pulling run blocker will be difficult to completely fill.
Entering this season, I think one question facing UCLA was whether or not it could field a top-15 or top-20 offense after ranking 36th nationally in yards per play last season. So far, the answer looks like no, though the defense will be good enough to match up against nearly any opponent.
Q: Is the plan to put Simon Goines at left tackle when he returns and move Malcolm Bunche to one of the guard spots — paired with Alex Redmond — thus moving true freshman NaJee Toran to the bench?
A: In an ideal world, maybe. If tackles Simon Goines (ankle) and/or Conor McDermott (shoulder) were at full health, the Bruins’ offensive line would be in much better shape. The problem is that neither of them are rarely at full health. So that makes any kind of “plan” sort of moot. Continue reading
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
Q: What is your gut feeling on whether or not Brett Hundley stays? Should he decide to bolt for the NFL, who do you see as starting QB next year? Does Mariota’s announcement that he’s returning for his junior year at Oregon affect BH’s decision? If he leaves, will Devin Fuller get a chance to be quarterback? Do you see a big dropoff from Hundley to the next QB?
A: I think he stays, though I could see a team reaching for him in the first round based on potential. Marcus Mariota’s return to Oregon does thin out the quarterback class, however, as does Zach Mettenberger’s torn ACL. Even Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, a potential No. 1 overall pick, isn’t a complete lock to declare for the draft.
If Hundley does leave, the job will go to Asiantii Woulard, who has major upside. Unless he makes significant strides in spring and fall, however, he wouldn’t be close to what Hundley would do as a third-year starter. Devin Fuller won’t be moving back to quarterback; he’s much more useful as a receiver.
Q: What is the deal with the Wear twins’ slump? Senior leadership works better when your seniors aren’t worse than the underclassmen. Continue reading