Weekly Q&A – Washington State answers


Do you think Mike Fafaul’s performance against Arizona State will affect the Bruins’ quarterback depth chart going forward?

I think the Bruins have hitched their wagon to Fafaul as the second-string quarterback. It’s a scary proposition, especially considering how tough his first meaningful minutes were last week, but this is the conundrum that UCLA asked for. The coaching staff didn’t manage its roster properly — it didn’t help them that Jerry Neuheisel left with a year of eligibility remaining — and now they’re stuck with a fifth-year senior former walk-on and a handful of true freshmen who have been on the scout team all year. Both Matt Lynch and Devon Modster are likely more physically talented than Fafaul, but it would be a sticky situation to burn one of their redshirts and throw them into the fire now. It’s a risky move, and while I haven’t been around the coaching staff for very long, they don’t strike me as a risk-it-for-the-biscuit group, especially on offense. They’re stubborn — like most coaches — and can try to force things to work instead of self-scouting and being flexible to finding a different way for things to work. Maybe if the defense plays out-of-this-world and gives the team a good chance to win it, the coaches might bring in one of the freshmen to give a spark, but I don’t know how likely that would be.

As for the pecking order behind Fafaul, I think it’s Modster, then Lynch. Dymond Lee is not in the mix as he was hurt for a fair amount of time earlier this season.

Did Jim Mora essentially push Noel Mazzone out to make way for a completely revamped offense? Or did Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M steal Mazzone away? Do you think UCLA would be where Texas A&M is (undefeated and in the top 10) had we kept Mazzone?

I don’t know much about the background of the Mazzone move, to be honest. I wasn’t here, but from what I’ve heard, it was just a relationship that cooled on both ends. Both sides were ready for a change and so they parted. I think UCLA could easily be where Texas A&M is now with that the Bruins have now. A few plays went the wrong way in each game, but each game has been close. For example, if a receiver/tight end catches one more ball or two more balls per game, then those three losses are wins. Mazzone’s system wouldn’t have changed the fact that the receivers still can’t catch the ball six games into the season.

A pro-style offensive scheme is generally more complex and physically demanding compared to simplified zone read spread attack. Can the offensive woes be partially attributed to the need to recruit players for this system over the long term and the time needed to immerse the team in the intricacies of this type of offense?

Yes, definitely, I agree 100 percent. This isn’t a short-term project for the Bruins. They want this to be a long-term identity. They’ll eventually get a group of tight ends who are naturally tight ends, not just a hodgepodge of players who don’t fit into other position groups. As Kennedy Polamalu often said this offseason, it’s takes a certain mentality to play this physical style of offense and it takes time to instill that kind of culture among players.

I believe Leni Toailoa, Keyon Riley, and Jalen Starks have not played since the second or third game of the season. Is the plan to sit them out the remainder of the season and see if they can get the year of eligibility back? Are they perhaps injured?

Keyon Riley is actually injured. He’s been on the sideline for perhaps a week or two now. Leni Toailoa and Jalen Starks are not injured, as far as I know.

I don’t believe Nate Starks played after the middle of the third quarter against ASU. Jamabo got the carry on first-and-goal after the long screen pass and don’t believe Starks was in the game at all after that. Is he injured?

I don’t believe Nate Starks is injured.

What grade would you give UCLA coaching this year?

Defensive coaches get a B+. Slow start, but they made adjustments and the defense is playing really well and keeping the team in all the games as the offense continues to lag.

Offensive coaches get a D. There’s been nothing even remotely resembling a running threat in a month. One game, OK, a blip on the radar. Two games, passable, just a little slump. But it’s been four games now and they’re literally going backwards.

Do you think there will be any tickets available for the UCLA at Washington State game?

If you want to make the trek to Pullman on what is expected to be a very wet and rainy Homecoming weekend for the Cougars, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a ticket or two. For the record though, I’m excited for the trip. I’ve never been to football game in Martin Stadium, so I get to check off one more Pac-12 stadium off my list.

Mora says only that Josh Rosen has a “lower body injury” and an “upper body injury.” What specifically are the injuries, either as a matter of fact or your own opinion?

As I’ve written previously, I think the upper body injury is an injury to his right shoulder. He was seen grabbing his shoulder on the sideline after attempting a pass. Some people were speculating that it was a wrist injury because he was seen holding his wrist, but I think he was holding his wrist more as a way to stabilize his arm and less because the wrist was actually injured. It was tougher to observe the lower body injury, but I think it’s something on the right side, maybe a right hip injury or a groin injury. He was sacked about midway through the first quarter and came down hard in his right hip. He was hobbled the rest of the game, so I think that’s where it started.

Ainuu Taua appears to be only a blocker in the run. Why is he not used as a ball carrier?

I don’t remember Ainuu Taua taking many carries even in practice, so I don’t think it’s something they want for their fullbacks, really. He was mostly used as an outlet guy every once in a while, catching a pass or two when necessary. But I do think he would be a good ball carrier in short-yardage situations, especially last week when the team didn’t have Bolu Olorunfunmi, who is usually their short-yardage back. I would have to believe that at nearly 300 pounds, Taua could punch it in on first-and-goal from the ASU 2 instead of settling for no gain from Soso Jamabo then two incomplete passes to Kenneth Walker III.