Category Archives: UCLA Football

UCLA Bruins Football

UCLA Football’s Defense Bolsters Bruin’s Hype Legitimacy

For the first time in awhile, casual and serious observers of the college football world will keep a mindful eye on the UCLA football program. Jim Mora’s successful first season ended with a whimper, but in his second season as head coach, the Bruins managed to improve their overall record (from 9-5 to 10-3) despite a much more difficult schedule.

Even with that improvement, UCLA rarely looked like a national title contender for an entire game. Though the box scores tell a different story, the Bruins’ offense was normally the source of frustration. Noel Mazzone’s play-calling and decision-making came into question regularly, and his uncharacteristically conservative approach left the task of slaying solid teams almost entirely to his defense. Against Oregon, for example, the Bruins held Oregon to 14 points in the first half and 21 points through three quarters, but had only scored 14 points the entire game themselves. (Although it’s important to note that Brett Hundley looked indecisive at times, as is his custom, and the UCLA offensive line was a bit of a patch job for much of the season.) In many instances, UCLA’s defense anchored the Bruins, while the offense sometimes felt useless and even counterproductive.

Did an offensive romping of USC and Virginia Tech change all of that, though? Were the final two games of the season enough to convince observers that the Bruins were, indeed, for real, and had finally grown up, and that the offense was to take the credit?

Not entirely. The hype began when Brett Hundley announced he’d be returning for his junior season, in an announcement that got UCLA fans ready to run through a few walls.

Of course, the idea that Brett Hundley is the sole reason this team went from preseason top-25 team to national contender is one that’s pretty off-base. While quarterbacks are really damn important, it’s unreasonable to say that Hundley’s the sole reason.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Why are goodbyes so damned hard?

Hey guys! It’s me — the big dude who’s been roamin’ around here, bloggin’ it up.

Well, in case you haven’t figured out, I was offered a gig by the dudes at FanSided to edit their UCLA blog Go Joe Bruin.

The goals of this website will carry on to the new place, too, so don’t you fret. The difference is, the platform will be larger and the audience should be awesome’r. I love you guys, so it’d be awesome if you fired up a new tab and headed on over there.

Peace!

VISIT THE NEW BLOG AT FANSIDED: GO JOE BRUIN. GO BRUINS!!!

To the greatest group of people on earth: You, the reader, deserve all my thanks

When I started this blog up back in November 2011, I was hoping just to mess around, rant about the UCLA Athletics program a bit, and possibly kill some time while the winter break was coming up. All the way through January, I didn’t do much to advertise, or even consider garnering more reads.

I always came in with the plan of coming up with an alternative to that sorry-ass excuse for a blog, “BruinsNation.” The narrative at that site makes me vomit, and I often mistake it for some crappy uSc blog, considering all they do is talk shit about our Bruins.

But, there are, of course, people and places to talk about.

It wasn’t until January that I had began posting links on Reddit (namely /r/UCLA and a few others) that I realized that the community was hungry for a UCLA blog that tried its best to be objective and let the story of our Bruins dominate the narrative (as opposed to the story of the blogger). Ever since I began connecting with people from /r/UCLA and other websites, I took the blog more seriously. Instead of considering it as some place to rant, I began to consider it a community, or at least the start of one. There is no fan-base as vocal as the UCLA fan-base, and there is no fan-base as proud as the UCLA fan-base.

I put up polls. You guys vote on them. I write posts that forces you to rebuttle, or even agree? You comment on those posts. My statistics tell me that the need for a UCLA athletics community — a place to rant without getting your ass banned — is one that’s very much needed. And that’s why I’m continuing.

So yes, the entire purpose of this blog post is to thank you, the reader, for keeping up and following along. I can’t post all the time (I’m a junior at UCLA and I’m taking 19 units!), but I can post as much as humanly possible, about basketball, football, or whatever other newsworthy thing going on the UCLA universe. If you’d like to help out around here, ask questions, show us some vids, I’d be happy to have you along for the ride. Hit me up in the comment section below, saying you want to be a part of this blog, and I’ll invite you via your e-mail. If you just want to keep reading and answering poll questions? That’s fine, too. It’s you’re prerogative.

GO BRUINS!!!!

UCLA Football coach Jim Mora: “We won’t wait to win”

There is no five-year plan. There isn’t a two-year plan.

Jim L. Mora wants wins, and he wants them now.

He said as much in his interview with 710 ESPN Radio’s John Ireland and Mark Willard. According to Mora, the UCLA football train is going to move pretty damn fast:

“We’re certainly not going to wait to win,” Mora said. “There is no five-year plan, there is no two-year plan. … We’re not going to put any limitations on what we can do and the governor is off. We’re going full throttle.”

“This train is moving now,” Mora said. “This train is going down the tracks and people need to jump on board and ride with us because we’re going to go do some pretty special things here in the next couple of years.”

Talk is cheap. As perennially depressed Bruins fans, students and alum, we pretty much hang this adage on a white-board in our offices and bedrooms, to remind us that, although the hype around our program is incredible, and there are signs of reasonable optimism, nothing is ever successful until it’s, well, actually successful.

This time, though? This time feels a little different (although many will claim to have said the same thing when Rick Neuheisel was hired back in 2008). This time, Mora has turned around a mess of a recruiting class and turned it into a top-10-worthy group of incoming freshman (and a junior college transfer). And this time, there are no emotional ties to Jim Mora, nor are there ties to UCLA on Jim Mora’s side of things.

The main thing is to get it done. He hasn’t made bold predictions, he hasn’t gone around claiming to take down football monopolies. He’s telling us what we all know is a requirement for any head coach: The goal is to win, and win now. No more favoring upperclassmen solely for the reason that they’re upperclassmen. No more giving kids second chances when they screw up.

Accountability and tough love is what this program needs, and that’s what Mora’s always been about.

Let’s just see if that translates to about eight wins in 2012.

VIDEO: Hey, guess which CBS Sports Analyst interviewed UCLA’s Jim Mora?

The arrival of Rick Neuheisel in 2008 brought a crap-load hype and excitement from UCLA alum, students and fans. That obviously fizzled and Neuheisel was fired this past November and the once-hopeful hiring wound up in disappointment.

Jim L. Mora is, so far, a bit of a reversed story. His hiring brought a shit-load of vitriol from the UCLA fan-base but, all of a sudden, he has the UCLA universe hopeful once more after a wildly successful recruiting season.

And those two men, for the first time in the public’s eye, spoke to one another over the phone while CBS Sports interviewed Jim Mora on his successful 2012 recruiting class. Watch:

Yes, I think that pretty much sums up UCLA. Despite the fact that Mora was met with a ton of opposition during his hiring, and despite Neuheisel’s rough firing this past fall, the two men were amicable and joking around. You can tell Rick felt everything was a little surreal by the way he spoke to Mora. When you talk to your successor at your beloved university, which you would gladly spill blood, sweat and tears for, things are bound to get a little emotional.

But Rick did not cry and Mora said the right things. No awkward TV moment, no hard feelings. While we all desperately wanted Rick Neuheisel to succeed when he was hired, and while we all begged for anyone else but Jim Mora to replace Rick, we can see the level of professionalism oozing through the YouTubez.

And that, ladies and gents, is what it means to be a Bruin.

UCLA National Signing Day Update: WRs Javon Williams, Jordan Payton will be Bruins!

(Know I’m late on the news, you guys — was in class, so please, forgive me for getting an education.)

You don’t know how hard I am trying to not type in all caps and end each sentence with at least three exclamation marks.

That’s because UCLA just picked TWO LEGITIMATE, FOUR-STAR WIDE RECEIVERS!!!!!!

That’s right; the position we were thin at in this recruiting class is the one that is going to put this class on the map. First, let’s check some Javon Williams highlights, no?

BOOM. This is a major pick-up. Dude’s a 6’5” beast at wide-out and that’s going to be a big deal considering Noel Mazzone likes to spread defenses wide and long. He’s going to help UCLA’s offense get more vertical, and if any of our three QBs from this year’s class can develop into a nice option at the position, Williams will get a ton of tosses thrown his way.

But I did say two four-star wide-outs, no? The other one? Jordan Payton who, after switching from Cal to Oregon to Washington, is now reportedly going to UCLA. Dude’s a four-star recruit and, at 6’2” with a 40-yard dash time of 4.49, he’s also going to give corners who cover him some issues. Here is a highlight tape of this guy:

And that’s from his junior year.

I think we should all be thoroughly impressed by the recruiting hall our current staff has put together. It doesn’t look like one — not one! — position was ignored in this class, and though these wide-outs committed late, it’s better late than never.

Maybe I’m just excited. I don’t know. But something tells me UCLA football has really turned a corner this time. GO BRUINS!!!!

POLL DON’T LIE: DT Ellis McCarthy

Every once in a while, I’ll present a 2012 UCLA football recruit, give reasons why he should be rated high in the context of our football program and reasons he shouldn’t be rated high. The point is to look at the context of the signing. Did we pick up a 5-star wide-out when our class already includes two of them? Did we nab a 3-star linebacker when we’re stacked with 4-star LBs?

And that’s what my job is. Your job is to give an honest assessment of the player, from a scale of 1 star to 5 stars, by voting in the poll at the bottom. Consider our current strengths and weaknesses as well as our coaching staff for the position. If you disagree with whatever reasoning I have, back your shit up in the comments.

Last kid: Devin Fuller, QB. You guys rated him an average 3.95 stars.

Today’s kid: Ellis McCarthy, DT, Monrovia, CA. Height: 6’5” … Weight: 295 lbs … 2nd-best DT in the nation

Ouch:

Ellis McCarthy is our only five-star recruit. That said, there couldn’t be a more important position to have a five-star recruit, especially here at UCLA (save for defensive end).

Why should you give him 5 stars?

McCarthy is a total freak. At his size, he’ll be one of the most dominant defensive tackles in the nation if he’s groomed correctly. Currently, Scout compares him to, guess who, Ndamukong Suh, the beastly DT out of Nebraska who’s continuing his mean-as-hell streak in Detroit with the Lions.

What’s most important, though, is that our defensive line was shoddy last year (and years prior). Our pass-rush was total trash in 2011 and it’d be nice to actually see someone get in the back-field quick enough to force some game-changing pressure on the QB. McCarthy has the size to bulldoze himself through the offensive line, and at 6’5”, he’s going to be able to get his hands up and blind most college quarterbacks.

There’s no doubt that he’s as talented as they come, and there is really no doubt that UCLA’s defensive line needs him. But …

Why should you give him 1 star?

As the case was with Devin Fuller, it’d be ridiculous to give him one star. But the issues with McCarthy are, surprisingly, more glaring than the issues with Fuller. The four-letter network’s scouting report is actually pretty scathing for a 5-star recruit. They mention his inability to explode fast enough to get off the line and beat blockers before they get in proper position. They also mention that he tends to try to get around blockers a bit too much, not something you want to see from a DT, whose job, primarily, is to clog up space in the middle, collapse the pocket, take up an extra blocker or two and allow for linebackers to close in on the back-field or to force the pocket to collapse enough so that the quarterback gets hurried and makes mistake.

Scout.com also lists an area of improvement: “Intensity/Effort.” And in case you didn’t know, “Intensity/Effort” is something we’ve been missing at UCLA for the longest time. Coach Jim Mora is definitely going to get the guys more disciplined, but does McCarthy tend to take plays off every so often, and if so, will he kick that habit?

There’s no doubt that there’s a place for McCarthy to fit in, especially since we need him, but is his work ethic a concern?

Enough from me, you guys. Your turn. Considering what I presented to you, rate Ellis McCarthy’s value to this program on a scale of 1 star to 5 stars.