Well, we got the UCLA Bruins on the horizon. Could this be the last year that we have guaranteed games with the Bruins? Who knows? What we do know is that we have a great SBN site down south, Bruins Nation.
They are extraordinarily knowledgeable about all things UCLA and were kind enough to do a Q+A with us. CBKWit helped them out on their Football Podcast, which you can read here. Ryan Rosenblatt hosted the podcast and he was nice enough to answer some of our questions. After the jump, take a look at our questions and their answers about what to expect this Saturday against UCLA. GO BEARS!
This is a young team that's somewhere in the middle. While we did play terribly against Stanford and very well against Texas, the fact is that the Cardinal presented a bad match-up for us and Texas presented a good one. This UCLA team has some definite strengths and definite weaknesses, which means that match-ups are unbelievably important for the Bruins. Add in the inexperience and the inconsistency is somewhat logical.
2. Do you believe the Bruins will make a bowl this year and, if so, which one?
I do think this is a bowl team and my guess is that the team is either 4-5 or 5-4 in the Pac-10. I'll lean 5-4, which should be good for the Las Vegas Bowl.
3. A lot is being made of the Bruins and their fast paced offense. What should Cal fans know about the UCLA defense?
It's a defense that has been a source of consternation for UCLA fans. Now in his second year as Defensive Coordinator, Chuck Bullough has been maddeningly inconsistent and passive. Many of us believe that he's just not cutting it and is holding the defense back. That said, out of nowhere he's pulled a couple great called games out of his pocket. When allowed to play aggressively, this defense can cause some havoc with some very good athletes, but when they get conservative, they can be had, especially on third down where UCLA has been abysmal.
4. How much has the loss of Brian Price affected your defense?
Losing a player as good as Brian Price is always going to hurt your defense and UCLA hasn't had anyone on the defensive line emerge as someone an offense has to account for at all times like Price. That said, the defensive line as a whole is playing better than expected so the front four haven't been as vulnerable without Price as we expected them to be.
5. It seems Neuheisel has brought in highly-rated recruiting classes the last few years, but has yet to see a huge impact on the field - especially on the offensive side of the ball. Is this an injury issue, a scouting issue, or are guys just not developing?
I think there are a few things at play here. The first is that Kevin Prince hasn't been able to stay healthy long enough to build a rhythm. Just when it looks like the offense is about to get going Prince either misses a game or misses a week of practice, which is a killer. That's probably been the biggest issue because it hurts the passing game. The receivers have also been shockingly poor, dropping balls and running poor routes despite plenty of experience and talent. Nobody can really explain that one. The last two years, UCLA's offense was stunted by horrible offensive lines, but that line is coming around and with it, the offense has improved. Right now, the Bruins' running game is absolutely rolling. If Prince can stay healthy, the offense can round itself out and the offensive production should mirror the recruiting gains.
6. Norm Chow has had success everywhere he's gone with his pro-style scheme. Is this switch to the Pistol a sign of being innovative and open-minded, or does it hint of desperation? Since neither Prince nor Brehaut were recruited as running QB's are they the right fit, or will this require recruiting a more dynamic runner?
I'm going to call it open-minded. The last two years, UCLA just didn't have the offensive line to do much and having a terrible offensive line with a new quarterback isn't a good combination. Getting it to all come together at the right time was always going to be tough so going to the pistol allowed Chow to simplify things, especially up front. The zone blocking scheme that the pistol uses makes this easier on the offensive line and it's showing. I think Chow recognized that the game was changing and that things had to get a little more open to maximize talent, but he wanted somewhat of a downhill running game still and the pistol allowed for it.
Neither Prince now Brehaut was recruiting as a running quarterback, but don't let that fool you because Prince can run. He's a big guy, but he has legs and last season rolled off the longest QB touchdown run in UCLA history. He's not going to put the fear of god in you with his legs, but give him a lane and he'll take it. At the very least, Prince is an above average runner and has really taken to the pistol. As for the future, UCLA got a commitment about a month ago from Brett Hundley, the top-rated West Coast QB in this class and he can run well so he should fit in the offense well.
7. How nervous are you about Prince running the Pistol with his extensive injury history?
I'm not really that nervous because Prince has shown to be smarter this season. Last year, he was lowering his head to get an extra yard at the 42, which doesn't do anyone any good. This year, unless he's trying to get a first down or a touchdown he has been pretty good about sliding or getting out of bounds. He's taking some hits, but in
the pistol we've been more effective running and getting our running backs 30 or 40 carries so even with his running more, Prince is taking less hits over the course of a game anyways.