KNOW YOUR ENEMY: Previewing the UCLA Offense

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Taking a look at UCLA's offensive personnel and tendencies ahead of Cal's clash with the Bruins.


Fitting, I think.

2011 Record: 6-7

2012 THUS FAR : 4-1 (Ranked # 25 in this week's AP Poll)

Week 1: Won @ Rice (49-24)

Week 2: Won vs Nebraska (36-30)

Week 3: Won vs Houston (37-6)

Week 4: Lost vs Oregon State (20-27)

Week 5: Won @ Colorado (42-14)

2012 OFFENSIVE STATS

Rushing: 243.4 yards/game (13th)

Passing: 317 yards/game (18th)

Scoring: 36.8 points/game (33rd)

QB

STARTER- Brett Hundley, Freshman (RS) - 6'3, 225 lbs

After taking a redshirt season as a true freshman during the final death throes of Rick Neuheisel's tenure as Bruin head coach, Hundley won the starting job over both Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut. He's looked every bit the highly touted recruit he was pegged as back in 2011 too. Through 5 games, Hundley has completed 66% of his passes for 1480 yards, 11 touchdowns and just 3 picks. That comes out to just a shade under 300 yards per game through the air, and Hundley chucks the ball and average of 37 times every Saturday. He's pretty nifty with his feet as well, rushing 49 times for 165 yards and 4 more scores. He had his biggest days on the ground against Rice and Nebraska, but is still good for anywhere between 30 and 40 yards per game, depending on the opponent...UH OH! New Bruin offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has done a really nice job designing an offense that plays to Hundley's strengths, and the UCLA offense has been very good as a result. While there are still some elements of the Pistol in place, UCLA has been able to take advantage when opponents stack the box to stop the run thanks to Hundley's efficiency, vision and good arm.

Upside: Arm, mobility, talent, Mazzone's offense

Downside: ...

What to Expect:

Sure looks like the kind of dude who will give us serious problems...seeing how pretty much every quarterback does. Even in the Bruins' loss to the Beavs, Hundley still threw for 372 yards and a touchdown with no picks...while completing 64% of his passes. He's good, and he's got the ability to hurt us with his arm and his legs. Despite an offensive line that's thin on experience, he's only been sacked 13 times on the year. That's a testament to his escapability, and the fact that he's better than Zach Maynard. Oregon State had some success keeping Hundley in the pocket by using an outside linebacker to spy him. That could be an interesting tactic, especially if we assign a guy like Josh Hill to the task. Worth a shot, right? In addition to a spy, we'll want to try and pressure Hundley. Mazzone's offense is at it's best when facing a limited rush and soft zone coverage. Does that sound familiar? This would be a good game for Pendy and co to get away from those tendencies and try to get in Hundley's face to disrupt his rhythm.

RB

STARTER- Johnathan Franklin, Senior - 5'11, 195 lbs

Franklin is currently 3rd in the country in rushing yards (697), and 4th nationally in yards per game (139.4). He's went for over 200 yards against both Rice and Nebraska, and the only game where he didn't break at least 100 yards on the ground was in the loss to Oregon State (45 yards on 12 carries). He's the real deal, and very effective as a strong, fast, one-cut runner in Mazzone's offense. Franklin's utilized frequently in the passing game as well, recording 12 catches for 180 yards and 1 touchdown to date. He'll be quite a handful. He's spelled by junior converted wide receiver Damien Thigpen (5'8/180), who provides a bit more burst and has 32 carries for 194 yards and 1 TD on the year, as well as 10 catches for 111 yards. Thigpen is considered the fastest dude on the team. We will also see some of sophomore Jordon James (5'8/190). He has 22 rushes for 88 yards and a touchdown, along with 9 catches for 63 yards and another score. As a team, the Bruins have the #13 rushing attack in the country.

Upside: Talent, speed, Mazzone's offense

Downside: Experienced depth

What to Expect:

We're facing a top national rusher and a top national rushing attack. We are 83rd in the country against the run thus far in 2012. This stinks of disaster to me. To be fair, the only rush defense the Bruins have faced that is ranked in the top 50 nationally was Oregon State (#9 in the country), and the Beavers held UCLA to 72 yards on 28 carries (2.57 YPC). They can be stopped by a good run defense. Thing is...we are not a good run defense right now. At least, we aren't a consistently good run defense. Sure, we looked better last week against Arizona State (in that one area), but UCLA has a better back, a better scheme, and is more committed to the run than the Sun Devils were. Hell, last year they tore us up on the ground and they didn't even have an effective passer at the quarterback position. Even worse, Franklin, Thigpen and James are all quality receivers that can be used in the screen game with great effect. Even if we stack the box, they will be able to hurt us in other ways as they've done a nice job of getting their backs into the flats to find space and make plays. A soft zone would kill us against this offense. Sorry, but I'm seeing everything through DOOM-colored glasses these days and I don't see us up to the task of handling this running game.

WR

STARTERS-

Shaquelle Evans, Junior - 6'1, 201 lbs

Jerry Johnson, Senior - 6'3, 210 lbs

Steven Manfro, Freshman (RS) - 5'9, 195 lbs

This is an interesting group that has produced pretty well this season, with different guys stepping up each week. They've likely underachieved as a unit though. Shaq Evans is the statistical leader of the group with 17 receptions for 254 yards and a touchdown, but 6 receptions, 148 yards and his lone score came in the week 4 loss to Oregon State. Jerry Johnson (13 receptions for 142 yards, 1 TD) is a bigger body that still seems to be just tapping into his potential...as a senior. 9 of his catches have come in the last two games. Steven Manfro is a really interesting, versatile player who drew a lot of praise for his work on the scout team during the 2011 season. A converted high school running back, Manfro leads the Bruins in receptions with 19 for 206 yards and 1 touchdown. He has also rushed 3 times for 26 yards and another score. Manfro also serves as the primary punt returner, averaging a shade under 11 yards per return. The UCLA staff has done a nice job finding ways to get him involved and he hasn't disappointed. We may be catching a bit of a break with redshirt frosh Devin Lucien being ruled out for possibly the season after undergoing surgery to repair a broken clavicle earlier this week. Lucien was third on the team in receiving yardage through the first 5 games with 10 catches for 188 yards. He also was the primary deep threat for Hundley. It's possible we could see a couple familiar faces in this game as well, as true freshman wide receivers Kenny Walker and Jordan Payton were one-time Cal verbal commits. Although to be fair, Payton verbally committed to a third of the Pac-12 Conference at various points in the last recruiting cycle.

Upside: Hundley, Mazzone's offense

Downside: Consistency

What to Expect:

This is the best statistical passing offense we've seen this year, and they're very balanced...with Hundley seemingly leaning on a different guy each week. We're slightly worse against the pass than we are against the run, ranking 86th nationally in pass defense. Exactly how much of that can be attributed to horrendous safety play? Why, a steady amount I'd venture. So will the addition of Avery Sebastian to the starting lineup help us here? I think it will help against the run, but I have some doubts about whether one guy can make a significant difference against a good passing offense. We did still give up almost 300 yards through the air and 3 touchdowns to ASU last week. Worth noting that the UCLA running backs do play a significant role in this passing offense, and may be more important than the wide receivers in its success. Even if the wideouts aren't all that intimidating (and they kind of aren't), stopping them doesn't really spell success. In fact, a guy like Manfro in the slot or lined up elsewhere could be a big issue for us. Nope, not gonna get my hopes up. Hundley looks to be good enough to find the open guy, and there will almost assuredly be at least one guy open from down to down. If not one of these wideouts, possibly the tight end.


TE

STARTER- Joseph Fauria, Senior - 6'7, 255 lbs

Fauria is pretty much what you'd expect a 6'7 target to be: a red zone threat. He can run well and is plenty athletic, but 3 of his 4 touchdowns this season have come inside the opposition's 20 yard line. On the year, he has 13 receptions for 162 yards, tied for third on the Bruins in receptions and fifth in yardage. He's actually the only dude with more than 1 receiving touchdown. He's quite the mismatch, and can line up with his hand on the ground or be split out wide, similar to the way Ohio State used Jake Stoneburner...the guy that caught 2 touchdowns against us. OH NOES! The only knock on Fauria is that he's still pretty raw as a run blocker, but his value in the passing game outweighs that in my opinion. Worth noting (or is it?) that Fauria was held to just two catches for 20 yards in UCLA's loss to Oregon State.

Upside: Height, hands, athleticism

Downside: Run-blocking

What to Expect:

We're giving up right around 4 receptions per game to tight ends in 2012, and did a decent job last week against ASU's Chris Coyle...the top receiving TE in the country thus far. Of course, Coyle is 6'3 and Fauria is 6'7. It's gonna be a "tall" task! /sticks head in wood chipper. Seriously though, UCLA is diverse enough in its passing attack that Fauria will get some targets. There's little reason to feel like we'll be abused here any more than in other facets of the game. So... I think our best bet is to just never let UCLA near the red zone. Case closed.

OL

STARTERS-

LT: Torian White, Freshman (RS) - 6'5, 285 lbs

LG: Xavier Su'a Filo, Sophomore - 6'4, 295 lbs

C: Jake Brendel, Freshman (RS) - 6'4, 295 lbs

RG: Jeff Baca, Senior - 6'3, 295 lbs

RT: Simon Goines, Freshman - 6'7, 325 lbs

This group was replacing four (4!) starters from 2011, and has done so with a very youthful but talented group that has performed very well thus far. If UCLA can, we can next year...right? At left tackle, redshirt freshman Torian White has done a pretty nice job protecting Hundley's blindside. White is slender and athletic at 285 pounds, with good feet. Xavier Su'a-Filo started all 13 games of the 2009 season at left tackle prior to serving a 2-year Mormon mission. He's moved inside this season to man the left guard spot, and has been very good there. He's quick and strong...possibly UCLA's best OL right now. Center Jake Brendel has had his ups and downs, but was good last week against Colorado. Baca has started 36 games for the bruins, and is by far their most experienced linemen. He's missed a couple games with health issues, but was back against Colorado and shined in run blocking. Right tackle Simon Goines is a true freshman, and has looked the part at times. While enormous at 6'7/325 lbs, Goines struggles with lateral quickness and isn't real agile (not exactly a surprise). He can be beaten by speed rushers. On the year, this group has surrendered just 13 sacks and has paved the way for a very good rushing game. As I noted earlier, Hundley's mobility is certainly one reason that the sack number isn't higher, but it's still a testament to the fact that despite a lack of experience, this group is good and improving every week.

Upside: Run-blocking, Mazzone's offense, Hundley's mobility

Downside: Experience

What to Expect:

Talent-wise, this should be a somewhat favorable matchup for us. But when you factor in the schemes and coaching, I get far less confident. I like our defensive line and front seven, but I HATE Pendergast's defense against Mazzone's offense. Kindly recall that we were largely ineffective in slowing down the running or passing game of ASU last year...when Noel Mazzone was running the Sun Devils' offense. That ASU team rolled us up for 475 yards of offense...including 213 on the ground. We sacked their quarterback once. Yes, we won. But we had a functioning offense to bail us out, a luxury we do not seem to have this year. We also had a better defense. While this offensive line are no world-beaters, if Pendergast hasn't figured out a way to get pressure against Mazzone's offense it won't matter. They're good at what they do, and we aren't great at what we do. Let's hope Pendergast will try to dial up some pressure.

IN SUMMARY

This is a UCLA offense that's performing at a very high level, surpassing many early expectations. Under the watch of a new, motivated coaching staff, we're seeing a redshirt freshman quarterback step in and shine, boosted by a talented running game and a solid offensive gameplan. This should give all of us Cal fans some hope for next season.

As for Saturday, I think not. Bottom line, UCLA is a better team than us right now. They're not a great team, but they're good. And they have positive momentum...something we absolutely do not have. We're watching this program bleed out in a bathtub right now, and it breaks my heart. Maybe another poor game this week could serve as the metaphorical toaster being dropped in the water. It's cleaner, faster...and that's good I guess. Hope for the best, but expect the worst.

And yes, that's probably some of the most depressing shit I've ever written.

As always, GO BEARS.

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