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Let's talk Baby Bears: A Q&A with Bruins Nation about Saturday's Game

Let's chat with Ryan Rosenblatt of the Southern Branch for an update on the status of the baby bears heading into this weekend's game!

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1. Despite Rick Neuheisel's struggles to win, he recruited well and left enough talent for Jim Mora to immediately turn the program around. Despite Jeff Tedford's struggles to win, he recruited well and there should have been enough talent for Sonny Dykes to immediately win, but that hasn't been the case. What changes did Mora bring that were so successful in such a short period of time?

Ryan Rosenblatt: The energy and accountability of Jim Mora are the most obvious changes he made to the program. The team practices faster, plays faster, works harder and is all-around more enthused by the program. They also have no choice but to do that because if they don't they will find themselves on the bench. Rich Neuheisel, and Karl Dorrell before him, had a nasty habit of playing favorites and starting guys with experience over guys who were better. That isn't the case anymore. It seems simple, but putting the best players on the field goes a long ways.

On top of that, the coaching staff is excellent. They demand the kind of accountability that Mora does and have done an excellent job coaching the players. Whereas past UCLA teams saw talented players show up to campus and never really improve, you can see the improvements players are making from quarter to quarter, game to game and season to season now.

2. Myles Jack has gotten a ton of press - and deservedly so - but how are the other freshmen doing? Is there anyone we need to know about?

Ryan Rosenblatt: All eyes will be on the right side of the UCLA offensive line, where true freshmen Alex Redmond and Caleb Benenoch will be. That's not necessarily a good thing because while Redmond earned his starting spot early on, Benenoch is in for Torian White, whose season is over after fracturing his ankle. The two freshmen had serious trouble against Utah's overload blitzes and while they may not be worth watching for the same reason that Jack is, they definitely bear watching. We're about to find out how ready the two are for this level of football.

3. Jim Mora looks set to easily lead UCLA to a 2nd straight South division title. Cori Close is close to signing the #1 recruiting class in the nation. When Steve Alford leads UCLA to a Pac-12 title next year, how much of a raise/extension should Dan Guerrero receive?

Ryan Rosenblatt: There is no such thing as pay, raises and extensions in Candyland.

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4. Most Cal fans believe that the only shot Cal might have of winning would be if Cal's passing game completely tears UCLA apart. How good is the UCLA secondary, and is there any chance that Jared Goff could keep Cal in the game in a shoot-out?

Ryan Rosenblatt: The UCLA secondary was a serious concern to start the season with Randall Goforth being the only returning player with real experience expected to get serious time, but they have been excellent so far this season. There have been some hiccups, but for the most part, they have played really well.

Goforth has been the leader the Bruins needed him to be, while sophomore Fabian Moreau and Ishmael Adams have flashed elite talent and still shown they can hold their own right now. Tahaan Goodman is a bit of an adventure, as one would expect from a true freshman, but he's improving too. Because they are such an inexperienced group, there is still some concern that it can all fall apart, and maybe it happens this weekend, but there's been no indication so far that it's coming.

5. How successful has the campaign to replace Johnathan Franklin been? Are the Bruins using running back by committee or has someone stepped into the role?

Ryan Rosenblatt: The UCLA running game has been excellent and if it hasn't been a by committee job thus far, it should be from hereon out. Jordon James was sensational to start the season, but he was injured against Utah and Paul Perkins was great in his stead. Toss in Steven Manfro, who I'm not high on, but the coaches are, and Damien Thigpen, who is expected to make his return from ACL surgery this weekend and the Bruins have a nice crop of running backs they can turn to. They're not Franklin, but they get the job done and then some.

6. Is the Football Monopoly of Los Angeles truly over or has it swung to UCLA now? Insert your best USC/Lane Kiffin joke here.

Ryan Rosenblatt:



7. What are the expectations for UCLA this year (or right now)? Pac-12 South is fairly weak still, but is just getting to the Pac-12 Championship game again enough?

Ryan Rosenblatt: The expectation is to win the Pac-12 South and play in another conference title game. They did that a year ago, but they also finished the season with three losses. This year they need to get back there and whether they win or lose there (I would prefer they win), they need to be trending up down the stretch. That had to be the next step.

8. Which (realistic) coaching candidate would you like to see USC hire? Which coaching candidate would you hate to see USC hire?

Ryan Rosenblatt: I think Paul Hackett would make a great hire for USC. Pretty much anyone besides Kevin Sumlin and I'm good.

9. Whom do you want to punch in the face?

Ryan Rosenblatt: Glasses ref. With instructions that he punch every other Pac-12 ref on my behalf.