UCLA Defensive Preview

Statistically, the Bruins have the worst defense Arizona has faced all year. What do the Wildcats need to do to have success? Who do they need to look out for? Read on to find out.

Statistically speaking, UCLA would qualify as the worst defense Arizona has faced in Pac-12 play this season, as the Bruins' defense ranked 10th in scoring defense and 10th in total defense, surrendering 413.3 yards and 32.3 points per game to its opponents.

The struggles for the Bruins defensively are not entirely surprising, as the unit returns only three full-time starters from last year's team. However, the defense does have 12 players that made at least three starts in 2010 for the Bruins. Making things even more difficult for UCLA on defense are injuries to six key players, which has forced less experienced players to make an impact they may not otherwise be ready to make.

Junior defensive end Datone Jones has started all six of UCLA's games this season, and the 6-foot-5, 275-pound pass rusher has yet to make much of an impact. He has 10 tackles, two for loss, including one sack.

Damien Holmes has been a bit more effective at his right end position, racking up 14 tackles, including 2.5 for loss. The 6-foot-3, 270-pound junior has also thrown in a sack in six starts this year.

While he may be one of the youngest starters for UCLA, sophomore Cassius Marsh has been a productive player up in the trenches. The 6-foot-3, 289-pound defensive tackle has started all six of the team's games this season and had put up 15 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and a sack. Despite his inexperience, Marsh has the quickness and size to be a major disruptor for Arizona in the middle of the UCLA defense.

Senior defensive tackle Justin Edison missed last week's game against Washington State due to a concussion, but in five games earlier this season he had recorded just five tackles.

Although he has started just one game, 6-foot-2, 295-pound junior Donovan Carter has been the leading tackler for the Bruins up front, as the defensive tackle has put up 18 tackles in the team's six game this year.

UCLA's most talented defender is linebacker Sean Westgate, an Honorable Mention All-Pac-10 selection as a junior. The 5-foot-11, 225-pound senior ranks fifth on the Bruin defense with 25 tackles, and currently leads the team with two interceptions.

A converted defensive back, Westgate has the quickness to play out to the sideline and in coverage and has added the strength to play tough against inside runs, making him one of the more versatile linebackers in the conference.

The team's leading tackler is middle linebacker Patrick Larimore, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound junior. Larimore has started all six of the team's games and has racked up 44 tackles, good for seventh in the Pac-12. Larimore is obviously a big body in the middle and is as sure of a tackler as they come and has been a good player for the Bruins this season.

Glenn Love was projected as the team's starting strong side linebacker, but he has battled hamstring issues all season long. This has given a pair of upper classmen a chance to prove their worth, and so far they have proven to be productive players.

Eric Kendricks, a 6-foot-1, 228-pound redshirt-freshman, is ranked third on the team with 34 tackles despite not starting on game this season, and he's also chipped in two tackles for loss and a sack. Jordan Zumwalt, a 6-foot-4, 236-pound sophomore who made four starts as a freshman, comes in right behind Kendricks with 32 tackles of his own.

While the front seven has struggled mightily against the run, allowing its opponents to rush for 181.5 yards in the Pac-12, second most only to Arizona in the conference, the secondary for UCLA has been pretty good. The Bruins rank third in the Pac-12 in pass defense, allowing 231.8 yards per game to its opponents.

The star of the group is cornerback Aaron Hester, whose 36 tackles are second best on the team. The 6-foot-1, 206-pound junior has recorded six pass breakups this season and while he's yet to record an interception, he's proved his worth as one of the top cornerbacks in the Pac-12.

Senior cornerback Sheldon Price had recorded 17 tackles and an interception before he went down two weeks ago with an injury. He's been replaced by Andrew Abbott, a 5-foot-9, 178-pound cornerback, who made five starts as a sophomore. He has recorded 13 tackles and one of the team's four interceptions this season.

The free safety position has been an injury hot spot for UCLA this season, as both senior Tony Dye (neck) and redshirt-sophomore Alex Mascarenas (concussion) have gone down with injuries.

Redshirt-freshman Tevin McDonald has stepped into the fold and has responded nicely, as the 6-foot, 195-pound safety has recorded 20 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss while starting three of the team's six games.

The final starter for UCLA is 6-foot-1, 205-pound sophomore Deitrich Riley, who in his first year as the starting strong safety has recorded 23 tackles and three pass breakups while starting four of the team's six games.

Keys to the game:

1. Play within yourself: Arizona is certain to play this game with a lot of emotion following the firing of Mike Stoops, and the offense can ill afford mental mistakes or cheap penalties and errors that arise from trying to do too much to win the game.

2. Running game: The weakness of the UCLA defense is definitely in its ability to stop the run, and in order to avoid becoming one dimensional, Arizona will need to run the ball effectively to loosen up a touch Bruin pass defense.

3. Protection: UCLA only has four sacks on the season, meaning that there is potential for the offensive line to give Nick Foles plenty of time to throw. Foles will need that time to throw and time to let his receivers get open against a pass defense that ranks in the top half of the Pac-12.

4. Turnovers: The Bruins have struggled putting points on the board consistently this season, and Arizona would really hurt its chances at victory by giving UCLA a short field or allowing the defense or special teams to score. Arizona has to rely on its defense to get the job done, and giving UCLA extra chances would certainly hurt its chances of doing that.

5. Score on the first possession: If Arizona wins the coin toss, it should receive the ball and look to come out firing from the first snap. For a fan base that is hanging on to hope by a thread, and for a team that has experienced a bevy of emotions in the past two weeks, a score on the first drive would certainly life the spirits of everyone and bring about a sense of normalcy to a difficult situation. A quick seven points would take the minds of the fan base and the players and put the focus back on winning a football game.

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