UCLA Defensive Preview

Arizona may be facing the best overall defense it has seen this season when UCLA comes to town. Read on to see why that is, the key to scoring on it, and more.

UCLA's roster has a nice blend of young and veteran talent and nowhere is that more noticeable than along the defensive line.

Defensive end Cassius Marsh can, at times, look like one of the better players in the conference.

The aggressive disposition he shows on the field can also be a detriment, but he is more than capable of getting after the passer or holding up against the run

Lining up across from Marsh is Notre Dame-transfer Eddie Venaderdoes. Endowed with ideal size for his position, Vanderdoes is a solid player right now, but figures to be an All-Pac-12 caliber player as soon as next season.

Senior tackle Sealii Espenesa's job is to take on blockers and while he doesn't put up great stats, he has a wealth of experience and knowledge of the system.

Waiting in the wings is former five-star defensive tackle freshman Ellis McCarthy.

Although the 330-pound McCarthy has show flashes of athleticism and raw strength this season, he is still working on reshaping his body.

The linebacking corps is led by Anthony Barr. There isn't a better pass rusher in the country and Barr's intense non-stop drive is something the Arizona players will have to be aware of for the entire game.

Jordan Zumwalt lines up at inside linebacker and while he has similar physical dimensions to Barr, Zumwalt's role is to contain the edge and provide sure tackling. He has played well in this capacity.

Outside linebacker Myles Jack might be the most versatile player on the Bruins defense. One of the Bruins leading tacklers, Jack has been pesky against the pass and has provided a number of game changing plays.

Normally lining up next to Jack is Eric Kendricks. Kendricks is among the conference's leading tacklers for a second consecutive year, and is likely to be back from an injury.

The UCLA secondary has experienced some struggles this season, but the talent of the young group is as strong as any unit in the conference.

Despite standing only 5-foot-8, cornerback Ishmael Adams is an instinctive cover man also capable of helping in run support. The other corner, Fabian Moreau, runs well and many times matches up against the opposing team's tallest receiver.

Safeties Anthony Jefferson and Randall Goforth have flashed their exceptional skill levels on a multitude of occasions and seem to have picked it up of late.

Both are capable tacklers and possess solid ball skills, as their nearly identical statistics bear out.

Players to Watch:

#11, OLB Anthony Barr: There isn't much that hasn't been said about Barr. Blessed with tremendous quickness and a non-stop motor, he is and exceptional talent. His pass-rushing skills alone figure to make him a top five pick. Look for Arizona to consistently double team him.

#99, DE Cassius Marsh- The former big-time recruit has had an up and down career, but when his head is on straight he is a difference maker, strong enough to bull rush and quick enough to contain the edge.

#30, LB Myles Jack- Only 17 at the start of the season, Jack's incredible natural instincts have made him a proficient cover man, accumulating more than a dozen combined pass deflections and breakups, while also contributing four tackles for loss. Jack is the most important young defender on the Bruin's roster.

Keys to the Game:

Protect the passer: UCLA specializes in getting after the quarterback and forcing turnovers, making it necessary for Denker to get rid of the ball quickly to the proper read.

Get a push up front: Big, fast and physical, the UCLA defense figures to be one of the tougher tests the Arizona offensive line will face all season. It will be imperative for the Cats to avoid the backfield penetration that occurred at Cal.

Avoid the late turnover: This game has the markings of a back and forth contest. Brett Hundley has made a surprising number of head-scratching turnovers in the past few weeks that the Bruins' opponents have quickly taken advantage of.

During Denker's hot run he has done a great job of moving the offense and avoiding the costly pick. The UCLA game should provide a true measuring stick for just how far Denker has progressed.


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