With Arizona opening Pac-12 play against UCLA on Saturday, Wildact Authority caught up with David Woods of BruinReportOnline.com. Here's what he had to say:
WildcatAuthority: Coming off of a rough performance, Josh Rosen will be playing in first true hostile road environment. How do you expect the true freshman to handle that experience, while also dealing with Arizona's 3-3-5 defense?
David Woods: Rosen is a confident kid, so I think he'll shake off the interceptions pretty quickly. The big thing for him is learning from what were pretty freshman-like mistakes. Two of his interceptions came on similar plays, where he rolled right and tried to throw across his body downfield, which is just a no-no at this level of football.
I think he'll handle the road environment aspects well -- he's not the type of kid to get rattled by crowd noise and that sort of thing. The bigger question is how he'll deal with a tricky 3-3-5 that can sometimes not give a clear indication of who's dropping into coverage and who's rushing the passer.
He had trouble reading that against BYU last week, and I'd bet that all future defensive coordinators are going to use that game plan. I expect UCLA to lean on the run game, especially early, to force Arizona to commit more players to the box and open up some opportunities for Rosen in the passing game.
WA: UCLA lost one of it's best defenders when Eddie Vanderdoes went down for the season with a knee injury. Who has stepped up behind him and how has the defensive line had to adjust in his absence?
DW: UCLA has now lost arguably the top player at every level of the defense in DT Eddie Vanderdoes, LB Myles Jack, and CB Fabian Moreau. It remains to be seen how they'll replace the latter two, but with Vanderdoes, a combination of junior defensive tackle Eli Ankou and sophomore defensive end/tackle Matt Dickerson have done a nice job so far.
Vanderdoes brought so much to the table as a run-stopper, so it's hard to simply replace him. Ankou is a run-stopper as well, though not quite the force that Vanderdoes was. Dickerson is a little more intriguing since he's a pretty good interior pass-rusher. It'll be interesting to see if his role expands as the year goes on.
WA: The Bruins' defense has a few new faces, but is also under the direction of a new defensive coordinator. How has the the defense changed from last season under Tom Bradley?
DW: Tom Bradley has definitely brought a little more 4-3 to the defense. Deon Hollins rarely if ever does anything without his hand in the dirt, so he's essentially a defensive end, even though he's still termed an outside linebacker. There's also a little more nuance to the pressure than there was last year. Bradley doesn't blitz a ton, but when he does, he brings pressure from different places, with inside linebackers sometimes lining up on the edge, or a safety crashing in from deep in the secondary. So far, the early results have been very positive.
WA: UCLA is one of the schools in the Pac-12 conference that starts classes a few weeks into the football season. With the players heading to class for the first time this week, is there a concern that concentration and focus may be lacking at times?
DW: UCLA didn't start school until Thursday of this week, so there shouldn't be too much of a lapse in focus entering this game. That sort of thing becomes more of an issue next week prior to the Arizona State game, when freshmen, especially, will be getting their first full week of college classes, which can be overwhelming.
WA: With Ishmael Adams suspended for a time, special teams took a huge hit. How has that unit had to adjust and has the lack of his talent been noticeable through the last few games?
DW: Devin Fuller has taken over for Ishmael Adams as the main return guy the last couple of games, and he's been pretty good. In the last game, he had a great punt return to set up a UCLA touchdown in the third quarter that was critical to the Bruins regaining some momentum.
He's not quite as explosive as Adams, though, who's a threat to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball. The good news for UCLA is that Adams has been reinstated this week, but it's still a question whether he's in game shape, so it's uncertain if he'll even move back to punt and kick returner yet.