Scouting Report: UCLA's Secondary

BYU quarterback Max Hall just racked up 288 passing yards against one of the toughest secondaries in the Pac-10. So, how will the Cougars of BYU do against the Bruins of UCLA? Total Blue Sports caught up with a few of the Cougar receivers and a Cougar coach to find out.

Throughout the season the Cougar offense won't face another cornerback tandem the likes of Antoine Cason and Wilrey Fontenot, but that doesn't mean that there aren't any challenges that lie ahead. The Bruins of UCLA may not have as talented of cornerbacks, but they do have 6-foot senior Rodney Van, who has come a long way in his own personal development on the football field.

"He's maturing, and that's the one thing I like," UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said in an interview with UCLA beat writer Brian Dohn. "When he gets beat, he's not down on himself. He's trying to find out what he did wrong. I really think he's maturing."

Van's fortitude will be tested this weekend by a Cougar offense brimming with confidence. The Cougars have beaten two consecutive Pac-10 teams by a margin of 58-15.

"I'm not going to say these UCLA cornerbacks are the best corners in the nation, but they are good," Collie said. "They're not as good as the Arizona corners. We've seen the best, and we did what we had to do against the best and won.

"We plan on coming out and looking for the open routes and catching the ball. I really think things are going to open up on the outside, especially with our backfield."

"UCLA have some great athletes and we can't discredit what they've done on the field," said Dennis Pitta. "However, Antoine Cason is rated [as] one of the best defensive backs in the nation, so you're not going to face much better than that. But I'll tell you what, the UCLA athletes are going to be fired up and they're good athletes. We just have to go out and play our game."

BYU wide receiver coach Patrick Higgins feels the Bruin cornerbacks will create a challenge for the Cougar receivers.

"They're very similar [to Arizona's corners] and they do a good job and they're well-coached," said Coach Higgins. "I expect a tough battle."

With the Cougars having racked up over 100 yards rushing against the seven-man front of Arizona, the cat is now out of the bag in regards to BYU's running backs. This could, however, create an offensive advantage for the Cougars on the outside.

"We had to go to the go-to guy this last game against Arizona, which was Harvey [Unga], because [Arizona] weren't playing that," said Collie. "I don't think [UCLA is] going to allow that this game, which I think will open things up on the outside, and we're going to take advantage of that."

"We're going to go out and take what they give us defensively," Pitta said. "If they're going to try and stop the run, we're going to beat them through the air. If they try to stop to passing game, we're going to beat them with the run. We're just going to come out and play our game. We're obviously excited to play this game, having already played one of the best secondaries in the nation. We want to see what we can do, so yeah, we're confident."

UCLA runs a similar front-seven philosophy to what BYU faced on the field with Arizona. The Bruins run a 4-3 up front, but run various secondary cover schemes.

"Their secondary is very senior-laden," said Coach Higgins. "They are very versed in what they need to do and they're going to play a combination of coverages, a lot more than what we saw last week. They'll play a variety of stuff. They'll play some zone blitz, they'll play a cover-one, a cover-two, they'll play a Tampa-two, they'll play two-man, they'll play quarter, quarter-quarter-half, and so they have a bunch of stuff that they're going to play.

"We just have to prepare and look at their tendencies instead of certain things. We have to prepare ourselves for a lot more stuff, and they're very good. They gave up around 20 points a game last year and they're good. They're very comparable to Arizona."

"They play a lot of cover-two, but it's a different cover-two," said Collie. "It's a match type of thing where they try to double up on one of our guys. That's what we are seeing a lot and we're definitely going to try and harp on the fact they try and double up on one guy while leaving one guy one-on-one. If you're that guy with the one-on-one you have to win, and that's exactly what we're planning on doing."

According to Pitta, UCLA's safties cover tight ends downfield more than the outside linebackers do.

"They have tremendous safeties," said Pitta. "They have fast, athletic guys that can cover well. They do play a lot of man coverage, but they also like to double-team the receivers and backs. You know, it's going to be tough and we have our work cut out for us. We just have to come out and play our game.

"We're obviously going to come out and make some adjustments to what they'll do. We've got our plays that we run and we're going to just go out and execute. In UCLA's defense they like to cover us more with a nickel-type safety-slash-linebacker type formation. We definitely have to watch out for them and the linebacker."

While facing the Stanford offense, the Bruins allowed the Cardinal receivers to put up some good stats. Richard Sherman had four catches for 100 yards, Evan Moore had six catches for 87 yards, and tight end Jim Dray had four catches for 72 yards. Meanwhile, Collie and Michael Reed each had four receptions for 41 yards against one of the best secondaries in the country last weekend.

Total Blue Sports caught up with wide receiver Michael Reed to get his thoughts on the up-and-coming game with the UCLA Bruins.


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