UCLA Wide Receivers
UCLA has a group of wide receivers that is more experienced at the Division I level than what the Cougars faced at Husky Stadium last Saturday. Some of those faces these Cougars have seen before.
"They do have some familiar faces that have been around and have some playing time," said Cougar cornerback Scott Johnson of the Bruins.
The Cougars have scouted out UCLA's performance against what was then the 18th ranked Tennessee football team, a performance that resulted in a Bruin upset. The Cougars were not only watching what the individual players could do, but also what they did consistently.
"It's been not as tough to see what they do well as it has been to see what they do consistently," said Johnson. "They've only played one game this season. They obviously played against a great Tennessee defense and in the second half were able to move the ball over time, where they pulled it out in overtime.
"They're always going to have those guys that they can just plug in that are really athletic. They're bigger guys and their receivers run well and run good routes. I know two of their main guys that they had last year graduated. They aren't inexperienced."
Last year, 5-foot-10-inch, 170-pound junior receiver Terrence Austin appeared in 13 games, fielding punt returns and averaging 10 yards on 31 attempts. Against BYU last year in the Las Vegas Bowl, Austin averaged 10.8 yards on five punt returns but did not make a single reception against the Cougar defense.
Next up is 6-foot-3-inch, 207-pound sophomore Dominique Johnson. During the 2007 season Johnson played in all 13 games, starting in three of those. He finished the season ranked third on the team with 25 receptions for 322 yards and tied for the team lead with four touchdown receptions. Johnson saw limited action against the Cougars last season.
Other Bruins that could see time are junior Gavin Ketchum, who appeared in four games and caught five passes last year before suffering a season-ending injury, and senior Ryan Graves, who saw action in 10 games. Graves caught three passes for 20 yards last season.
The Bruins also have 6-foot-3-inch, 234-pound junior tight end Ryan Moya. Moya did not play during the 2007 season due to personal reasons.
"Those are some of the guys that we've looked at," Johnson said. "They do a little bit of everything. They've got some big guys at tight end and some tall guys at receiver and some quicker, smaller guys as well."
With a variety of tall and short receivers making up the Bruin receiving corps, UCLA possess the abilities to both be physical and play a finesse style of football.
"Well, that's why they're scary, because they're a little of both," said Johnson with a smile. "They can run it downfield on you and they can also be the finesse team that can do quick slants and timing routes that can get a lot of yards."
With former Cougar offensive coordinator and current first-year Bruin offensive coordinator Norm Chow on staff, one can guess the Bruin offense will bear striking similarities to BYU's offense. Well, at least a little. During the second half of the Tennessee game, Chow simplified the Bruin offense for quarterback Kevin Craft, whom the Cougars faced when he played for SDSU in 2006.
"I wouldn't say that it's more BYU at this point, but they do like to pound the ball," Johnson said of the UCLA offense. "It's difficult to compare at this point, but they do like to get the quick passing game going, and at the same time they have the ability and the playmakers to get things going downfield."
BYU safety Kellen Fowler agrees with Johnson's assessment of the similarities between the BYU and UCLA offense. Fowler speaks about the Bruins in the audio interview below.
BYU's secondary has some experience playing against a few of the returning players that will line up on UCLA's side of the ball. BYU fans can expect the Cougar defensive backfield to utilize a scheme and line up and play the Bruin receivers in a similar manner to how it played the Huskies.
"I think that's our program," said Johnson. "It's about lining up and executing. We will focus on our job and only our job, and it's designed for us to be successful. I think one of the biggest things we learned about ourselves from the Washington game was better execution. Most of their big plays and all of the things that they got when we had them down with third-and-20 and fourth-and-10 was a mistake on our part that led to a big play. I think we've learned from those things and we're working to correct those things to be successful."
"Despite what you saw, they improved over the game before," said Coach Mendenhall of the defensive backs. "I still think it's going to take some time but, again, I like the way in which they're being coached. The guys back there are the right guys. Experience is still a part of what they're going to have to gain, and I think we're still on track and we're still winning football games. But I wish I could tell you there won't be a few more guys behind us in the next couple of weeks, but I think that will be case until we catch up and they play more games.
"We're basically just leveraging and learning. Every game they play is a great experience for them, and so as they learn through getting beat and getting guys behind them I think it advances them for the next game."
The next Total Blue Sports scouting report will focus on UCLA's quarterback and offensive line, so stay tuned Cougar fans.