Scouting Report: UCLA's Quarterback/O-line

During the offseason UCLA lost quarterbacks Patrick Cowan for the season and transfer Ben Olson for six-to-eight weeks with injuries. Total Blue Sports takes a look at their replacement Kevin Craft, as well as the offensive line that will be protecting him this Saturday. Coach Kaufusi, Scott Johnson, Kellen Fowler and Jan Jorgensen bring Cougar fans the scouting report.

In 2006 Kevin Craft was the third-string quarterback at SDSU, but received some playing time due to injuries and started in five games. In fact, his first start was against the Cougars in Provo. He was 20-of-32 for 216 yards and one interception. That season he completed 57 percent of his passes for 737 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions.

Craft was pressed into service for UCLA this season in a similar manner to how he became the Aztecs' starting signal caller. In his first game as the Bruins' starting quarterback, Craft recovered from his four interceptions in the first half to lead the Bruins in a 27-24 victory in overtime against Tennessee. Despite those early interceptions, the Bruins won the game behind the arm of Craft, who completed 25-of-43 passes for 259 yards and one touchdown.

"They have a developing - but a pretty good - quarterback that we've faced [when he played] in San Diego," said Scott Johnson. "He threw pretty well against us, and so I think they have the tools, the experience and the coaching staff to help them develop and move the ball down field."

Washington quarterback Jake Locker provided a logistical nightmare for both the Cougar players and defensive coaches alike, as they had to key in his ability to gobble up tons of yards on the ground. Craft, who ran four times against Tennessee for 10 yards, does not pose the same type of running threat that Locker brought to the field, but he is still mobile. In fact, while a running quarterback isn't a staple of the BYU-type offense that Norm Chow is implementing at UCLA, Johnson said the team still has to worry about Craft's mobility.

"Their quarterback is mobile and athletic," said Johnson. "He can move, but I don't think they design their offense around that, but that doesn't mean that we don't have to prepare for it."

Safety Kellen Fowler talked about the differences between the UCLA offense and the Washington offense.

"There is a different feel against a team like UCLA than there was against Washington," said Fowler. "A lot of emphasis was put on Jake Locker and his ability to run and create. This week we have to keep our eyes looking all around because they have a lot of players that are very solid, and they're going to try and spread the ball around and get the ball into the hands of a lot of different guys."

BYU played a prevent defense against Washington, choosing not to stack the box and apply blitzing pressure to Locker and the Husky offense in similar fashion to what Oregon did. Coach Mendenhall said that an Oregon-style defense is not BYU's identity.

"We're not a defense that has great recovery speed," said Mendenhall. "We're a defense that plays more with leverage and assignment and so on. I believe we sacked Locker four times and I wouldn't anticipate getting Craft any more than that, nor would I see our makeup in terms of calls as being any different."

Against Tennessee, UCLA's passing game yielded 6.0 yards per attempt through the air. UCLA only gained 31 yards on 34 rushing attempts, averaging 0.9 yards per carry. The Bruins netted 288 total yards of offense yards, compared to Tennessee's 366. The reason for the low numbers could be due to the bugs encountered through an implementation of a new offense.

"It's their first year learning a new offense," said BYU defensive end Jan Jorgensen. "It just takes time to get comfortable learning a new offense. You can run it in practice all you want, but when it comes time to do it in a game it becomes completely different. It takes a little while to get comfortable in it. You saw that with Coach Anae and our offense when he first got here. It took almost a whole half of a season for our offense to get comfortable and start executing the way that they needed to. I just think it's a matter of comfort and knowing your job on the field when you start getting different looks from a different team. It just takes time, and how long will it be for UCLA to reach that point, I don't know. It's different for every team."

After Craft's four first-half interceptions, Chow simplified the offense at half time, allowing Craft to have greater success. The dynamics of continuing to implement a new offense on the field during competition is a challenge the Bruins will face at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

"It's a new scheme with a brand new quarterback in Norm Chow's offense, and I'm sure it's pretty extensive," Jorgensen said. "He's a great offensive coordinator, and having a brand new quarterback come in and try to learn that and do what is required has to be tough."

UCLA's Offensive Linemen

The Bruins return two starters from last year's offensive line. At the center position is 6-foot-3-inch, 314-pound senior Micah Reed. Reed earned a scholarship prior to the 2007-08 school year and started at guard in the final eight games of the season last year before being moved to center this year. Lining up across from Reed will be 6-foot-3-inch, 300-pound nose guard Russell Tialavea, his primary responsibility.

The second returning starter is Micah Kia from Mililani, Hawaii. Kia is a 6-foot-5-inch, 297-pound junior that started eight games at left tackle during the 2007 season. Jorgensen faced Kia last year in the Las Vegas Bowl.

"He's really athletic and I'm just looking forward to going against him again," said Jorgensen about Kia. "I had a little success against him in the Las Vegas Bowl and I'm hoping to have a repeat performance this week."

At right tackle for the Bruins is Nick Ekbatani. Ekbatani comes in at 6 feet 5 inches and 294 pounds, and will have the responsibility of blocking Cougar defensive ends Ian Dulan and Brett Denney. In 2007 Ekbatani didn't see any playing time but retained a year of eligibility. In 2006 he saw limited action at the guard position in four games (Utah, Stanford, Arizona and Cal).

Playing right guard is 6-foot-5-inch, 340-pound Sonny Tevaga from Compton, California. Tevaga is a sophomore guard that competed on the scout team during the 2007 season and has earned the starting position. He is LDS and is related to BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae.

At left guard is converted tight end Scott Glicksberg, a senior that comes in at 6 feet 4 inches and 290 pounds. Glicksberg saw action as a blocking tight end last year prior to being sidelined by a shoulder injury.

"Their offensive linemen are solid," said Jorgensen. "They're not quite as big as Washington's. Washington's offensive line was the biggest I've ever seen, but UCLA's offensive line is good and they're pretty athletic. You can tell they are well coached and know what to do.

"I think the only thing that you can compare and contrast between Washington and UCLA's offensive line is just the size," Jorgensen continued. "UCLA is a little more athletic than Washington's offensive line, but other than that they're both solid offensive lines. I don't think [UCLA is] quite as physical and I think that is because of the size. UCLA tries to do more position and zone blocking, but they're a good solid line."

In the audio interview below, BYU defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi gives his thoughts on what his charges will face in the trenches at LaVell Edwards Stadium this Saturday.


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