UCLA On Offense:
UCLA runs a form of the West Coast offense, but it certainly isn't a pass-happy system most people expect from a PAC-10 team. Head coach Karl Dorrell worked in the Denver Bronco system under Mike Shanahan, so the Bruins attempt to establish the run, and then they look for openings in the defensive backfield.
The Bruins look for balance, although they'd probably prefer to rush for 300 yards. When they throw the ball, they stretch the field horizontally by peppering the underneath zones with a lot of short passes. They like the quick hitches. They will throw to the running backs and use short passes to the tight end. They really won't throw deep often.
In 2005, running back Maurice Drew and quarterback Drew Olson showed how potent this offense could be, as the Bruins averaged over 430 yards and 39 points per contest. The challenge for the Bruins this season is not only did they need to replace the productivity of those two players, but UCLA is working with it's third offensive coordinator in Dorrell's fourth season.
At quarterback, UCLA had simply traded Ben Olson for Drew Olson. Ben had some early success this season, but then suffered a season-ending knee injury in the fifth game of the year against Arizona. Red-shirt sophomore Pat Cowan came on in relief and played vrey well considering he had never attempted a pass in his career. Against the Wildcats he managed just fine, as he completed 20-of-29 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns. UCLA beat Arizona 27-7.
Last weekend Cowan had a much more difficult assignment in his first start. The Bruins traveled to Autzen Stadium to take on an ornery Oregon unit that was dominated by Cal the week before. The Bruin quarterback completed just 16 passes in 31 attempts for 112 yards in the 30-20 loss. UCLA's offense was held to 216 total yards.
Anticipated Depth Chart
Pat Cowan (6-foot-5, 218 pounds) had his first career
start on the road against Oregon. He's a very good athlete and very mobile.
Cowan did push Olson in spring and fall camp for the starting spot. He lacks
experience and he's lacks polish as a quarterback. He does not have a big arm,
so in an offense that doesn't stretch the field vertically anyway, this isn't a
huge issue. He can throw on the run and he is accurate. The Bruins will roll him
out to either side. Notre Dame needs to be careful, because he will tuck the
ball when pressured. He generally makes good decisions, but with his
inexperience, he is prone to making mistakes.
Chris Markey isn't flashy, but he'll move the chains. He isn't
big, but he is a tough runner that gets most of his yards between the tackles.
He won't make many guys miss, and he needs the offensive line to play well. He has very good vision and he finds his holes... he's
patient. UCLA will use him in the passing game. They will run some screens. Markey
is averaging 5.9 yards per carry and he has 13 receptions for 90 yards in 2006.
Chane Moline (6-foot-1, 238 pounds) is a true freshman that Notre Dame could see in short yardage situations. Moline has nine carries for 20 yards and two touchdowns.
Michael Pitre won't see the ball often, but that isn't why he's
in the game. Pitre is a throwback. He's big and he likes contact. Much of the
success of the running game depends on his lead blocking. He can catch the ball, but I doubt he sees the ball
much against Notre Dame. He is a three-year starter.
The wide receiving corps suffered a big blow when Joe Cowan was lost at the beginning of the year. Last season Cowan was second on the team in receptions behind all-world tight end Marcedes Lewis. Right now this unit is struggling to make plays. There really isn't a top guy that stands out, or one that overly concerns a defensive coordinator. As a unit they average less than 10 yards per reception.
Brandon Breazell (12.4 yards per catch) is probably the most
dynamic playmaker among the receivers. He has big-play potential. He's explosive
and he has excellent hands. He is consistent, but he isn't going to make the
great catch. He's also very light so he has difficulty getting off the line.
Marcus Everett will work the intermediate routes. He's solid. He is consistent, but he lacks game- breaking ability. He's productive, but only gets 9.5 yards per reception.
Junior Taylor is a fifth-year guy that is coming off knee
surgery. Not as explosive, or as fast as he had been. He's
probably the teams most consistent receiver.
Taylor averages 9.3
Matt Willis is a track guy who is in his second year of football. He's still raw, but the quarterbacks are finding him. He obviously has speed, but he's still learning. He averages 7.4 yards per reception.
Terrence Austin (5-11, 162, Fr.) is a player Irish fans will remember from recruiting. He is returning punts, but he hasn't caught a pass thus far.
UCLA will use a number of tight ends. They won't be shy about using two or three tight end formations. The Bruins lost their best pass-catching tight end last weekend when Ryan Moya went down, but Logan Paulsen can do some damage as he's averaging 14.5 yards per reception, which leads the team. He is a very solid blocker.
The other tight end could be J.J. Hair, William Snead, or
Adam Heater. These guys are blockers, and probably won't see the ball.
There have been times that this unit has looked very good, and there have been times where they have struggled. Much like Notre Dame's line, they have struggled pushing people around. If you take out the rushing totals from the Rice game, UCLA is averaging 117 yards per game on 3.6 yards per attempt. Former Irish offensive coordinator, Jim Colletto was brought in to work with the offensive line this season. Depth and talent have been an issue here.
Aleksey Lanis is a very good prospect, but he is young. He has good
footwork and he's athletic. He can dominate, but because of his youth, he's
Noah Sutherland is probably the next top guy next to Tevaga. He likes to mix it up. He's plenty strong. He's a converted defensive lineman. His pass blocking is very solid, and he is an above average run blocker.
Key match-ups: Notre Dame's interior defensive linemen, Derek Landri and Trevor Laws against the interior offensive lineman of UCLA. UCLA will want to run the ball against the Irish and both Markey and Bell do their best work inside.
UCLA On Defense:
First-year defensive coordinator Dewayne Walker came from the Washington Redskins and he brought an attacking style defense with him. Last season the Bruin defense was one of the worst in college football. With basically the same players, Walker has turned the defense into one of the best units in the country.
Last week the Bruin defense got it's first real test of the season against Oregon, and they struggled early by allowing 20 first-half Oregon points. During half-time Walker made some adjustments and the defense did a solid job for the remainder of the game against a fairly dangerous offense.
The key for this unit is the quality depth they bring along the front line. The defensive tackles are disrupting on the interior and the ends are making life very difficult on offensive tackles..
The Bruin linebackers don't have a ton of experience, but they can get after it. The secondary has experience and it has playmakers.
Anticipated Depth Chart.
The Bruin defensive tackles are very solid, and they have a number of guys that they can rotate in without having a great deal of drop-off. The strength of the interior guys has allowed Hickman and Davis to get after the quarterback.
Justin Hickman is having a terrific year for the Bruins. Every other tackle he makes goes for a loss. His numbers are even more impressive considering he is doing it from the right side of the defensive line.
Kevin Brown is quick off the ball. This guy has played on both sides of the ball for the Bruins. He's technically sound. He'll get in the backfield and chase plays down from the backside. He won't have a bunch of sacks, but he will pressure the quarterback from the inside.
Brigham Harwell will also get off the ball quickly and disrupt in the backfield.
Bruce Davis is the most athletic player along the defensive front. Davis is a converted linebacker. He's very quick off the edge and he's got long arms. Because of his athletic ability, they will drop him into coverage.
Notre Dame will also see defensive tackles Kenneth Lombard, (6-1, 261, So.) and Nikola Dragovic (6-3, 256, Jr.)
All of these guys can tackle and they are all very good in coverage. There isn't much depth behind the top three, but there isn't much need to take these guys out.
Aaron Whittington is smallish for a SAM backer, but he's a player. He's very good in coverage, but he does have trouble in traffic because he has trouble taking on blockers. He struggled with injuries last season.
Christian Taylor transferred from Air Force. He's not the athlete that the other linebackers are, but he makes plays. He has superior instincts and he's the leader of the defense.
Reggie Carter is a little raw, but he's a great athlete with a huge upside. He can come on the blitz and bring pressure. He's very good in coverage and a sure tackler.
Trey Brown is starting for his third consecutive year. Brown is the best corner and he's a big-play guy. Despite his size he has no trouble supporting the run. He's small, so teams like to test him, but for the most part he's been up for the challenge. He has superior instincts. He does take some risks, but he makes plays.
Rodney Van is one of the fastest guys on the team. He's a fantastic athlete, but he needs to make wiser decision. Sometimes gets lost in coverage. He was the nickel corner last season so he has experience.
Chris Horton and Dennis Keyes like to hit and they both are very active (aggressive). They are very good in run support big play and will gamble. Neither is safety has great speed, so they try to keep things in front of them, although sometimes their aggressiveness can hurt them.
UCLA plays a lot of nickel, and Alterraun Verner (5-10, 170, Fr.) is the reason why. He has great instincts. He has two interceptions and he returned both for touchdowns
Key mach-up: Notre Dame's offensive tackles, Sam Young and Ryan Harris against the UCLA defensive ends. I don't think ND will be able to run consistently, so they will need to throw the ball. Young and Harris must give Quinn time to find his receivers.
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