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 to hit the quick hitches. They will throw to the running backs and use short
passes to the tight end.
Ben Olson (6-4, 227, Jr.) is back under center for the Bruins after missing most of last season due to a knee injury. Olson is averaging 230 yards per game with a 125.86 passer rating. The trouble for Olson in 2007 has been his consistency. He has five interceptions versus seven touchdowns. Olson committed to BYU out of high school, and spent the 2003 and 2004 seasons on a mission. He transferred to UCLA in 2005 and played his first games for the Bruins last season.
Olson missed the Washington game this year, and was replaced by Pat Cowan (6-foot-5, 220- pounds). Cowan was the quarterback for UCLA last year when the Irish and Bruins played. After starting his first game of the season against Washington, Cowen suffered and sprained knee and was relieved by McLeod Bethel-Thompson (6-4, 224, Fr.). Bethel-Thompson finished the game, but didn't attempt a pass.
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 and
to provide some space. 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 5.1 yards per carry and he has five receptions for 24 yards through
Chane Moline (6-foot-1, 238 pounds) is a big back that Notre Dame could see in short yardage situations. Moline has seven carries for 45 yards. He'll also line up at fullback, but he's been slowed by a wrist injury.
Michael Pitre (5-11, 226, Sr.) may get the start, but he's missed most of the season with a knee injury. Pitre received his first snaps of the seaosn last week against Oregon State. Pitre is a throwback. He's big and he likes contact. He can catch the ball, but I doubt he sees the ball much against Notre Dame. He is a three-year starter.
Much of the success of the running game depends on the lead
blocking of the fullback and Pitre is much better than either Theriot or Holmes.
This isn't a unit that will strike fear into a defensive coordinator. They won't spin you around and make fear the deep ball, but they have made a lot of catches over the years for the Bruins. With three seniors, this is the most experienced group Notre Dame will see all year.
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 is a four-year starter. He will work the intermediate routes. He's solid. He is consistent, but he lacks game- breaking ability. Everett did have five catches for 102 yards last year against Notre Dame, including a 54-yard touchdown reception.
Joe Cowan might be the most athletic receiver the Bruins have, and he's the type that could take over a game. He's a big. physical receiver with very good hands.
Terrence Austin (5-11, 162, Fr.) is a player Irish fans will remember from recruiting. He's got the speed to be dangerous, but he needs to be more consistent catching the ball.
UCLA will use a number of tight ends. they won't be shy about using two or three tight end formations. Logan Paulsen is a very capable receiving tight end and he is a very solid blocker.
There is a lot of experience on the offensive line, but like last season they have been very inconsistent. This unit paved the way to 333 yards against Washington and 338 yards against Stanford, but then struggled against Utah (83 yards), BYU (110 yards) and Oregon State (133). Senior guard, Shannon Tevaga has started four years, but he's missed the past couple games with a knee injury. He's the best guy up front. He's strong and smart and he's the leader along the offensive line. If Tevaga can't go it will be Irvin. Needless to say there is a huge drop-off between these two.
Aleksey Lanis started 12 games last season, but Micah Kia (6-6, 303, So.)
passed him this fall. Kia started the first several games, but Lanis looks like
he might have been given his starting spot back. Lanis is a very good prospect, but he's
still 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.
UCLA On Defense:
Second-year defensive coordinator Dewayne Walker was applauded for the unit he built in his first year, but with most of his starters returning from 2006, and even more depth, the results have been mixed to say the least. The rushing defense has been very solid, but this unit has been giving up a ton of passing yards.
The defensive front is talented and there is a lot of depth. The Bruin linebackers are all back and they can get after it. The their top five defensive backs return and they have a ton of experience. This secondary is full of playmakers.
Anticipated Depth Chart.
The Bruin defensive tackles are very solid, but they will likely be without senior Brigham Harwell, but Ward was good enough as a freshman to see playing time in seven games. Despite being a back-up for the first couple games, Ward already has 11 tackles on the season.
Kevin Brown is quick off the ball. This guy has played 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.
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. Davis has 20.5 career sacks and he had 12.5 last season. Because of his athletic ability they will drop him into coverage. Korey Bosworth doesn't have the size you look for in a defensive end, but he makes up for any deficiency with his athleticism. A converted linebacker, Bosworth is just learning his position.
Senior Nikola Dragovic was starting at defensive end until Bosworth took over after a couple games. Dragovic will get some snaps against the Irish as will Tom Blake (6-4, 263, Jr.) and defensive tackle Chase Moline (6-2, 268, Jr.).
All of these guys can tackle and they are all very good in coverage. Aaron Whittington is usually at middle linebacker, but he's missed a couple games due to a concussion. He might not start, but he'll likely play against the Irish.
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. He's been the most disruptive linebacker of the group.
Trey Brown is starting for his fourth 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 with three interceptions and ten passes broken up. He has superior instincts. He does take some risks, but he makes plays.
Rodney Van one of the fastest guys on the team. He's a fantastic athlete, but he needs to make wiser decision. Sometimes he gets lost in coverage, but overall he's very solid.
Chris Horton and Dennis Keyes like to hit and they both are very active (aggressive). They are very good in run support. Keyes leads the team in tackles with 37 and Horton is tied for second with 31 stops. These two can make the big play and they will gamble. Neither 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 (5-11, 178, So.) is the reason why. He has great instincts. He's tied for second on the team in tackles with 31 and he's broken up five passes.
Notre Dame showed some life on offense in the second half of the Purdue game, but they struggled to run the ball against a team that they should have been able to get some push against. UCLA has been up and down this year on defense, but they are a better unit than Purdue, so I expect the Irish to struggle moving the ball. The UCLA secondary has given up some yards, but they should make it difficult for the Notre Dame receivers to get open.
UCLA isn't a dynamic offensive football team, but they won't have to be. The Bruins like to pound the ball and the Irish defense hasn't shown the ability to stop the run. Olson isn't the type of a quarterback that can carry a team, but all he'll be asked to do this weekend is to managed a game.
UCLA 34 - Notre Dame 16
Notre Dame - UCLA Preview
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