Fall Preview: McClure Interview

Angus McClure talks about Ellis McCarthy's arrival, what he's looking for in a nose tackle, and which guys he's looking at as potential starters this fall...

Q: How are your guys feeling about camping in San Bernardino?

A: They're excited to kind of focus on the football team for two weeks, they don't have to worry about staying in Westwood, and what to do there. I think some of them are happy that it's finals week this week. They've been working really hard all summer on campus, so it'll be a nice change up for them.

Q: You've worked both at semester places and obviously at a quarter system place. Is there an advantage to having all of fall camp, and the first practices before games start, without any class interruptions?

A: It's really nice. This way, you get to have a real sense of camp and a real focus on football, without any distractions. Semester schools, it can sometimes be no more than a week, week and a half and then boom, you're right in school. The advantage is, though, that they're used to preparing for an opponent during a school week earlier on in the year, where we play three opponents and then all of a sudden school starts. And then the schedule changes a little bit. Each system holds its advantages.

Q: I know your big guy coming in, Ellis McCarthy, is going to be out for the first couple of weeks in August. What was the reasoning behind slotting him in at defensive end, as opposed to nose tackle?

A: In a 3-4 system, our defensive ends aren't going to line up very often against a tight end. They're primarily going to be on the offensive tackles, and then when we go to a nickel package, they'll be on guards. Our philosophy at nose guard is that we don't want them to be really tall. You kind of want them, I mean, look at the guys we have there right now, kind of in the 6'0, 6'2 range. For a nose guard, that's kind of what we're looking for.

Q: And is that something that's unique to the UCLA system, or is it pretty prevalent across most 3-4 fronts?

A: It's pretty prevalent. You don't see a ton of really tall nose guards. Every once in a while, some freak will show up and do it, and hey, hopefully Ellis turns into that sort of freak. I think, especially bringing a freshman in and putting him at nose guard, there's a lot of things that can happen at nose guard. Especially someone who is now coming off of a knee and everything. He's going to be a little bit better off at defensive end.

Q: I know Brandon Willis took most of the first string reps at nose guard in the spring. Are you expecting him to pick up where he left off, taking the first string reps this fall?

A: Yeah, he should be battling, if not in that no. 1 slot. Donovan Carter, Seali'i Epenesa, and Brandon Tuliaupupu really came on at the end of camp, though, so there's going to be some competition there, no question. I plan on using a lot of guys, just given the depth that we have, and just to keep guys fresh. We have a lot of depth. We have a lot of younger guys too, so guys who can gain experience too. It's realy nice to have this kind of depth. It'll be nice to be able to rotate guys in constantly, because it help in keeping guys energized.

Q: For most of the spring it looked like Cassius Marsh, Datone Jones, and Willis were taking the majority of the first string reps. Is that how you plan on starting out the fall?

A: I definitely consider Owamagbe Odighizuwa in that group also. You know, I have probably three different groups going, and I rotate guys in with certain groups. And Owa certainly had a great spring, and he's competing for one of those starting spots, so I consider him part of that first group. We'll also have Donovan Carter rotating a lot with Brandon at nose. DC also has the ability to play defensive end, which he did in the spring at various points. So he has a lot of versatility. I mean, the guy has played pretty much every position on defense. He came in as a linebacker. So he's done a lot of stuff. He's a quick learner, and he plays with a lot of effort.

Q: I know before spring you talked about Owa, saying that he had all the tools and it was now a matter of him putting it together to hit the next level. How impressed were you with his spring?

A: He's become a student of the game. He has done a nice job with studying. He's done a nice job of learning about what the offense does, learning protections, learning blocking schemes. So he's done a nice job with that. And he works extremely hard. Coach Alosi has told me how well he's worked this summer, and so it's great to hear that he's continued on that path.

Q: How have the workout reports been? Have you heard mostly good stuff?

A: I've heard great things. The guys look like they're in great shape. They look a little bit leaner, which is exactly what we want to do on defense for our running ability. They've worked really hard.

Q: I remember going into spring that for you, this was your first time coaching defense since some high school coaching a while back. How do you think you did with the transition?

A: It went really well. I really really enjoy working with the defensive staff. Coach Spanos and Coach Ulbrich and Coach Martin and Coach Mora. It was really good. We installed everything we wanted to install. And I think I brought a little perspective into the defensive meeting room. And I think they like to hear from me with a lot of things pertaining to the offense. But I really like the scheme that we are running because it causes a lot of problems for offenses. I mean, I've experienced those. So I know the strengths and the weaknesses of the defense on both sides of the ball. So it's been a lot of fun. I've had a lot of fun doing it.

Q: When are you hoping to have a finalized depth chart in place, or at least an idea of who's starting? Is that something you're hoping for by the time you pack up camp in San Bernardino?

A: When we arrive back in Westwood, I would think we will have a great idea of who our starters are, how we'll rotate, and which guys have which roles. Again, this defense is so multiple that we can run a lot of different looks, which makes it easier to rotate different guys and different personnel groups in. We really have certain groups, so there will be guys who might start in the nickel package and a different set of guys who'll start in the base package. So, that's what we plan on using: a lot of guys, especially on the defensive line.

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