New UCLA Offense Wish List

Jan. 15 -- With a new offensive coordinator, we've put together a wish list for some of what we'd like to see in the new offense...

With Noel Mazzone leaving, and Kennedy Polamalu taking over at offensive coordinator, the offensive scheme is basically in a position where, if UCLA chooses, they can start with a relatively clean slate. Here's our wish list for what we'd like to see from the new-look UCLA offense.

With the offensive scheme pretty much a clean slate, here’s our wish list for what it should include this coming season:

1. A Featured Nate Iese

Is it any secret that championing more playing time for Nate Iese is our favorite past time here on BRO? Iese has been underutilized for his first four years in the program, as he’s a big, strong, athletic guy with great hands who can be a mismatch in the open field. With the change of offensive scheme to potentially more of a pro-style look, we’re hoping that the staff can find some way to put Iese in more of a featured role. He has the physicality and ability to play either the hybrid fullback position he’s been playing or even move into a more traditional tight end role. He improved as a blocker this year, which makes moving to tight end a slightly more believable switch.

Whatever the case, he only has 24 catches in his UCLA career, and that’s just something that needs to change, given his athleticism and the potential mismatch he presents. If he plays tight end and is actually used, it could also pay dividends on the recruiting trail.

2. Third and short solution

If we learned anything from this year, it’s that UCLA desperately needs a solution on short yardage. Too many times this year, the Bruins were unable to get a yard when they absolutely needed a yard, and given that so many teams take converting those downs as basically a sure thing, it’s a worry that UCLA wasn’t able to do the same. We’d love to see UCLA have an actual, varied offense that doesn’t run out of the shotgun 100% of the time, with the team going under center at various points, regardless of down and distance, and running real play action out of it at least a few times per game. That way, on short yardage, the offense won’t be predictable and should be able to convert at a much higher clip.

This could also entail using more tight ends, and potentially even double tight end sets. The big issue with UCLA’s run game that we saw this year is that the Bruins had the mentality that they were a big, powerful rushing attack but often tried to convert short yardage with just five offensive linemen. That’s just not a recipe for success, and if UCLA can add fullbacks and tight ends to the mix on occasion, it should massively improve the short yardage running game.

3. More focus on getting younger, faster talent in the game

This goes especially for receiver. With Noel Mazzone’s scheme, it was critically important for the receivers to block well since so much of the scheme was built on those little screens and swings to the outside where a receiver making a block could spring the play for 10+ yards. While receiver blocking is always important, we’d like to see more of an emphasis on getting playmakers on the field who can do a lot with the ball in their hands going forward. UCLA finally has some speed at receiver in Theo Howard, Stephen Johnson, Darren Andrews, and the like, and it would be a shame to not see them make a big impact on the field next season.

Over the last few years, it seemed oftentimes like plays were called without regard to the personnel in the game. We’d like to see that changed, with an emphasis on getting the ball to specific players in specific situations to take advantage of their respective talents. No more Sotonye Jamabo on short yardage, no more Thomas Duarte on a swing pass. UCLA has a lot of good pieces that just need plays designed for them to take advantage of their specific talents.

4. Less conservatism on fourth down

Alright, we’re sneaking this one in here but we’re not sure how much of this had to do with Mazzone. In any case, UCLA has become one of the more conservative teams on fourth down in the country, going for it very little on fourth down in advantageous situations. Even if you’re not one of those people who thinks that teams should go for it on every fourth down, all mathematical analysis indicates that UCLA goes for it significantly less than is optimal. The general rule of thumb we’d like to see from UCLA is a strong consideration to go for it on any 4th and short after about their own 40, and basically anything shorter than 4th and 6 between the 50 and the opposing team’s 40. That would still not be optimal, but that would probably put UCLA in the upper quartile of the nation in terms of optimizing decisions on 4th down, while still looking pretty rational to traditional observers.

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