Olson/Defense Look Better

UCLA held its annual fall scrimmage at Drake Stadium on campus Saturday and, while you can't always take too much from it, the defense looks like a different animal than it was a season ago. Quarterback Ben Olson probably had the starting position before the scrimmage and solidified it...

Easily the biggest crowd in recent years for a fall scrimmage, estimated at 6,000, came out to Drake Stadium Saturday to get their first glimpse of the 2006 UCLA Bruins.

Jeff Davis (aka smilingjeffrey) will have a more detailed review of Saturday's Scrimmage later.

Here's a quick overview:

Sitting out on offense was a huge portion of UCLA's receiving group – Junior Taylor, Joe Cowan, Gavin Ketchum, Marcus Everett and tight ends Ryan Moya and J.J. Hair. It appeared that Brandon Breazell saw limited snaps, probably still nursing a hip flexor.

Also sitting: OL Chris Johnson. Strongside guard Shannon Tevaga had limited snaps, for an unknown reason.

Sitting out on defense:

DT Kevin Brown, in a walking boot, and safety Robert Kibble.

Defensive tackle Brigham Harwell saw limited action.

Among the two quarterbacks contending for the starting job, Ben Olson had a better day. He was 14 of 23 for 156 yards and two touchdowns, while throwing one interception. He looked fairly poised, threw pretty accurately, but also at times tried to force some throws through coverage. He stepped up in the pocket, avoided a rusher and threw a ball with nice touch down the sideline for a 28-yard touchdown to Andrew Baumgartner. He also threw a five-yard TD to Ryan Graves, who pushed his way into the endzone.

Cowan went 10 of 25 for 92 yards and three touchdowns. His TDs were a nice ball on a 20-yarder to Matt Willis; a 19-yarder to freshman Terrence Austin and a 20-yarder over the top to freshman Dominique Johnson.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Osaar Rasshan had a couple of flashy moments, and threw for 26 yards on four for six.

Remember, though, there's a significant difference when the offense is going up against the third- or fourth-string defense.

The OL had a questionable day. They allowed a good number of sacks on linebacker blitzes, which the quarterbacks later said were surprises. They also didn't provide good running room. It was in the BRO fall camp preview where we cited a concern about the OL, and the fact that it could be one of the biggest factors in UCLA's success this year. In this scrimmage, that, again, became a major concern.

The running game wasn't great, with the run defense definitely getting the best of them. Chris Markey wasn't effective, running 9 times for 10 yards, and looking like he struggled between the tackles. While back-up Kahlil Bell might not be able to bust too many for you, he does get those tough yards, and he looked better than Markey, running for 53 yards on 8 carries. Third-stringer Derrick Williams gained some tough yards, finishing with 22 yards on six carries. 5-10 freshman Jeremy McGee showed his quicks and speed, taking one up the middle and side-stepping a few tacklers for a 38-yard touchdown. He had 45 yards on 4 carries. Freshman Chane Moline, once he got started, plowed for strong yardage, scoring on a 9-yard run and finishing with 16 yards on four carries. We aren't certain but we believe freshman Christian Ramirez had three carries for 15 yards, getting twelve on one carry.

Matt Willis looked like the go-to receiver, as he has to a degree in practice lately (especially with so many WRs having been out). He had 8 catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. Breazell had five catches for 40 yards. Jamil Turner had 4 catches for 55 yards. Freshman Terrence Austin had one drop, but also a few very nice catches. On one, catching it in the flat, he juked a tackler and gained another 15 yards up the sideline. There were probably five dropped balls on the day.

The offense doesn't look drastically different under new Offensive Coordinator Jim Svoboda. There were more 3-step drops and quick-hitters to the flats. The shot gun was used a handful of times, to varying degrees of success. But Olson looks comfortable throwing out of it, enabling him to see the field quicker.

Austin also bobbled one punt and dropped another, auditioning as a punt returner.

Austin and McGee were the first duo of kick-off returners.

Defense:

The unit had a definitely different aura to them than last year. This isn't to say that they're going to be one of the best in the country, but merely that the unit looks like it's going in the opposite direction than last year's defense.

Players are generally in better position, hitting and wrapping up better.

There was a lot of mix and matching on the DL. As stated above, Brown sat out and Harwell saw limited action. Chane Moline and Kenneth Lombard spent most of the time with the 1s. Jess Ward and freshmen Darius Savage and Jerzy Siewierski worked with the 2s and 3s.

At DE, Nikola Dragovic and Justin Hickman probably got the most time with the 1s, but Bruce Davis, William Snead and Chinonso Anyanwu saw time. Snead recorded one sack, and Davis had a near sack and looked very active.

The biggest curiosity coming into the season is whether the defense will be able to limit the run, and it did it pretty effectively Saturday. Early on in the scrimmage the D was very effective against the run, and then it loosened up some, with the personnel being mixed and players tiring.

Junior cornerback Rodney Van.
The back seven generally looked good – probably being the two units that made the most plays and made the least amount of mistakes. With John Hale working mostly with the 2s at stronside linebacker because he'll have to sit out the Utah game, Aaron Whittington plugged that position with the ones, and looked good, getting a sack on a blitz. Christian Taylor, the starting middle linebacker, also recorded a sack. Eric McNeal, at the weakside spot, looked fast and aggressive, on one play throwing Kahlil Bell to the ground after catching him on a stretch run to the outside. Kyle Bosworth, the second-string middle linebacker had a sack.

The DBs had a good day generally. With UCLA playing more man coverage, it puts more pressure on the cornerbacks, but Rodney Van looked well prepared. He was definitely one of the defensive standouts, making a couple of nice tackles and providing great coverage. Cornerback Michael Norris had a pick, being in the right place when Olson tried to force a throw.

Safety Dennis Keyes had a few nice tackles, one that plugged a hole on a running play for no gain. Back-up safety Bret Lockett had a couple of nice hits.

As the scrimmage wore on, the receivers started to find a little more space, especially against the second- and third-string D.

But overall it was an encouraging showing for the defense. They looked better coached, are in position more often, are fundamentally sounder, hitting and wrapping up better, and hustling. On one play a receiver caught the ball and was trying to get across the goal line when a horde of defenders pushed him back and one ripped the ball from the receiver's hands. The D also looked a little sneakier, with a hint of some new blitzes from new Defensive Coordinator DeWayne Walker.

Bruin Football Scrimmage Stats

Scoring:

Ben Olson 28-yard pass to Andrew Baumgartner
Jeremy McGee 38-yard run
Pat Cowan 20-yard pass to Matt Willis
Ben Olson 5-yard pass to Ryan Graves
Pat Cowan 19-yard pass to Terrence Austin
Chane Moline 9-yard run
Pat Cowan 20-yard pass to Dominique Johnson
Kai Forbath 34-yard field goal
Justin Medlock 53-yard field goal

PASSING:

Olson --14-23, 156, 2TD, 1 Int; Cowan -- 10-25, 92, 3 TD; Rasshan -- 4-6

RUSHING:

Bell -- 8/53/0; McGee -- 4/45/1; Williams -- 6/22/0; Moline -- 4/16/1; Ramirez 3/15; Markey 9/10

RECEIVING:

Willis -- 8/72/1; Breazell -- 5/40/0; Turner -- 4/55/0; Johnson -- 2/26/1; Austin 2/45/1; Baumgartner -- 2/32/1; Graves -- 2/13/1

SACKS:

William Snead
Kyle Bosworth
John Hale
Aaron Whittington
Christian Taylor

INTERCEPTION:

Michael Norris


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