Rosen carries Bruins on his shoulders
Arizona football takes on UCLA at home during Family Weekend
A ring of Arizona defense ends UCLA tight end Nate Iese's (11) run during Arizona's 45-24 loss to UCLA at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, Calif. on Oct. 1, 2016.
Jim Mora entered the 2017 season as a coach on the hot seat, and little has changed. His UCLA Bruins have been one of the most inconsistent outfits in the nation. The Bruins possess an explosive offense led by one of the finest quarterbacks in the country. Unfortunately for Mora, his defense is one of the worst in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Josh Rosen has been an athletic standout throughout his life. The junior signal caller was a tennis prodigy as a child and then developed into a highly touted high school passer. Rosen has rebounded strongly from an injury-filled sophomore season, tossing 17 touchdown passes in five games. NFL general managers salivate at the thought of drafting Rosen in next year’s draft, and for good reason.
Rosen can make every throw required; he has superior arm talent. An underrated part of his game is his athleticism. While Rosen isn’t a dual threat, he can extend plays with his feet and avoid the rush. Look for Arizona defensive coordinator Marcel Yates to overwhelm Rosen with exotic blitz packages. Rosen, when harassed, will force throws, as evidenced by his two-interception performance against Memphis.
Darren Andrews is Rosen’s favorite target, the senior is averaging 13.8 yards per catch. Andrews has scored seven touchdowns this season, with three coming in the Bruins victory over the University of Hawaii. The 5-foot-11 pass-catcher is a speedster that is elusive in space. Physical corners have found success against Andrews, a player that struggles to break free when pressed at the line of scrimmage.
Wildcat cornerbacks Dane Cruikshank and Jace Whittaker will have to be active, Andrews can’t have a free release. Andrews isn’t the only Bruin receiver that can do damage; Caleb Wilson and Jordan Lasley are also capable of wreaking havoc. Wilson is averaging 12.9 yards per catch, and Lasley has scored three touchdowns.
Bruin offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch has abandoned the run; leading rusher Soso Jamabo averages eight carries per contest. Jamabo is a tall runner that has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career in Westwood. The junior has breakaway speed but lacks physicality between the tackles. Bolu Olorunfunmi shares carries with Jamabo; he is unafraid to run inside.
Both tailbacks run behind an offensive line that lacks physical maulers. Center Scott Quessenberry was a First Team All Pac-12 selection last year; he leads the unit. Quessenberry is a prototypical center, athletic enough to climb to the second level and with the strength needed to battle with defensive tackles and nose guards. Arizona’s interior defensive linemen will have their hands full.
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley has seen it all. He served in the same role at Penn State for 12 seasons before coming to the West Coast. This is by far the worst defense he has coached. The Bruins are one of the least effective units in the nation. UCLA ranks No. 124 in total defense, No. 128 in rushing defense and No. 119 in scoring defense.
The Bruins lack talented depth and are one of the worst tackling groups in the Pac-12. Khalil Tate and the Arizona offense should have a field day against the Bruins, as they’ve struggled to stop the run and lack the athletes needed to deal with an uptempo attack. Up front, UCLA has few difference-makers, with Jacob Tuioti-Mariner the most experienced Bruin. Tuioti-Mariner has recorded three tackles for loss, along with a team high 2.5 sacks.
The second level isn’t much better. They’ve struggled to fill holes and have been exposed in the passing game. Kenny Young was a Second Team All Pac-12 pick last season; he has made 27 tackles this year. Young is joined by Josh Woods and Krys Barnes. Barnes is a young player that has fought his way into the starting lineup. Woods was a bit player his first two years and is now a major contributor.
The secondary was supposed to be a strength, but that hasn’t been the case. Teams have shredded the Bruins through the air. While some of that can be attributed to a defensive line that struggles to pressure opposing quarterbacks, most of the blame lies with the secondary. Cornerbacks Nathan Meadors and Darnay Holmes haven’t been able to hold their own on the perimeter.
Holmes was a highly touted recruit in the spring, but his transition hasn’t been smooth. Safety Jaleel Wadood leads the team in tackles with 30. His position mate, Adarius Pickett, is second on the team in that category, a troubling sign. With the secondary in shambles, the Wildcats should look to pass early and often, especially on non-traditional passing downs.
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