UCLA Defensive Coordinator Jeff Ulbrich is one tough football dude. Kind of like the Wu-Tang Clan, Coach Ulbrich ain’t nothing to… well, you know. That is why he is perfect to take over the UCLA defense in the wake of former DC Lou Spanos taking a position as a linebackers coach in the NFL (good luck and godspeed, Spanos). But now Ulbrich has control over the defense, a defense he knows all too well and is very, very good. He also does not like to lose, which is what you want in a coach, even in games that mean no more than a pick-up basketball game…
Starting Out With Mora
This will be the third season Ulbrich calls Westwood home. When Jim Mora was hired to take over the Bruins before the 2012 season, Ulbrich was brought in to handle the linebacker and special teams duties, groups he is familiar with as a professional player and coach. But one of the things that made him stand out is that, just like Mora, he brought energy and fire to his players resulting in some of the best position groups on the UCLA team in the Mora era. According to UCLA’s Official release when Ulbrich was hired, Mora had this to say about him:
“I had the pleasure of coaching Jeff for part of his playing career; he was always one of the most dedicated and hard-nosed players on the field. On the day I met him, he told me he wanted to be a coach, and I am proud to help him accomplish that dream.”
His dream has not only become a reality, but it has become a nightmare for opposing teams to play against.
“Linebackers U” and Special Teams
UCLA has had an embarrassment of riches in the linebacker department. Ulbrich has had the pleasure of coaching and developing several Bruins like Myles Jack and Eric Kendricks but also helped Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt take their talents to the professional level as both were selected in last month’s NFL Draft. To top it off, the Bruins are getting 4-star linebackers Kenny Young, Zach Whitley and 3-star Dwight Williams and Cameron Griffin in the fall. It is no wonder why Penn State fans got all flustered when UCLA declared themselves “Linebacker U”. The Bruins were not lying.
As for special teams, well, maybe UCLA should coin the term “Special Teams U”. Not catchy, but very effective. Last season, Ulbrich was named the 2013 FootballScoop Special Teams Coordinator of the Year as the Bruins had some of the best performances all season. The Bruins were tied for 10th in nation with 4 blocked kicks and tied for 5th with 2 blocked punts among all NCAA teams. In the Pac-12, UCLA was second in kickoff returns with an average of 24.9 yards, 5th in punt returns with 8.9, 2nd in punting with 39.4 and 3rd in kickoff coverage with 42.0 yards. Ulbrich has made Special Teams exciting.
This Is Now HIS Defense
Mora wanted a 3-4 defense at UCLA, which Spanos was more than happy to provide. Ulbrich continues that vision with his promotion to DC because he knows the defense, the plays and the schemes, which leaves very little drop-off, if any, with the Bruin defense. UCLA has been getting a lot of attention on offense in the media this off-season, but it is their defense that needs to be talked about a lot more. They have tons of talent and should have each of their position groups among the top of the Pac-12.
This is what Ulbrich brings and it is scary… mostly because this is his first year in charge and he has not even coached a single game as DC yet. Despite that, he will continue to have this team ready to go and firing on all cylinders as they attempt to plow through a very difficult Pac-12. It will be hard this coming year, but with this level of talent and coaching, the defense will be dangerous group to tangle with.