UCLA Football: The Best Defense In The Pac-12? (Part I)


UCLA football is going on their third defensive coordinator in three years. For most teams, that would be a cause for concern. For the Bruins, things are only going to get better.

More from Go Joe Bruin

When head coach Jim Mora took over the program in 2012, he hired Lou Spanos who turned out to be a good defensive coordinator that had a knack for in-game changes.

Unfortunately after two years, he felt the need to return to the NFL as a linebackers coach.

That prompted Mora to promote then-UCLA linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich to defensive coordinator for 2014. Though he had more than a few beard-grabbing moments of questionable play calling, he did have UCLA ranked 3rd in total defense in the Pac-12. Not bad, but not great.

RELATED: UCLA Football Roster and Projected Depth Chart

Nov 1, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich talks to his players during the second quarter against the Arizona Wildcats at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

(Un)fortunately, Ulbrich also felt the urge to head back to the NFL as a coach.

So what was Mora to do now? The same thing he has done since getting Westwood four years ago… improve.

Mora hired Tom Bradley a few months ago. You might know him as the former Penn State defensive coordinator, the “architect of one of the best defenses in college football“. This was a genius move.

With all the talent Mora has brought in for the Bruin defense, he now has a proven leader to properly develop, scheme and take the defense to the next level.

More from UCLA Bruins Football

So what about the players themselves? What tools does Bradley have to work with? The good news is the cupboard is full. The bad news is that Bradley essentially has to start over. Though with his knowledge and the talent he has on the team, starting over is no problem.

During Spring Practice, Bradley said that he did not want any input on the defensive players as he wanted to make his own assessment of them. The good thing for him is that he has a lot of talent to analyze.

Let us quickly look at some of those components.

Defensive line: Though thin, they have one of the best D-line duos in Eddie Vanderdoes and Kenny Clark. Add to that Takkarist McKinley and that is going to be one fierce line.

Myles Jack and Coach Jim Mora return to Washington this Saturday. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Linebackers: They have a lot of young talent like Kenny Young and Deon Hollins that will shine this year. Oh yeah, and one of the conference’s, nay, the country’s best linebackers, Mr. Myles Jack.

Defensive backs: They are returning all their starters, so “BOOM!” With development and guidance under Bradley, corners Ishmael Adams, Fabian Moreau and safeties Randall Goforth and Jaleel Wadood will terrorize their opponent’s passing game.

With that leadership and that much talent, it is no wonder ESPN believes the defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs as some of the better units in the Pac-12. Though they are not as high on the LB units as some of the other Pac-12 schools, they do recognize their talent. This year, that talent will be amplified.

Yes, the Bruins will miss guys like Eric Kendricks, Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Anthony Jefferson, but the thing about Mora is that he is constantly bringing in good talent and continues to bring out their potential. Having Bradley is just going to make everything that much better.

Nov 8, 2014; Austin, TX, USA; (Editors note: Caption correction) West Virginia Mountaineers senior associate head coach Tom Bradley prior to kickoff against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports