The UCLA Football offense has looked suspect against certain types of defenses, luckily, I am here to tell you how the Bruins can to improve… from the comfort of my couch.
I have looked at the replay of the UCLA-ASU game a few too many times. I started to go a bit loopy. All I sask was the same thing. The Bruins flat out got dominated.
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UCLA Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone recently said (via Jack Wang of InsideSocal), “I was not nearly as aggressive as I should be at this point.” True. Go Joe Bruin writer Nathan E. Had pointed out exactly what it is that Mazzone has to do (or really, not do), so that UCLA can get their well-oiled machine churning again.
We have already seen the young and electric Josh Rosen in action and has wowed us with some spectacular throws, so we know he can get the ball to his target. Now Mazzone has to dial up some things that opponents have not seen before and be aggressive. Let it fly with Rosen, but within reason.
And that reason is to get enough defenders off the ball so that the Bruins can properly set-up and attack by their main weapon, RB Paul Perkins.
So let us start with where all the initial contact is made and look to see what can be done on the offensive line.
Thicken Up The Line
Sep 25, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; UCLA Bruins offensive linesman Jake Brendel (54) prepares to snap the ball as he lines up against the Arizona State Sun Devils defense during the first half at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
First, to get an understanding of what the O-line did wrong, check out the article Upon Further Review, UCLA Offensive Line Comes Up Short by GJB writer Jake Merrifield. As a former offensive lineman, Merrifield gives us a meticulous look at what went wrong last Saturday and what needs to improve going forward.
The Bruins missed a lot of blocks and allowed too many Sun Devils into the back field, very similar to what we saw happen against BYU. Now this leads me to believe that UCLA Football might have a tendency to under play the blitzing teams. To counter this, the Bruins need to get an extra man involved with the line.
…this leads me to believe that UCLA Football might have a tendency to under play the blitzing teams. To counter this, the Bruins need to get an extra man involved with the line.
It is unfortunate Chris Clark could not fulfill his commitment to the Bruins because they could seriously use a traditional tight end right now. Having an extra man on the edge would help protect from outside blitzes which will also help push players toward the middle to counter the inside attacks.
Now with Clark gone, Duarte is the only reliable option, but he has proven to be a better receiver than blocker. For that, why not bring in Colby Cyburt who transitioned over to TE in the summer from O-line. He will not help the receiving game but he can add some thickness to the line.
Or the Bruins can really go big and once again look toward their defense for O-line support. Though we are without two players that had helped in the power formation, Eddie Vanderdoes and Myles Jack, the Bruins have plenty of layers that can mask an offensive scheme, at the least.
My only concern here is that injuries have taken a toll on the defenseman, so this should only be used sparingly or with players that might not see much time on the field. The biggest example, DL Najee Toran who converted from the O-line.
Get Those Gimmick Plays Going
During fall camp I noticed a few things the Bruins were running that were a little out of the ordinary. They were not exactly trick plays, but plays that we had not seen the Bruins run before. Both the wildcat and the jet sweep were noticed a few times in the practice and seemed to do well as a offensive option.
We did see the wildcat occur this season, but not so much for the jet sweep (as far as I remember). Now I am not looking specifically for these schemes, but plays that are not part of Mazzone’s conservative playbook that appears to have at most 5 plays in heavy rotation.
Going back to the Alamo Bowl last season, the Bruins were the most innovative I have ever seen. Their formations were a little off and their execution was different which lead to a confused K-State defense that resulted in a 31-6 halftime lead. Unfortunately the Bruins went away from their innovation and allowed Kansas State to mount a comeback.
Mazzone needs to be first half Alamo Bowl OC, not the second half OC.
He needs to come up with many things that will keep the Bruin’s next opponent, Stanford, on their heels, because if they expect to run their normal offense, they will get stuffed over and over by a good Cardinal defense.
For further reading on the affects of Mazzone’s conservative play calling, check out Noel Mazzone Will Be The Death Of Me by GJB writer Nathan E.
Be Quick, But Don’t Hurry
The blitzing is making every one’s life hell. What UCLA has to do is find a way to be faster than the blitz.
Now the goal is to give Perkins room to run. If opponents stack the box, we could see a lot of the same from the ASU game.
Mazzone has to let Rosen work his magic in the short game with some slants and crosses. For now, hold off on the screens and passes out to the flat. That works for a team that can be over powered line Virginia and UNLV, but that will not work with Stanford.
Now I am not saying completely go away from the standard Bruin offense, but tweak some formations and plays and keep Stanford guessing.
Right now, the offense is not broken, but it does need an injection of adrenaline. Hopefully, Mora has this team ready by next Thursday for their biggest test of the season. Fun fact: UCLA has not lost under Mora coming out of a bye week.