Changes With Leadership
In regards to the roster, there really are no complaints. Mora and his staff have been doing a bang up job recruiting and developing players. Proof of that was when eight players were selected in the 2016 NFL Draft (and a total of 12 former Bruins picking up NFL contracts).
In essence, the players have been really good (with a few exceptions) and have led UCLA to victory on many occasions. The coaching on the other hand has left much to be desired from time to time, but Mora is addressing that.
Like many, I was concerned with the offense UCLA was displaying under former Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone. Admittedly, I had a very derisive tone towards Mazzone, claiming he “only runs five plays”. Joke as I may, I was not far from the truth.
Though Rosen had a fantastic 2015 season, the plays he was running via Mazzone were getting predictable. Not only were teams like Arizona State and Washington State able to beat the Bruins, but games against teams like Stanford, USC and Nebraska turned into bloodbaths.
With five losses in 2015, the Bruins needed to make changes going forward. Out went Mazzone and up came Kennedy Polamalu in his place.
Polamalu immediately started making tweaks to the offense so UCLA could start playing a more “power” style of football. The hope is that it will prepare the Bruins to handle lesser opponents, but also do battle (and hopefully win) against the unconquerable Stanford and Oregon.
On defense, DC Tom Bradley is addressing his on squad’s issues. He has made the 4-3 formation a permanent fixture as the Bruins try to improve on their horrendous run defense, as well as improve the overall play on that side of the ball.
After losing an incredible amount of players to injury in 2015, Bradley now has a clean slate to work with and even gets back injured starters Eddie Vanderdoes and Fabian Moreau. This is just the start, but it looks to be something that will indeed improve the defense.
For the most part, the UCLA Football team looks a lot more stable heading into 2016. Mora noted during Spring Practice, the Bruins had some of the best chemistry he has seen since his first two years in charge of UCLA Football.
Now if all of this comes together in the fall, the way Mora and Bruin fans hope, UCLA can be a very good and consistent team. If that translates to winning all the games they are suppose to win and possibly beating the teams they cannot, then UCLA will most definitely be an elite team by season’s end.
If they do not and continue to inexplicably lose 2 or 3 head scratchers in 2016, then expect the anti-Mora tirades to amplify next season.