At least for the first half of the Memphis game on Saturday the UCLA Football defense will be without two of it’s three starting linebackers. The Bruins do have some talented depth but they are inexperienced and a little rough around the edges. How will they fare?
Linebacker Josh Woods will miss the first half of the Memphis game because of a “targeting” penalty in the second half of the Hawaii game. Despite the PAC-12 issuing a statement of condemnation, Woods will still be suspended.
On the other side of the starting group, Kenny Young took a nasty shot to the head on a block that was not ruled targeting but will likely cost the UCLA Football defense anyway. A series of bad breaks have put the Bruins in a corner defensively and now they have to dip into the depth pool a little deeper than perhaps preferred.
Sophomore LB Krys Barnes saw the most extensive playing time of his young career and was credited with 12 total tackles, seven solo and one tackle for loss against Hawaii. He’s a run and chase linebacker but packs enough thump to attack downhill in run fits. He’s athletic enough for coverage but should the Bruins be in obvious passing situations expect for Barnes to used more as a blitzer than a coverage backer.
The other LB who should see plenty of time this year will be Rs.Fr. Breland Brandt. While he may eventually end up as a DE for this team given his length and ability to get after the passer, Brandt has the hip flexibility and athleticism to play as an off ball linebacker. Again, experience is a major factor here so keeping to the fundamentals will be paramount. If he reads his keys and trusts what he sees Brandt can explode like a rocket.
Linebackers coach Scott White first made a name for himself by helping shape recent and current UCLA Football LB studs Myles Jack, Kenny Young, Aaron Wallace and Jayon Brown. If I was a betting man I’d say he has these young players as ready as we can hope them to be.
This UCLA Football defense is going to rely on both of these players because not only are the Memphis Tigers a strong running offense but their QB Riley Ferguson is a strong passer throwing to a solid WR group although they are dinged up heading into the game. Will the season of young Bruins stepping up continue or will Memphis prove too much?