UCLA Football: Stanford a major test for RG Michael Alves


Coming into 2017 there was no bigger question mark than the UCLA Football offensive line. Despite it still being very early in the season this unit has looked much improved including a very impressive red-shirt freshman.

When the UCLA Football program brought on new offensive line coach Hank Fraley I took it as a sign that the Bruins were serious, and they needed to be, about upgrading their offensive line. We’ve talked at length about how QB Josh Rosen is the engine of this offense and the OL failed to protect him in 2016.

Well Rosen is back and playing out of his mind, and sometimes driving coaches out of their skulls. He’s had some questionable throws, ridiculous catches and prayer answering drops by defenders.

He’s gotten a little bit of help from a sneaky run game, strong catches from receivers and much more efficient playcalling. If Rosen is the engine for this offense, the OL has been the fuel. Sometimes they’re premium and sometimes they’re just unleaded but they’ve been better than many believed they would be. They’re doing it all with a guy who many, including myself, questioned as a starter. Boy has he proved us wrong.

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As a true freshman last year offensive guard #55 Michael Alves redshirted and seemed to be somewhat of an afterthought heading into 2017. When he started getting some run with the first team offense I was skeptical. Coming out of high school I figured Alves for more of a man-power scheme and that was something I wanted UCLA Football to get away from. So when he looked like he could start I thought “here we go again”.

Against A&M he demonstrated great play strength which we knew he had but showed off some light feet that came as a surprise to me. He handled stunts up front like a savvy veteran and his hand punch stunned defenders again and again. Hawaii was much of the same and we saw him be more consistent with his technique, his pass protection sets and his nastiness when he would bury defensive linemen on pancake blocks.

Last week against Memphis there were some bumps and bruises but Alves was still one of the stronger players along the line including providing key blocks on runs. His technique continues to improve week to week which is exactly the right trajectory for a game like this.

Stanford as long boasted the stoutest front seven in the PAC-12 and that’s a fact. While their players haven’t always translated their success to the NFL, they’ve dominated at the college level and that’s done through technique and attention to detail. This year they’ve haven’t looked as strong but have the coaching and talent to make life very difficult for an OL in flux.

Someone who could make Alves’ night tough sledding is Stanford DT/NT Harrison Phillips. While not a mountain of a man, Phillips is a grizzly veteran with grown man strength and an off the charts I.Q. He controls the middle of the defensive line for the Cardinal and Alves will see plenty of him all night.

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This is going to be one of the tougher match ups this season for Alves and this UCLA Football OL. Controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides is paramount but if the Bruins want to stay in this game and give themselves a chance they need a major showing from this unit. The whole group needs to play well but I can tell you one guy I’ll be watching closely, Alves.