UCLA Football: Jalen Starks will be a key contributor against Arizona

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 03: Josh Rosen
PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 03: Josh Rosen /
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The UCLA Football Bruins found a new commitment to the running game against Colorado two weeks ago. They have a stable of capable backs but it’s time to unleash the J-Train.

Weighing in at a “light” 255 pounds, Jalen Starks is one of the biggest RB’s in recent UCLA Football history unless we count Ainuu Taua in his brief stint as a FB. Starks has found himself being used mostly as a short yardage back despite demonstrating a physicality that has made him a feared ball carrier to tackle.

As mentioned before the Bruins have preferred to use Starks in the redzone area where his bulk and tough running have netted him three touchdowns on the year which is tied with Soso Jamabo for leading scorer on the ground. He’s even displayed his ability to make plays outside of the backfield as evidenced by his 50 yard catch along the sideline against Memphis.

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Still as versatile as he has shown to be, he only has 16 rushing attempts this season compared to Jamabo’s 40. They’re different styles of runners but given that Nate Starks was lost for the season and Bolu Olorunfunmi has seen fewer and fewer touches as the season has worn on, it looks like the J-train is finally scheduled to depart the station.

Against Arizona the UCLA Football defense will be forced to defend a run dominant team and given what the Bruins have given up on the ground, this could be a slug fest. Now naturally the Bruins will lean on their stud QB Josh Rosen to slice up the Wildcat defense but establishing a run game will go a long way in forcing Arizona to have a balanced offense in order to keep pace.

Here’s where the J-train should see a major bump in carries. This UCLA Offensive line hasn’t always enjoyed a favorable matchup running the football this season but an undersized Arizona defense presents the perfect opportunity.

The UCLA Football OL averages 55 pounds heavier than the Wildcat DL and Jalen Starks is even bigger than some of the DL including DT Parker Zellers. When you have the size advantage your method of attack should be obvious. When the Bruins ran right at an undersized Memphis front they enjoyed a solid measure of success. Running sideline to sideline to try and outflank the defense hasn’t exactly been a strength of this team.

Add into account having a surgeon as your QB and the Wildcats will have to pick their poison. Bring pressure and leave your corners on islands with the ball in Rosen’s hand or sit back in coverage and force your smaller front seven to win with fundamentals and technique against a larger opponent. Against Colorado the Arizona defense gave up 300 yards on the ground, they did accumulate 413 of their own, but there is an opportunity to make some headway on the ground.

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This UCLA Football team is going to be in for a fight. This game will in all likelihood end up being a shootout. If the Bruins want to win they should look to get Starks much more involved in the offensive gameplan. All aboard the J-train.