Go Joe Bruin continues the “Spring Practice Preview” series with a look at one of the deepest, talented and most experienced position groups the UCLA football team has had since Jim Mora began construction of the powerful secondary that has terrorized the Pac-12 in the last few seasons.
One of the things that former UCLA football coach Jim Mora can hang his hat as head of the Bruins was how good his secondary was. Since he took over in 2012, Mora focused on securing the defensive backfield, first with recruiting, then with coaching.
Though there is criticism about development in the Mora era, the former HC and his DB coach Demetrice Martin consistently had his DBs playing at a high level. (Un)Fortunately, only the players remain. Mora was let go. Martin is gone. It is a whole new ball game with the UCLA secondary in 2018.
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Since Chip Kelly has taken over the Bruins, there have been several coaching changes. Kelly brought in Jerry Azzinaro to run the defense, then they brought in former head coach and DB coach Paul Rhoads to handle the secondary.
In 2016 at Arkansas, where Rhoads handled the DBs, the Razorbacks were 5th in the nation in touchdowns allowed. They took a step back a bit in 2017, but for the most part, Rhoads led an aggressive secondary, which is why he should fit perfectly in with Azzinaro.
Word on the street is that UCLA is going to run a 3-4 defense, with the use of a DE/OLB EDGE rusher. There is also another hybrid position Azzianro looks to incorporate, though it is something Bruins fans have seen before, the nickel defense.
With UCLA in a 3-4, Rhoads could use one off those LB spots, especially with the Bruins a bit thin in the middle. If UCLA is going to be dedicated to stopping the run, it will be important to have that nickel be assigned to a runner or a receiver, depending on what opponents try to throw at the Bruins. But ultimately, UCLA should work in a basic four-player defensive backfield setup with two corners and two safeties. Let us see what they have on their plate right now.