The first year of the Chip Kelly era with UCLA football also brought about the first year of the Jerry Azzinao era with the defense. Despite a lackluster season, the defense was actually better than you think and could set them up to be one of the best in 2019.
There was going to be aggression. There was going to be violence. There was going to be a defensive revolution. The UCLA football team was going to blow people’s minds… and they just might in 2019.
A year ago, UCLA fired Jim Mora and hired Chip Kelly. Kelly then started assembling his staff and with the offensive mastermind shaping his side of the ball, he went to a former colleague to shape the defensive side. Kelly needed someone that would compliment his uptempo offense. He needed someone that would give the Bruins’ defense a boost.
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He needed someone that understood all that would go into rebuilding a program from the ground up. That man is Jerry Azzinaro, a former assistant to Kelly and a coach that helped to transform Cal’s inept defense the year prior.
In 2017, Azzinaro was Cal’s defensive line coach. He helped that defense become more aggressive and a lot more savage and the results spoke for themselves. In 2016, the Golden Bears had the worst rush defense in the Pac-12, giving up 272.8 yards per game. Azzinaro’s contribution helped Cal lower that number to 164.1 yards, 6th in the conference in 2017.
This is the type of mentality the Bruins needed. Under Mora and former defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, UCLA relied on a conservative style. “Bend but don’t break.” It was a style that relied on giving up a lesser number of yards to prevent larger amounts. Defenders were basically expected to have a “wait and see” approach. It did not work. UCLA was 11th in scoring defense and last in both total and rushing defense last season.
This needed to be changed and in a hurry.