Better Than the Year Before?
UCLA was a lot more sound up front. Depsite using a lot of new players, Azzinaro and DL coach Vince Oghobasse produced results. They were also able to turn true freshmen Otito Ogbonnia and Atonio Mafi into veterans by season’s end. Having Keisean Lucier-South defend and attack the edges helped in creating a more disruptive presence on the rush which helped to limit those chances for opponents to make plays.
It was the opposite of “bend but don’t break”. It was “attack, attack, attack!” There was strength up front which led to getting into the gaps, being able to send in multiple-man blitzes, and hurry opposing QBs.
For a young defense that was not very deep, they made some notable jumps in their performance this season.
UCLA Defensive Stats Comparison: 2017 to 2018
|3rd Down Att/Comp
|3rd Down %
|4th Down Att/Comp
|4th Down %
UCLA allowed nearly 100 yards less per game. They were one of the worst run defenses in 2016 and 2017. That was not the case in 2018. Though 199.4 yards is a lot to give up, be mindful of the improvements. That is what is important going forward. Now imagine how low that number will be in one year with Azzianro being able to field a healthier, more talented and experienced defense.
But what about the pass defense? That took a step back, in terms of numbers, but as was previously stated, the inability to put forth a reliable and consistent pass rush, put more pressure on the DBs. The UCLA secondary was not only getting tested by offenses, but they were getting tested by the best offenses.
With that being said, the numbers for the pass defense should reduce in 2019. A better pass rush helps to take the load off the pass defense, but they will have to do it without Adarius Pickett, arguably the best defender on the field for UCLA.