With UCLA’s defensive numbers trending up toward the end of last season, we can only hope that it does not continue into 2019. Logic suggests that things will be different next season, but that is not a guarantee.
UCLA’s problems should alleviate this season, which will ultimately give Azzinaro more weapons to work with. First off, the Bruins are getting a few players back from injury, including linebackers Josh Woods and Je’Vari Anderson. On top of that, the Bruins will have some depth among the linebackers, although they are going to have to go hard at several recruits as five LBs will be graduating after the season.
Secondly, the first year (freshmen and transfer) defensemen that played last season have experience and now know what is expected of them. For example, we should see a lot more activity up front as defensive line will have a much more fervid approach, especially with sophomores Atonio Mafi and Otito Ogbonnia in the game. And then when they are matched with upperclassmen like Osa Odighizuwa, it gives the team a good balance.
And that leads to the third point; the Bruins need a pass rush as the D-line can only do so much. Currently, the defense does not have a legitimate/go-to rusher off the edge. UCLA lost both Jaelan Phillips and Mique Juarez, which thins out the depth, but it opens the door for Odua Isibor, Elijah Wade and Keisean Lucier-South to be the primary weapons this fall.
Improving this aspect of the game is going to give the Bruins a boost as it will limit the passes that are thrown against them and will back up the opposition in the process, helping UCLA to obtain good field position.
Yes, the numbers from last season look bad, but that should change. The Spring Game should be an indication of that as the defense limited the offense to just three points.
The D did not look otherworldly, but they looked a lot more comfortable and confident, especially those that played heavy minutes last season. With that being said, the defense should be a lot more stout next season as they limit points and yards.