UCLA football playing a new chess game

UCLA football playing a new chess game
UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, center, takes part in a drill during a training camp practice at Cal State San Bernadino on Aug. 2. (Christina House / For The Times)

The world of college football has changed.

Nothing shows that more that the way UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich plans to approach this season. His linebackers are chess pieces.


Sure, Myles Jack and Eric Kendricks will rarely leave the field. But the rest of the crew will, for now, be interchangeable.

"We're going to rotate more than we have in the past," Ulbrich said. "You look around at some defenses that are paired [against] tempo offenses, I think it's necessary that you start to rotate guys. Those teams are healthier towards the end of the season, and they are fresher."

The Bruins appear to have a group of solid linebackers, Kenny Young, Kenny Orjioke, Deon Hollins, Aaron Wallace and Isaako Savaiinaea, among others.

That philosophy is not limited to the linebacker corps. Defensive back coach Demetrice Martin can mix and match his secondary as well. Safety Anthony Jefferson has seen time at cornerback this past week.

The Bruins return all four starting defensive backs, cornerbacks Fabien Moreau and Ishmael Adams and safeties Jefferson and Randall Goforth. But Coach Jim Mora said that the team is "nine deep" in the secondary.

Martin agrees that the need to rotate defensive backs to face the squirrel derby spread offenses around the Pac-12 is paramount.

"You need that kind of depth in this conference," Martin said.

The Bruins allowed 23.2 points per game last season. Ulbrich took over from Lou Spanos as coordinator this season and expects to have a much more snippy defense this season.

"It feels different," said Ulbrich, who was UCLA's linebacker coach the last two seasons. "There is a different vibe, a different attitude. They got a little spiciness to them. There is that feeling [in practice] that there is always going to be a fight on every single play. They're on edge. I think it's a good thing."

Bruins in top 10

Yet another indicator that a lot is expected of UCLA this season:

The Associated Press has the Bruins seventh in its preseason poll. It's the highest AP preseason ranking for UCLA since 1998.

Back home

UCLA returns to Westwood Monday to resume workouts for the Aug. 30 opener at Virginia. Practices are closed to the public.


Follow Chris Foster on Twitter @cfosterlatimes