UCLA seeks new defensive disguise for next game against Cal
It was clear to all watching UCLA’s defense the last three games that Nate Chandler had moved to defensive tackle, Keenan Graham was starting at defensive end and Owamagbe Odighizuwa was spending more time on the field at the other defensive end.
Defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough’s defensive line shuffle allowed Akeem Ayers to alternate between linebacker and defensive end in a 4-2-5 defense.
Offensive coordinators certainly picked up on it. Washington State held off the Bruins’ pass rush, isolated Ayers for the most part and threw for 311 yards Saturday.
Heading into this week’s game against California, more massaging could be in order.
“They have had two weeks to prepare for us, so they know everything we do now,” Bullough said. “We have a good package and we can move in and out of a four-man [front] and a three look. As we watch film, we’ll see what will work this week.”
Bullough said the pass defense against Washington State was poor because “they made plays and we didn’t,” but the Cougars were also able to exploit areas in the defense.
“We have to keep track of how easy we are to scheme against,” Coach Rick Neuheisel said. “You have to have some counterpunches. You can’t line up the same way. Offensive coordinators get paid too.”
Bullough balances the need to change — or disguise — the Bruins’ look with how much players can handle.
“We got a lot of young guys playing, so you can’t get too complicated or it won’t look pretty,” Bullough said. “We can do more as they understand the concepts. If you make them start thinking too much, you’ll take away their speed.”
Ayers caused major disruptions to the Texas offense. He was less effective against Washington State, partly because of a right shoulder injury he suffered late in the Texas game.
Ayers forced and recovered a fumble and had a sack against the Cougars, but he said his shoulder “definitely wasn’t 100%. There was an uncomfortable feeling.”
Asked if he had suffered a separated shoulder against Texas, Ayers said, “Um,” and then smiled.
Ayers leads the team with 6.5 sacks. Linebacker Patrick Larimore is second with 5.0 and defensive tackle David Carter third with 4.5.
“More people need to make game-changing plays,” Larimore said. “Teams are going to double-team Akeem. But I think we have some young guys who are going to step up.”
Reserve linebacker Steve Sloan sat out practice with an injured right knee. He underwent an MRI on Wednesday and was waiting on the results.… Defensive tackle Wesley Flowers was sick and sat out practice Wednesday.… Freshman running back Jordon James worked with the scout team to simulate the speed of California running back Shane Vereen.… Reserve quarterback Nick Crissman underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.