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2017 Fierce 40 Previews: #34 UCLA

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 11, 2017

#34 UCLA Bruins

2016 Recap:
A very un-Bruinlike 4-8 campaign left the Bruins searching for answers at the end of the season. There will a complete overhaul of the offense as UCLA is not used to losing seasons of this magnitude. Even in "off" years UCLA is still very competitive in the PAC-12.


Coaching:
Jim Mora is entering his 6th year at the school and he has experienced the highs and the lows of coaching in this visible position. Just a season ago it looked like UCLA was at the top of it's game while rival USC was having all sorts of issues. One year later it looks like the tables have turned.


Offense

What you saw in 2016 will not be on the field in 2017, at least from a tactical standpoint. A complete overhaul of the Bruin offense has taken place and it starts with the inability to run the football. In 2016 the Bruins 127th nationally running the ball with 83.7 YPG as the early declaration of Paul Perkins for the NFL really stung the Bruins. With quarterback Josh Rosen not having any reliable or consistent threats running the ball opposing teams just sat back and loaded up on coverage. Rosen admittedly regressed a bit himself but he is certainly better than the 59.0 completion percentage and 10 touchdowns he put up. The saving grace for the offense this year could be an offensive line which looks like is will finally be on track with four returning starters and four seniors. Scott Quessenberry moves from guard to center and he will be a highly valued NFL prospect if the transition is as smooth as projected. Quessenberry has played the position before but not as his primary spot. Soso Jamabo and Nathan Starks will run behind the line while the receivers will bring back a pair of starters.
 

Best Draft Prospects: Josh Rosen QB 1st Round 2018 (Early Declaration Candidate)

                                       Scott Quessenberry OG/C 2nd Round 2018.


Defense

The defense came along nicely last season. The biggest problems for UCLA was the inability of the offense to control the clock, thereby weakening the defense as they became winded in the second half of many games. The other challenge was winning the turnover battle, something UCLA failed to do on a consistent basis. UCLA finished 9th in the Pac-12 in turnover ratio, a category where finishing in the top 5 seemed routine. Kenny Young and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner are both seniors that can get after the quarterback while remianing stable and active against the run. The front line and secondary have a few prospects but it's the depth of the Bruins that should be key as they look to be a team lower on individual talent but more depth and flexability at positions makes the defense look improved. Safety Jaleel Wadood is the best athlete on defense and if he stays healthy he will be moving up many draft boards.

Best Draft Prospects: Boss Tagaloa DT 3rd/4th Round 2020.               

                                       Jaleel Wadood S  4th Round 2018.


Special Teams:

UCLA is usually very sound in the special teams game but as with nearly everything in 2016, the program suffered a setback in this area. UCLA has long had field goal kickers who were drafted into the NFL or fringe prospects but JJ Molson struggled as  a freshman going just 12-20. Austin Kent should be the new punter while the return men are up in the air. It could be a committee aproach as once again, UCLA faltered with penalties and turnovers.


Schedule:

UCLA usually plays a tough non-conference schedule and things get off to a roaring start with Texas A&M at home on September 3rd. Conference play opens on the road at Stanford so if UCLA wants to send a message they can do it very early in the year as Stanford has a history of sputtering out of the gate. Washington, Utah and rival USC are all road games so 2017 will not be a cakewalk for the Bruins.


Draft and Overall Outlook:

Josh Rosen is the key as he could be the first quarterback off the board if he declares and Sam Darnold decides to stay in school for more experience. Most of the draftable talent seems to be underclassmen so UCLA will not hear there name called as often in April. The outlook is wide open with 6-6 to 8-4 most likely.

DJ Boyer