If you missed our look at UCLA’s offense yesterday, you can get to it here. Today, it’s a look at the defense and special teams:
– Total defense: 392.8 ypg (56th nationally)
– Rushing defense: 171.7 ypg (73rd nationally)
– Passing defense: 222.1 ypg (44th nationally)
– Team passing efficiency defense: 125.66 (61st nationally)
– Scoring defense: 24.1 ppg (t-39th nationally)
– Third down conversions defense: 36.5% (43rd nationally)
– Red zone defense: 82.2% (51st nationally)
– Net punting: 38.94 avg. (22nd nationally)
– Kickoff returns: 25.73 avg. (5th nationally)
– Punt returns: 9.83 avg. (43rd nationally)
Five to watch
1. LB Anthony Barr, Sr.: One of the best players in college football, he was a finalist for the Butkus Award (top linebacker) and is up for the Bednarik (national player of the year), and Lombardi (top down lineman or linebacker). He won the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which goes to the outstanding defensive player both on and off the field. And rightfully so. The outside linebacker has 62 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks this year. He’ll be a handful for Virginia Tech’s offensive tackles in UCLA’s 3-4 scheme.
2. OLB Myles Jack, Fr.: He’s probably made a bigger impact on defense than offense this season. The outside linebacker has 70 tackles, the third-most of any freshman in the conference. He added five tackles for a loss, an interception, a blocked kick and 10 pass breakups. Then he moonlighted on offense at running back, earning Pac-12 Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year honors. He was also a second-team All-Pac-12 pick, the Bruins’ only other defensive selection to go with first-teamer Barr.
3. ILB Eric Kendricks, Sr.: The inside linebacker is the team’s leading tackler, with 106 tackles this year. He had four tackles for a loss, two sacks and a pick. He had 41 tackles in the Bruins’ final four games after sitting out against Colorado with a shoulder injury. He had 150 tackles last season, and his 332 tackles are tied for eighth on UCLA’s all-time list.
4. DE Cassius Marsh, Sr.: The veteran d-lineman has started 37 games, tops on the defense. He has a career-best 57 tackles this year, along with 10.5 tackles for a loss and six sacks. He had four sacks and 5.5 tackles for a loss in UCLA’s final three games against Washington, Arizona State and USC.
Others of note
– ILB Jordan Zumalt, Sr.: UCLA is certainly not lacking for linebackers. Zumalt, the other inside linebacker, had 83 tackles and 5.5 tackles for a loss.
– CB Ishmael Adams, So.: The cornerback had 57 tackles and a team-high four picks, but he’s also a special teams standout. He had one punt return and it went 49 yards. He has a 39.4-yard average on eight kickoff returns.
– DL Ellis McCarthy, So.: One of the starting defensive ends, he made 27 tackles, four tackles for a loss and two sacks.
– DL Eddie Vanderdoes, Fr.: The one-time five-star recruit and Notre Dame signee is a backup, but he still had 38 tackles and 4.5 tackles for a loss, one of eight Bruins defenders to earn All-Pac-12 honorable mention.
– S Randall Goforth, So.: The second-leading tackler in the secondary had 70 stops to go with three interceptions.
– S Anthony Jefferson, Jr.: Not to be out-done, Jefferson led the defensive backs with 82 tackles.
– CB Fabian Moreau, So.: No picks, but this was the corner who earned an honorable mention from the league. He had 47 tackles.
– LB Ryan Hofmeister, Jr.: A team captain who plays on just about every special teams unit. Earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors for his efforts.
My gosh, the linebackers. UCLA has a ton of them in its 3-4 defense and they all seem to make plays. Barr could be a top-five draft pick, so he’s the most talented of the group, but the others aren’t slouches. It could be as talented a linebacking group as the Hokies face this year. The secondary faced almost a complete turnover this year, but the young group has held its own. Only one team put up really big passing numbers against the Bruins this year (Washington, 331 yards, 3 TDs). In all but one other game, the Bruins held opponents to 230 passing yards or less. That’s been helped by a pass rush that’s generating 2.42 sacks per game (37th nationally).
On special teams, the Bruins can get after kicks. They have 12 blocked kicks in Jim Mora‘s two years, although only four of those have come this year. Adams is a threat to take any kick/punt the distance. He had nine touches on special teams the last two weeks and had 364 yards in returns.
Surprisingly, given all the talent in the front seven, the Bruins’ run defense hasn’t been that strong. UCLA is giving up 171.7 yards per game on the ground. Oregon gashed this defense for 325 yards and five touchdowns (in fairness, the Ducks do that to a lot of teams). But the Bruins also gave up 192 rushing yards to Stanford, 239 to Arizona and 223 to Arizona State. They’ve allowed 18 rushing touchdowns this year and only 16 passing. Despite those stats, UCLA is still just giving up 3.96 yards per carry (46th nationally).
Best defensive showing
In a season-closing 35-14 win against crosstown rival USC, the Bruins held the Trojans to 314 total yards. They finished with a season-high six sacks and forced two turnovers on fumbles. UCLA mostly held USC receiver Marqise Lee in check (6 catches, 69 yards, 0 TD) and gave up its second-fewest points in Pac-12 play against a team that had won five straight. And the Bruins did it on the road, no less.
Worst defensive showing
Plenty of teams give up a lot of yards to Oregon, but the Ducks rolled up 555 yards in a 42-14 win in Eugene in October. That included 325 yards (with a 6.1-yard average) and five touchdowns on the ground. Oregon also threw for 230 yards as it out-scored UCLA 28-0 in the second half to pull away in what was a 14-14 tie at the midway point.