UCLA Football Preview: Can the Bruins Stop the Golden Bears Offense?
UC Berkeley's offense returns a lot of starters, but there may be one weakness UCLA can exploit.
The UC Berkeley Golden Bears will be playing their first game of the season tomorrow after having their scheduled season opener against Washington canceled last weekend.
This year, the Golden Bears may have a new look on offense. That’s because head coach Justin Wilcox lost offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin who was hired as the new head coach at Cal Poly.
Enter Bill Musgrave.
The former Oregon Duck QB comes to the Bears with 21 years of coaching experience, 19 of which were in the NFL, where he has predominantly served as either quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator or both. In fact, he was Chip Kelly’s QB coach in Philadelphia in 2014 before leaving to become the Raiders’ OC.
So, look for Musgrave to improve the Bears offense compared to last season.
Let’s look at the position groups.
Last year saw Chase Garbers win the starting job over former Bruin Devon Modster. Both players are back for this season and the UC Berkeley Depth Chart lists Garber as the starter ahead of Modster again.
Given the weak performance by UCLA’s front seven last week against Colorado, Musgrave may opt to give the more mobile Modster either the start or significant playing time.
Realistically, Garbers should get most, if not all, of the playing time tomorrow morning.
Junior Christopher Brown, Jr. will continue to be the Bears’ featured back this season. As a sophomore last season, Brown was less than 100 yards short of a 1,000-yard season. Brown’s backup from last season, redshirt senior Marcel Dancy, returns as well, but Dancy only had one-fourth of the carries and one-fourth of the yardage that Brown had last season. So, even with short notice, the Bruins should expect to see Brown get most of the carries.
In fact, last year, Brown had 18 carries for 111 yards with two touchdowns against the Bruins, while Dancy only carried once for four yards.
Garbers will have plenty of experienced receivers to throw the ball to. That’s because the Golden Bears return five of their top six receivers from 2019. Nikko Remigio led UC Berkeley last season with 38 catches for 513 yards and three touchdown receptions. Makai Polk and Kekoa Crawford also return. Polk and Crawford managed to combine for almost as many catches as Remigio while amassing more yardage and four touchdowns.
Junior tight end Jake Tonges actually led the team in average yards per catch last season with 20.15. Senior wide receiver Trevon Clark rounds out the Bears’ receiving corps.
The Golden Bears have a new offensive line coach this season who is familiar to Bruin fans. After two seasons at Nevada, former UCLA assistant Angus McClure has taken over coaching the Golden Bears offensive line following the retirement of Steve Greatwood.
The dean of the UC Berkeley offensive line is right tackle Jake Curhan. Curhan has started all 38 games the Bears have played since he arrived on campus. Next to Curhan is sophomore guard McKade Mettauer, but don’t assume that Mettauer is inexperienced because he’s an underclassman. Mettauer played in all 13 games last season and started the last 12 at right guard. Given the experience on this side of the ball, look for UC Berkeley to try to run Brown to the right quite a bit.
Senior center Mike Saffell will anchor the line for the Bears. Saffell started 11 of 13 games last season and he’s started 19 of the 24 games he’s played in at Berkeley. Last year, he successfully transitioned from guard to center and all of his 11 starts last season were at center.
Next to Saffell the Bears have another experienced offensive lineman in redshirt senior Valentino Daltoso. He has started 33 of the 34 games he’s played in for the Golden Bears.
Overall, UC Berkeley has a very experienced offensive line, but there may be one weak spot which UCLA can attack. Redshirt Sophomore Will Craig has only started one game at left tackle. In fact, the 2019 season opener against UC Davis was Craig’s only participation all season. He did, however, play in nine games in 2018 as a freshman, but none of them were starts.
If I were Jerry Azzinaro or Brian Greenwood or whomever is calling the defense for UCLA, I’m applying a ton of pressure on Craig’s side of the line, especially since it happens to be Garbers’ blind side. It might be UCLA’s best hope to disrupt the UC Berkeley offense.
With a new offensive coordinator and no game tape to watch, it will be hard for the UCLA defense to prepare quickly to play the Golden Bears. After watching the Bruin defense last week, I’m basically expecting UC Berkeley to consistently move the ball down the field unless Osa Odighizuwa or Mitchell Agude can put pressure on Garbers from the blind side and possibly force a turnover or two. Other than that, I don’t see the Bruin defense doing much to stop the Golden Bear offense. I hope I’m wrong.
Go Bruins!! Beat UC Berkeley!!