UCLA Football Preview: Fresno State's Defense Looks Weakest Against the Run
The Bulldogs gave up 200 yards rushing to Oregon. Look for the Bruins to go to the ground against them.
This evening’s game will likely be a tough game, but the Bruins should be able to prevail due to the explosive nature of UCLA’s offensive as seen in the first two games of the season.
It’s a little hard to judge the overall quality of Fresno State’s defense because two of their first three opponents were bad football teams. UCONN was shut out by the Bulldogs in the first game of the season. Then, last week, they played Cal Poly, who scored just 10 points in the game, but the Mustangs are an FCS school.
That leaves just the game against Oregon to measure the quality of the Bulldog defense. It’s been too long since Chip Kelly was at Oregon to really suggest that the Ducks are still using his offense there. But, that said, the Ducks managed to run for 200 yards against the Fresno State defense.
That’s the kind of matchup UCLA wants. Look for another big day from the Bruin running backs Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown. Also expect DTR to use the passing game to keep the Bulldogs honest.
Let’s look at the position groups.
The defensive line features a group of upperclassmen. Senior defensive end Arron Mosby is second on the team in sacks with two. Mosby is tied for the team lead in tackles for loss with 4.5 and has racked up the most yardage on those plays with 20.
Lining up next to him at tackle will be Leonard Payne, Jr. Payne may be the weakest link on the line as he has the fewest tackles of any starting defensive lineman. But, he’ll be sandwiched in Mosby and the another starting tackle Kevin Atkins. Atkins is tied with Mosby with 4.5 TFLs, though he’s only accounted for 15 yards lost by Bulldog opponents.
Senior David Perales is the other defensive end. Perales has no sacks so far this year and only two TFLs for 3 yards. He might be another guy the Bruins look to run at as a result.
The Bulldogs will run a 4-2-5 and, as a result, will only play two linebackers. One of those linebackers is super senior Tyson Maeva, who is taking advantage of the NCAA rule which gave players an extra year of eligibility due to COVID. Maeva transferred to Fresno State this year from Florida International where he played the last two seasons after transferring from Boise State where he played his first two seasons. Maeva has already made an impact on the Bulldog defense. He is second on the team in both solo tackles and total tackles.
The other starting linebacker is junior Levelle Bailey. Bailey’s best game so far this season came against the Ducks when he recorded five solo tackles and three assists. Bailey also has the only Bulldog interception so far this season.
Instead of a third linebacker, the Bulldogs will employ a Husky. The Husky position is a hybrid between a linebacker, a cornerback and a safety.
Fresno State’s starting husky will be sophomore Justin Houston. Houston played his high school ball at Serra HS in Gardena. Like Bailey, his best game so far this year was the game against Oregon where he recorded four tackles.
Look for the Bulldogs to try to use Houston to try to stop Greg Dulcich. Houston is the same height as Dulcich. So, this may be a formiddable matchup.
The Bulldogs’ starting corners will be senior Wylan Free and sophomore Bralyn Lux. Lux looks to be the weaker of the two. So, look for DTR to try to exploit that by throwing his way.
Of course, DTR may want to think twice about throwing at the strong safety because there will be a familiar face in Elijah Gates there who, no doubt, would like to pick one off his former teammate. Gates is a graduate transfer for the Bulldogs.
The other safety is junior Evan Williams. Williams leads the team in tackles with 20. So, look to see him making a bunch of plays for the Bulldog defense.
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Hindsight that weak run defense been getting some gym hours in!