UCLA Football Preview: Bruins to Face a Rather Lame Duck Defense
Whomever starts at quarterback for UCLA will have the chance to lead the Bruins to a big win over #9 Oregon because the Ducks defense isn't great. We just don't know who UCLA's QB will be.
The big news yesterday came from Bruin Report Online’s article which indicated that UCLA’s starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson may not be available for tomorrow’s game against the Oregon Ducks. If he is not available, it would be a significant blow to the Bruins’ offense and it potentially leaves Chip Kelly with a starting quarterback who has never thrown a pass in college.
If that does happen, we could see Chase Griffin, Chase Artopoeus, Parker McQuarrie or even Colson Yankoff who switched positions from quarterback to wide receiver.
Regardless of who takes the snaps tomorrow for UCLA, it would seem to make things easier for the Duck defense if it isn’t DTR. Given the Oregon defense, it could be someone’s chance to break out and shine against Oregon’s defense. Let’s take a look at Duck defense.
The Ducks most experienced defensive player is nose tackle Jordan Scott. Scott, a senior, has the most starts in the conference on the defensive side of the ball. The two-time All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention selection is just three tackles short of 100 career tackles. Next to Scott, the Ducks will have junior Austin Faoliu and sophomore Kayvon Thibodeaux. Faoliu has played in 38 games for Oregon including 18 starts while Thibodeaux, who was a freshman All-American, led the nation in fourth quarter sacks last season. That’s an important note because, so far this year, Oregon has only gotten to the quarterback just once and it was freshman linebacker Noah Sewell who did it. So, it’s seems safe to say that the defensive line has underperfomed so far this season.
At linebacker, the Ducks are filled with youth and inexperience. In fact, junior Isaac Slade-Matautia is the only starting upperclassman. Slade-Matautia will be on the weak side while sophomore Jamal Hill will man the strong side as the Sam/Nickel backer. Sewell will start in the middle for the Ducks and sophomore Mase Funa will play the Stud hybrid backer/end position. The only senior in the linebacker depth chart is senior Dru Mathis who redshirted his freshman year at San Diego State before transferring to Moorpark College where he played two seasons before landing in Eugene for last season. All other linebackers on the two-deep depth chart are underclassmen. This should bode well for Brittain Brown.
At the corners, the Ducks will start senior Deommodore Lenoir and sophomore Mykael Wright while senior Nick Pickett and sophomore Verone McKinley III will be the starting safeties. Lenoir was selected to the Second Team All-Pac-12 last season while Pickett is the team leader in career tackles with 140. The Ducks are counting on them to provide leadership in the secondary where youth also abounds. That doesn’t mean that Wright and McKinley are fresh faces, though. Wright and McKinley were both Second Team Freshman All-Americans last season and McKinley was just the third freshman since 1978 to lead the conference in interceptions. Graduate transfer Jordan Happle provides some needed experience and depth in the secondary, but this unit is really young. It sets up an opportunity for a Bruin quarterback to really shine in the passing game tomorrow.
Well, if DTR is healthy enough to play tomorrow, he could have a breakout game. If not, the Bruins will have an opportunity to see what else they have at quarterback. Should it be Chase Griffin, you can’t help but root for the kid. After all, he was born a Bruin right on the UCLA campus. He was the Gatorade Texas Player of the Year coming out of high school, yet most people don’t think he has what it takes to play at this level. He may. He may not. We may find out tomorrow.
Heck, even if he starts tomorrow and pulls a John Barnes-esque performance against the Ducks, he will have had the chance to become a Bruin legend.
But, if DTR is cleared to play, he will. There’s no doubt about that.
Regardless of who is taking the snaps tomorrow, the Bruin offense is facing a Duck defense that is mediocre, which means UCLA has a shot to go into a silent Autzen Stadium and beat the Ducks.