Several of the Bruin Authority guys were at the game and saw it unfold up close and in person. We are some of the most hardcore fans, and so of course, we are disappointed.
Generally we refrain from criticizing our coaches on this site and we never criticize the players. However, this game seemed to validate what we have been thinking since the Virginia game.
We are not going to go into a drawn out blasting of the game play-by-play here. Everyone saw what happened and if you are a glutton for punishment, you can read that on just about every other site. But we will go into what we think is the real issue facing this team moving forward.
Let’s start with the offense. Three straight sacks on Hundley within a single drive. Ten sacks overall in the game. Those numbers are epic, and not in a good way. They make it easy to criticize Mazzone, Klemm, Mora and other coaches. But the truth is that each of these coaches has forgotten more about football than guys like Tracy Pierson, Edward Lewis, the BN guys, Jack Wang, us, and all the rest of the self anointed “experts” put together will ever know.
And it is not just the offense, the defense was certainly not at its best Saturday night either. Several times we noticed defensive players out of position, or looking a little lost.
So why is this happening? We believe there is clearly a disconnect between what the coaches think our players can do, and what the players are really capable of doing.
Maybe it is because some of the coaches are used to coaching NFL caliber guys. Perhaps, some of them are still learning the college game. Then again some of the coaches have been built up as superstars by sites trying to gain favor with them, as well as trying to increase paid subscribers. Perhaps some Bruin coaches are just adequate coaches and not the Knute Rocknes that the paid sites have hyped them out to be. Now, some of these coaches are top of the line recruiters, but that obviously does not automatically translate to coaching acumen.
When we look at the game play-by-play, and overall, we get the impression that the players are just plain confused. They seem to be thinking too much. Hundley needs too much time to throw. The running backs repeatedly miss picking up the blitzes. The offensive linemen miss their assignments. The secondary is sometimes seen trying to figure out where they should be. Even Myles Jack was seen wandering as a play was starting.
Perhaps both the offensive and defensive players are being given too many options, and asked to make too many decisions, on every play. For any player, whether in high school, college, or pros, it takes time to absorb the mental side of what is being asked of them.
In the NFL, football is a full time affair. The Pros may spend more time watching film with their coaches than the UCLA players even practice. On the other hand, the time UCLA coaches can spend preparing players, is limited by NCAA rules. Not to mention that UCLA football players are student athletes – they go to class and have a similar academic burden as a regular student. Those who have attended UCLA know that is not something to be taken lightly. They can’t spend 24/7/365 on UCLA football like the NFL guys can.
Also, college football players come in with varying degrees of preparedness for the college game. Some have been playing with good coaches since they were small children. On the other hand, others only took up the sport in high school and while good athletes, are still very green in understanding the game. Others have changed positions and are learning.
The point is, there are a lot of reasons to SIMPLIFY the game for some, or all players. When you make them think too much, you have problems, and we believe they are being asked to think too much. On one hand, it is a testament to the players we have, that the coaches have so much confidence in them. On the other hand, it may be easy to forget these are just young men, 18-22 years old with a lot to learn.
Some coaches take the position that you must demand, and expect your players to perform at a level higher than what they are capable of. The theory being that this will motivate the player to improve, and always give them something to strive for. We believe that too, but there is always a ceiling on what a player can accomplish, and a coach must know what that limit is.
We would like to see the team get back to basics. We are reminded of Wooden’s approach. Keep the players in good shape, constantly work on fundamentals, and practice the same plays over and over. The plays were designed to the strengths of the team and when run to perfection, were unstoppable. They became instinctual to the team.
Simplify the offense. Simplify the defense. Give the players confidence to use their instincts and natural talents. When a player has to think too much, he loses his instincts and it limits his talent.
Are we being simplistic? Maybe. After all, schemes, concepts, play calling (offensive and defensive), match ups, and many other things all come into play for a team’s success. Then again, maybe all these things are just excuses for adding more complicated layers to the confusion.
We have great players. They are bright, talented, good citizens, and we should all be proud of them. Our coaches need to put them in a position to succeed. The coaches know how to do that and just about every reader of this site understands this concept.
This season is not over, and we hope that this coaching staff is not stubborn, is willing to check the egos at the door, and and is willing to begin an honest self-examination as to how it approaches these players and each game. The coaches are people, and like all people they have their insecurities and pride. They may be concerned about sales of the coaching systems they sell. They may believe that accepting other coaching philosophies may show a flaw in their own coaching beliefs. They may think that admitting something is not working will damage their career aspirations. Who knows, but we do know that winning will fix all those things and more, regardless of how much it deviates from what they have been preaching. And sticking to their guns will only hurt them if they are losing, or under performing.
Back in August, we thought this could be a magical season for UCLA football. It could still be a good one, but the coaching transformation must start now. This week.
Coming soon, the BruinAuthority.com 2015 recruiting board.
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