Bruins boast heisman candidate, tough task for unit
UCLA’s running back, Johnathan Franklin, could be licking his chops when preparing to face a defense that has surrendered 248 and 245 rushing yards in consecutive weeks. UH said they have a plan though.
Senior linebacker Phillip Steward said the defense will send a message from the opening kickoff.
“Defensively, I feel like we should come out there and set the tone for offense. If we go out there and get a couple stops to start off and the offense scores, then the momentum is on our side,” Steward said. “If we get that point in, we will have a better chance of winning the game.”
Franklin has been a standout performer this season, posting 214 and 217 rushing yards in consecutive weeks against Rice and Nebraska, respectfully. In fact, Franklin’s individual rushing average of 215.5 yards per game would rank 31st in the nation among Football Bowl Subdivision schools.
The senior running back has also thrust his name into the Heisman conversation. ESPN’s Experts ranked Franklin fourth behind De’Anthony Thomas, Geno Smith and Matt Barkely.
Head coach Tony Levine said the defensive woes could be corrected with repetition and competition.
“It’s all correctable. We started last night in practice and will continue tonight on correcting the issue. A lot of it is technique. Some of it is personnel, which we’ll look at in practice,” Levine said. “We have guys out of control ducking their head. If you close your eyes and don’t see what you’re hitting, you will not make a tackle.”
Levine said the staff counted 29 missed tackles that accounted for an additional 196 yards.
Lost in Franklin’s 431 yards in the first two games is the play of UCLA’s redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley who had 628 total yards and seven touchdowns in his first two collegiate games.
“Offensively for UCLA they are extremely balanced; the stats they have put up in two games are ridiculous,” Levine said. “They have an extremely talented redshirt freshman in Hundley, who is great at getting the ball out of his hands quickly.”
Levine and UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone were on the same staff at Auburn University, while Levine was a graduate assistant. Assistant coach Ken McClintock and special teams coach Jaime Christian also have ties to Mazzone at Arizona and Minnesota, respectively.
If UCLA’s offense looks similar to the Cougars’ on Saturday, you won’t be seeing double.
“I learned everything from them. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it,” Mazzone said to the Los Angeles Times.