Oct. 29, 2011; Los Angeles, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins safety Tevin McDonald (7) intercepts a pass against the California Golden Bears during the second quarter of the game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Pac-12 Conference Football Preview: UCLA Bruins (Part 2: Defense)


The UCLA defense will look a lot different in 2012 because of the addition of Jim Mora as head coach. Last season, the Bruins gave up an average 31.4 points per game. Their biggest losses came at the hands of the USC Trojans and the Oregon Ducks. They lost to the Trojans by a score of 50-0 in the last game of the regular season. Realistically, the Bruins should not have played the Ducks in the first ever Pac-12 Championship game, but got to because of a bowl ban set forth by the NCAA against USC. The Ducks beat the Bruins in the Pac-12 Championship game by a score of 49-31.

There is no question about it that UCLA’s biggest opponent this year will be the USC Trojans (especially for the defense). The reason for this is because of who the Trojans are returning on offense in 2012. These players include: Matt Barkley, Robert Woods, and Marqise Lee. Barkley recorded 3,528 yards and 39 passing touchdowns as the starting quarterback in 2011. At the wide receiver position in 2011, Woods recorded 1,292 yards and fifteen receiving touchdowns while Lee recorded 1,143 yards and eleven receiving touchdowns.

The Trojans also stole a big running back away from the Penn State Nittany Lions this offseason. After the NCAA announced the sanctions against Penn State, Silas Redd decided to transfer from Penn State to USC. Last season at running back for the Nittany Lions, Redd recorded 1,241 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns.

At the 2012 Pac-12 Media Day in July, Coach Mora was asked about the USC Trojans and what exactly he was going to do in 2012 to deal with them. Mora responded with:

“Well my concern is UCLA and this team, being the best football team that we can be. … I think it’s important you keep your focus on the practice you’re getting read to participate in and that’s our approach.”

 

It will very interesting to see how UCLA’s defense is managed under the command of Jim Mora in 2012. Mora is a more defensive minded coach and will need to improve the defense if he wants to some day beat the USC Trojans. One aspect that helps out Coach Mora is the returning starters UCLA will have on defense. Two of the seven returners include Tevin McDonald and Patrick Larimore.

Tevin McDonald attended the 2012 Pac-12 Media Day with Coach Mora and Johnathan Franklin in July. Last season, McDonald recorded 56 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss (14 yards), three interceptions, nine broken up passes, and twelve pass deflections. McDonald will be entering his second year of eligibility after being redshirted in 2010.

Patrick Larimore will need to be a big senior leader of the linebacking core to help out Coach Mora in his first year at UCLA. Last season, Larimore recorded 81 total tackles (most on the team), two tackles for loos (nine yards), one sack (six yards), one interception, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. Larimore did have the most total tackles for UCLA in 2011, but he will definitely need to improve his other stats to help UCLA be successful in 2012.

 

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Tags: Jim Mora Johnathan Franklin Marqise Lee Matt Barkley NCAA Oregon Ducks Pac-12 Pac-12 Championship Game Pac-12 Media Day Patrick Larimore Penn State Penn State Nittany Lions Penn State Sanctions Robert Woods Silas Redd Tevin McDonald UCLA UCLA Bruins UCLA Football USC USC Trojans