Monday, November 21, 2016

Bilo's College Football: By Request, Grading the 2016 UCLA Football Staff

This last week, I was asked to grade the UCLA coaching staff by one of my twitter followers (@ConnallLamar), as it would benefit UCLA fans, which in turn would let them know who they should be blaming for the current state of UCLA football. Without a doubt, the best term that could be used to describe the current state of Bruins football would be toxic dumpster fire. That in mind, here are my grades of the current staff, from best to worst.

Demetrice Martin, DBs
Grade: A+
Martin has been a constant on this staff for getting the work done. He has been a lead recruiter, and his secondaries are often one of the best units in the nation. Last season, when injuries struck hard at the entirety of the UCLA defense, Martin used that misfortune to develop young DBs who would eventually take over for starting jobs. Martin has developed depth on this current team, and the secondary has been a major strength with the likes of Randall Goforth, Nate Meadors, Tahaan Goodman, Fabian Moreau, Adarius Pickett, Marcus Rios, Jaleel Wadood, and others. Few teams brag of the depth that UCLA has under Martin’s watch.

Angus McClure, DL
Grade: A+
McClure, like Martin, has used injuries to deepen this unit, and has created some fearsome prospects the last few seasons for the Bruins up front. His star pupil this season is Tak McKinley, one of the national leaders in TFLs. Just in 2016, McClure has rotated 7 players into the lineup, giving the Bruins incredible depth. Despite some bad games (Utah, USC), one has to give much credit to McClure for loading up and coaching up talent on the front line, as his trench guys were constantly put into unwinnable situations by bad offense keeping them on the field for huge spurts in games. McClure, in my book, is a star.

Tom Bradley, Defensive Coordinator
Grade: B+
I would have given Bradley an A as well, if not for a couple of major lapses this season, again, referring to the Utah game mainly. Bradley is a veteran of coaching defenses, and has had some outstanding units dating back to his days at Penn State. All in all, one can be hard pressed to blame any of the collapses this season on Bradley and his defense. Bradley was a magnificent find, and is a major upgrade from the debacle that was the Jeff Ulbrich era. UCLA’s current struggles cannot be pinned anywhere near the chest of Bradley.

Marques Tuiasosopo, QBs
Grade: B
It was fairly apparent that Josh Rosen was regressing in the new offense that was installed for this season, with most of that evidence coming in the red zone. That falls more on the OC than on MT. Where MT has earned this grade is in his work with Mike Fafaul, who was never expected to play much at all this year, much less have to start. Fafaul, while reminding nobody of Cade McNown, certainly has played his guts out, and is always prepared to get after it every week, and that is the work of MT, who has had success elsewhere.

Rip Scherer, TEs
Grade: B
It is hard to accurately grade Scherer this season, as the offense that UCLA was supposed to run (FBs and TEs) really has not materialized like it was supposed to. That said, Scherer has developed a very interesting group of TEs in 2016. Nate Iese is a very talented football player who never really had a defined role in the N Zone offense under Mazzone last season. He has found an identity now, and has excelled. Austin Roberts has shown flashes of development and skill, and is an intriguing player, and Caleb Wilson looks to be a riser on the board. All in all, Sherer may be the lone bright spot on the offensive side of the football.

Sal Alosi, Strength Coach
Grade: B-
Physicality and overall strength do not seem to be an issue for this UCLA team. What Alosi does has nothing to do with the ability to properly execute on the field. This football team, especially on defense, is much more physical over the last two seasons, and that is a testament to Alosi and his work. Where he falls short is on overall size on both sides of the football. Of course, UCLA seems to be recruiting players on the smaller end of the spectrum, so Alosi has to beef them up, but he is already behind the 8 ball in some cases.

Scott White, LBs and Special Teams
Grade: C
If you could grade White individually on both LBs and special teams, he would have two completely different grades. On LBs, he gets a solid B, but on Special Teams, he gets a solid D, and that is being generous.
White’s LB unit is spectacular at times. Kenny Young and Jayon Brown are two of the better LBs in the nation, and Cameron Judge is developing nicely. After those two, however, the depth does tend to plunge, as production on tackles alone drops from 81 with Young this season, to 24 with Josh Woods. White needs to get his guys more active in the scheme that the Bruins employ, and that just means recruiting deeper at the position to get guys in who can do the job. There is talent there that just needs to manifest.
On special teams, everything is a different story. JJ Moulson, while showing flashes at PK from time to time, is not playing to the level he was recruited at. Moulson is just 11/19 this season, and that leaves a full 24 points on the field. If you consider how many games UCLA was within 7 points of, that could have been 3 more wins.
Punting has been an adventure all season long, with Austin Kent finally being benched after just averaging a shade over 38 yards per punt on gross average. Steven Flintoft is averaging just over 40 yards per punt, and he should probably be the guy in 2017, unless someone gets signed in the off season.

Jim Mora, Head Coach
Grade: D
Mora was never the exact hire that Bruin fans wanted when he came on the scene, but he was immediately a better fit than Rick Neuheisel or Karl Dorrell at the time, both UCLA insiders. Dan Guerrero finally admitted that he could indeed hire from outside the Bruin family, and in some ways, it worked out, just not like we all wanted it to.
Mora is the football equivalent to former LA Kings coach Barry Melrose. Melrose had brought the Kings out of some dark times, and helped change a culture that was bleeding an stale, and that is what Mora has done in some ways. What Melrose could not do was take the Kings to that next, championship level, and that is also the problem with Mora. An interesting article on the Bruin Nation site called the new measuring stick the Dorrell Line in conference play. Mora falls well under that, as was described in that article. That fact alone is why Mora has reached the end of what he can provide for the UCLA program. He has done some good, but in the end, he must relinquish the role so that someone can build on that foundation, because he is simply not capable of doing so. It is what it is.

Kennedy Polamalu, OC and RBs
Grade: F
Is it any wonder that this guy was not retained at USC? Yet Mora still made it a point to go directly after him. Polamalu has been, in short, a train wreck that took out a puppy park and a kindergarten before hitting a nuclear plant. His offensive schemes have been purely offensive in the worst way. When UCLA is on offense, you always find yourself asking yourself what that smell is. His WR spacing makes you think that Mazzone’s was palatable. QBs are always throwing into traffic because his offensive spacing creates traffic jams that make you think you would rather drive on the 405 freeway on a Wednesday at 5:15 PM. During the debacle against USC, I counted at least five very specific plays where he called a pass pattern that fell well short of the first down marker. Maybe he thought that his receivers were good enough to work for that yardage, but when you need 7 yards for a 1st down, one really should call a play that covers at least 7 yards of field BEFORE the catch, not after it. His run game schemes are mind numbingly awful, and there has been absolute regression in every area. In short, Polamalu’s offense is something that the Bruins are not built to run, and no team should. It is an absolute trash heap of an offensive system. And hey, by then end of the season, they are basically running the N Zone again, so it’s like Noel never left. Now I need to vomit, and I have not even talked about what a disaster the run game has been, specifically speaking. How many guys have been rotated in and out without explanation, never giving anyone (Bolu, anyone?) the rock like a real RB deserves. Now I am vomiting, damn it. 

Adrian Klemm, Offensive Line
Grade: F
Every problem that the Bruins offense has as far as execution this season starts with the line. That is where Klemm is supposed to excel. The other issue is that here is an NCAA rules violator coaching on a staff where he violated those rules. He now has a show cause to get work from this point further in the college game. With all of that said, how in the hell is this guy still working? He has not developed a single player on this team worth a hot damn. So what that he lost three juniors after 2015. None of those guys were all that good, especially Benenoch, the human penalty machine. Their overhyped status was mirrored by their falling stock on NFL draft boards last spring, and that falls on Klemm. So what that Colton Miller broke his leg. That is why you recruit, for depth. The recruiting on the O line has been garbage, and Klemm is supposed to be some kind of master recruiter. Master recruiter, no. Master something else, maybe so.

Eric Yarber, WRs
Grade: F
Yarber…how do I put this gently…could not develop a path to food for a starving horse. Darren Andrews has been a pleasant surprise this season, with 55 receptions, but nobody else has more than 36, and that is Jordan Lasley. Kenneth Walker III has never developed into a consistent threat, and Eldridge Massington, who should be dominant, has been a stiff. Ish Adams, who has amazing amounts of athleticism, has caught all of 19 footballs in 11 games. So much for that experiment. Theo Howard and Mossi Johnson have been like ghosts. They are on the field, but are they really? Alex Van Dyke, who was supposed to be a huge get in recruiting, is a junior who has caught all of 3 footballs all season long. Yarber could not coach an elementary school student as to how to catch a cold. There have been so many inexplicable drops this year, it is as if this unit has been playing after each participant lost a hand in a Pakistani court due to theft charges. Josh Rosen was seen early in the season yelling at his receivers. He should have been yelling at Yarber. If Rosen had the balls to play on a Trump golf course with an F Trump hat, the least he could do is show up at practice wearing an F Yarber hat.
Other than that, I am sure that Yarber is a very nice guy.

So @ConnellLamar and all Bruins fans everywhere, I sincerely hope that this article helps put into perspective whom you should all be burning in effigy this coming week. It should make a nice enough fire that you could roast your Thanksgiving turkeys over it, so you are welcome for that.
I have been a UCLA fan for over 35 years, and an official writer and media guy for over 25 years, so unfortunately, I am used to all of this. I would wrap by saying that at least we are not in the days of Dorrell, but somehow, it seems worse than that in ways.
If you want to end this on a positive note, at least UCLA beat Arizona, so there is that…right?

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