Chip Kelly eager to find out if UCLA's defense is better in 2022
In a week, UCLA football is back.
One of the biggest questions facing this team is whether the defense — with a slew of new transfers, a new coordinator, and several new assistants — can show enough improvement to help UCLA build off of last year’s 8-4 campaign. In the team’s eight wins last year, the defense surrendered 161 total points. In four losses (Fresno State, Arizona State, Oregon, and Utah), the defense gave up 160 total points.
UCLA head coach Chip Kelly is hoping the changes made this offseason lead to better results on the field, but he also knows that nothing he proclaims in the preseason will matter much when the ball is kicked off against Bowling Green at 11:30 a.m. PT on Sept. 3.
“It really doesn’t matter whether I say we’re 1000% better than we were a year ago or if I say we’re not better than we were a year ago,” Kelly told reporters Friday when asked if the defense was better now than a year ago, per All Bruins’ Sam Connon. “You gotta play the game. In seven days, the talking season’s over, so it doesn’t really matter what any coach said in the preseason about their team — this, that, or the other thing. You get to line up and play a team next Saturday and then that’s when we’ll find out.”
The best early indicator of improvement? Havoc.
Last season, UCLA ranked 79th nationally in havoc rate (tackles for loss, fumbles forced, passes defended), 92nd in stuff rate (runs stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage), and 100th in sack rate. On passing downs, they brought pressure but had one of the nine worst posted sack rates in college football.
The previous iterations of this defense just couldn’t generate plays in the opposing team’s backfield.
“I think there are some impact kids that we hope (can help in that area),” Kelly said. “With the Murphys and (Washington transfer Laiatu) Latu kind of on the edges and then Jacob Sykes inside has really added another dimension for us. It’s critical. You just can’t be in zero coverage to create pressure on the quarterback. The old coaching adage is when you’re in zero coverage the band plays. Is it our band or their band? If they do a good job of picking up that pressure then the quarterback has got to decipher one-on-one coverage.
“We feel like we’ve got to be able to generate a pass rush with our front and be able to play coverage in behind it. So far, what we’ve gotten out of all those guys, I’ve been really, really impressed with. They’re excited to get an opportunity to go play somebody else and we’ll get a chance to see what they really look like next Saturday.”