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BYU vs. UCLA Q&A: Bruins boast depth, athleticism on both sides of the ball

There is certainly no rest for the Cougars as they travel to Pasadena to face the Bruins of UCLA. We caught up with the Greg Burcham of Bruin Nation to give us some insight on UCLA and their freshman quarterback.

Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Vanquish The Foe: UCLA's freshman QB Josh Rosen has looked very impressive so far, even landing himself in some early Heisman conversations. After seeing him play in the first two game, what is your take on Rosen?

Greg Burcham, Bruin Nation: Most Bruin fans figured Josh Rosen would get the nod as the starter over Jerry Neuheisel because Rosen has the much higher ceiling of the two, but I didn't think we'd see signs of that ceiling so soon. Common sense said there would be some growing pain, especially early, but his performance in the first two games has surpassed all but the rosiest predictions. Rosen graduated high school last December and enrolled at UCLA in January, so he already has 9 months on campus and in the Bruins' offensive system, which was already very similar to what he ran in high school. We all knew he had a big arm and great accuracy, but the thing that has seemed to surprise most observers so far is his poise and comfort in the pocket, despite facing college defenses for the first time. The Bruins have a very good ground game, so Rosen's passing proficiency really adds a potent dynamic to the offense. I still think there will be some bumps along the way, and Heisman talk is way too premature, but he looks to be as good as advertised.

Vanquish The Foe: While there is a lot of discussion around the quarterback position, he's surrounded by a lot of talent at the skill positions. Who are some of the impact players at RB and WR that we'll see on Saturday?

Greg Burcham, Bruin Nation: The Bruins star at RB is Paul Perkins, the leading rusher in the Pac-12 last year (1,575) yds. Despite that, Perkins has frequently gone under the radar, as he isn't real flashy, but he is just very good in all phases of his game. He is a versatile runner with great vision who can carry the ball between the tackles as well as find lanes on the outside. He is also a reliable receiver and solid in pass protection. Behind Perkins, you'll see Nate Starks and true freshmen Soso Jamabo and Bolu Olurunfunmi get some carries, too. The Bruin receivers don't have a lot of big numbers individually because the ball gets spread around so much, but in the passing game, Jordan Payton is the Bruins leader. He's another player who isn't flashy but just makes plays and is reliable as they come. TE Thomas Duarte is a great route runner with fantastic hands and is a tough matchup for any secondary. Look for Kenny Walker to be the Bruins deep threat.


Vanquish The Foe: BYU is starting to develop a reputation for being a team that doesn't shy from activity after the whistle. Are the Bruins more of a disciplined team or will they get chippy if provoked?

Greg Burcham, Bruin Nation: The Bruins are absolutely not a disciplined team, but it's more of a knuckleheaded kind of poor discipline as opposed to being chippy or dirty. UCLA has been among the nation's leaders in penalties the last three years, but many of those were the usual things like offensive holding and pass interference flags combined with a frustrating number of dumb flags like false starts and illegal formations. The Bruins have had some personal fouls this year from horse collar tackles due to bad fundamentals when tackling, but they haven't really had a big problem with some of the extracurriculars that BYU has gotten attention for lately.

Vanquish The Foe: UCLA took a huge blow when defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes went down with an season-ending injury. How does the Bruin front seven look without him?

Greg Burcham, Bruin Nation: Eddie Vanderdoes was one of the best D Linemen in the conference and with him, the Bruins had one of the best defensive lines in the country, so his loss leaves a huge hole. Fortunately for UCLA, the Bruins have good depth along the line and talent all across that front 7. Eli Ankou started in Vanderdoes' place last week and played very well. Kenny Clark is the best nose tackle in the conference, and the other DE Takkarist McKinley had his best game as a Bruin last week.The linebackers aren't huge but are very fast and athletic. Deon Hollins is the Bruins best pass rusher at one OLB spot and has an unbelievably quick first step. Mr do-it-all Myles Jack moved inside to ILB this year but often splits wide in coverage in nickel packages and the other ILB Kenny Young is doing a nice job filling in for last year's Butkus winner Eric Kendricks. Overall, the front 7 is still learning a new system under the new defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, but it looks to be a very good group, even after losing Vanderdoes.

Vanquish The Foe: BYU's quarterback Tanner Mangum has a cannon for an arm but is still getting his feel for the game. How will the Bruin secondary match up against Mangum and his trio of 6'5"+ receivers?

Greg Burcham, Bruin Nation: The Bruins secondary is experienced and athletic, but you just can't replicate height in practice, so the Cougars' receivers will be a real challenge for UCLA. One huge key for the defense will be to keep Mangum in the pocket and not let him escape contain and extend plays. It'll be difficult enough for any secondary to stay tight with those big receivers on their routes, and even harder if the quarterback has time and gets on the edge, so a solid pash rush that contains Mangum to pressures him to get rid of the ball quickly will be key for the Bruin defense.

Vanquish The Foe: How do you see the game playing out?

Greg Burcham, Bruin Nation: I think the Bruins' roster is one of the most talented in the country, but BYU always brings a big and physical group that is very talented in its own right, and that's especially true in the trenches. UCLA has struggled with teams with big nasty offensive and defensive lines in recent years, so I think that's where this game will be decided. The Bruins offensive line has been pretty bad in pass protection in recent years but was very good in its first two games this year and will need to be very solid in front of Rosen on Saturday if they want to maintain any offensive rhythm. I think the Bruin defensive line will do well against the run but will need to really pressure the Cougar passing attack to lessen the advantage of their big receivers. I expect this to be a lower scoring game than the two teams have put up previously, but if the Bruins can match the physicality of BYU on the lines, I think that gives the Bruin athletes a chance to make a difference.

Thanks again to Greg Burcham and the good people of Bruins Nation for the help with this article.