UCLA spent a lot of spring practice addressing its No. 1 shortcoming
No one had to tell UCLA coach Bob Toledo last season that his defense was "horrible" and "frightening." Those were the words he was using to describe it. Since attaining a No. 3 ranking with a 10-0 record in December 1998, the Bruins have gone 10-15 with defensive numbers that have plummeted so low UCLA could have been a listing on the NASDAQ. The '99 unit set a Bruins record for yards allowed per game (444.6), and the 2000 defense set the standard for points given up in a season (368).
Toledo, who was either an offensive coordinator or an assistant in charge of quarterbacks during the 13 years before becoming UCLA's coach in 1996, has been going through defensive coordinators as if they were tissues. After firing Bob Field in January, he hired Arizona State defensive coordinator Phil Snow to become the fourth man to fill that spot on his staff. To combat the Bruins' horrible defensive performance on third down last year, when they allowed a 42% conversion rate, Snow will put his cornerbacks in man coverage and send as many as eight rushers after the quarterback.
He also believes that the Bruins can play harder. In his first meeting with the defense, on April 2, he evoked the term "six seconds" to inspire his players. "From the snap of the ball to the whistle, the average time is six seconds," Snow says. "It's amazing, inside that six seconds, how many players will take time off. They get knocked down and watch, get blocked and stay blocked—you have to start the play and finish the play."
Snow had made a highlight tape of former Sun Devil Derrick Rodgers, an undersized line-backer whose motor never stopped, and showed it to UCLA senior defensive end Kenyon Coleman. Then Snow asked Coleman if he played like that. "He said, 'Not all the time,' " says Snow. "The more guys that do it, it's amazing how many others will follow."
The 6'6", 281-pound Coleman is exhibit A of another Bruins bane—injuries. After tearing the meniscus in his left knee in the third game last year, he missed the rest of the season (one of three defensive linemen to go down for a game or more during the year), and UCLA was left with no experienced pass rusher up front. The Bruins had only 19 sacks in 2000, compared with Pac-10 leader Cal's 44.
Though Coleman hasn't yet played for Snow, he is inspired by what he has seen and heard. "I like the pressure Arizona State put on the quarterback and how it relied on the front four to get the sack," says Coleman, who is fully recovered from his injury. "We haven't depended on our defensive line to get sacks. This year it will be 'Front four, go get 'em.' "
Snow hasn't set any statistical goals for the UCLA defense, but there's one number he'd like to see the Bruins spike up: three-and-outs.
Randle El's Career Move
Passer Decides To Go Deep
In January, when Indiana junior quarterback Antwaan Randle El was trying to decide whether to leave school early for the NFL or return for his senior year, he sought the advice of the league's draft advisory committee, which projected that Randle El would be drafted, but as a wide receiver and kick returner instead of a quarterback. So Hoosiers coach Cam Cameron made a deal with Randle El: If he would stay at Indiana, Cameron would help him improve his draft potential by moving him to wideout "Having him back as a receiver," Cameron says, "is better than not having him at all."