UCLA Bruins @ #11 Southern Cal Trojans
Saturday, November 18, 2017, 8:00 p.m. ET
UCLA Bruins (23) – Southern Cal Trojans (28)
Battle of the top tier QB prospects
Darnold once again showed the improvisation skills to extend plays long after its original draw up.
During one key first down pass, he initially rolled to his left but after the DE cut off his outside running lane, Darnold reversed field and threw a pass to the flat for the first down. Late in the 2nd quarter, he stepped up into the pocket to avoid the DE rusher before scrambling to his right and slinging the pass on a tight rope 15 yards downfield on the sideline. His ability to extend plays and keep his eyes downfield were difference makers in this game and should be his lifeline beginning in the NFL.
However, his saga of throwing ill-advised passes into double coverage after running around continued. He becomes increasingly willing to settle on a tight coverage throw after leaving his platform. At times, he threw with impressive anticipation. For example, during a pass to the slot receiver running a curl route, Darnold threw the pass to his outside shoulder before the WR broke out of his break. He also showed the arm strength to accurately place passes on the sideline 10 – 15 yards downfield.
This was another showing of tremendous accuracy after quickly diagnosing the coverage by Rosen.
Several plays in this game showed Rosen can accurately place deep passes to stretch the field vertically against the defense. On his deeper passes, Rosen put perfect trajectory on the passes to allow the WR to run underneath while also leading the WR away from the trailing DB.
Most impressively, is Rosen’s willingness to quickly throw the check down pass if he does not see an available WR open downfield. His confidence to allow his playmakers the opportunity to gain YACs while protecting the ball and limiting sack opportunities keeps the offense on pace. He was deliberate and intentional after post snap diagnosis of the coverage which allowed him to anticipate and zip throws into tight windows. Sometimes his confidence to make every throw caused him to risk passes between multiple defenders but at least he is sensing the holes of the defense.
Rosen also has the arm strength to flick passes downfield while being plummeted by a rusher. His drawback is that he does not have the mobility to avoid pass rushers, even against interior rushers. This will be a major issue in the NFL if he goes to a team without an offensive line. However, if given time, Rosen has the makings to carve a defense.
USC explosive RB Ronald Jones stands out
I get more intrigued with Ronald Jones each game I review. His one step explosiveness downhill is decisive and powerful through the line.
This type of burst downhill was especially lethal on read options because the unblocked DE had no chance to tackle Jones running downhill with momentum behind him. In addition, Jones can change direction at the drop of a hat. His quick feet showed when he executed a lateral jump cut as soon as he was handed the ball to avoid the blitzing LB. His broad vision showed when he suddenly executed a cut back during an outside zone run.
Jones is looking like a hard running, quick footed, all around RB.
Senior Bowl bound USC DE/LB Uchenna Nwosu rises
He has an uncanny feel for reading the QBs eyes and jumping to bat the pass down at the line of scrimmage. In fact, he gained his 12th bat down on the year this game! His natural athleticism allows the defense to use him in a variety of ways. He can rush off the edge, rush but look to bat down the pass at the line of scrimmage, drop into coverage, or even drop into short coverage and look to tip the passes intended for shorter routes. He showed a variety of pass rushing moves and counter moves which combined with his explosion off the snap can make him dangerous. He also has the pure strength to hold up the edge of the line of scrimmage vs the run.
Nwosu is looking like an all-around edge defender/ LB who is either going to rise in the draft tremendously or be a key pickup on Day 2.
UCLA’s dynamic WR Jordan Lasley flashes
His speed to burn made him the playmaker of the game. He outran the defense on multiple post routes and consistently stretched the field vertically. Also, he was a difference maker after the catch. After catching a shallow route, he spun back outside to make the trailing DB miss the tackle. After snatching a pass while running a slant, he immediately put on the jets to get upfield for another 15 yds.
Lasley used a vicious stiff arm to gain a 10 yd. first down after catching a screen pass. It was like the stars were aligned for Lasley this game because the ball fell into his hands even when the DB tipped the ball. One of his several TDs came as the result of a splendid route in which he used a hesitation move at the top of his slant to bring down the safety before swimming to get over the top and catch the TD at the back of the end zone.
It doesn’t get better than a crafty route runner who is also dynamic after the catch.
Key UCLA offensive linemen
UCLA’s left tackle Kolton Miller showed fluent feet when dropping into his kick back and shadowing pass rushers. While dropping into protection, he maintained close contact with the guard to take away the inside lane to the QB while also striking with long arms to keep the rusher away from his body. In addition, he put forth a lot of effort to drive his legs after contact when run blocking.
I would like for his base to widen a bit when run blocking but I could not deny his movement after contact. For instance, he drove a DE down to the opposite end of the line of scrimmage during one down block.
I was also impressed with UCLA’s left guard Najee Toran. He was extremely anchored and strong after contact. His strength easily kept him engaged through physical snag attempts by the rushers. During pass protection, he maintained a low base but light feet to shuffle and stay in front. When run blocking, he utilized immediate flipping of his hips to create creases among the line. He was consistently powerful and I sensed aggression in his game.
For instance, after a rusher put their hand in his face mask, Toran quickly reacted by throwing the rusher 2 yards away. He also displayed last second effort when he dove to cut block a LB when leading the way for a reverse.