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UCLA defense becomes more aggressive

Bruins defensive coordinator Joe Tresey wants the players to play fast and has set a mandate of eight tackles for loss per game.

August 12, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • South Florida ranked 24th in total defense under Joe Tresey in 2009.
South Florida ranked 24th in total defense under Joe Tresey in 2009. (J. Meric / Getty Images )

UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel, asked about the pressure the Bruins' defense might apply, had a coy answer ready: "We want to have the ability to bring pressure when it is the prudent thing to do."

When is it prudent? To defensive coordinator Joe Tresey, that appears to be any day the sun comes up.

There is a new aggressiveness to the way the Bruins play defense, as was evident in recent during practices.

"It's great," free safety Tony Dye said. "I'm not thinking anymore, I'm just going. It's a lot more fun. Where else can you be mean to other people and get away with it?"

A year ago, the Bruins ranked 94th out of 120 teams in total defense. Tresey, hired in February, thinks he has the depth to come at teams in waves.

He has a mandate of eight tackles for loss each game.

"When you go through this process, you have to ask, 'do our kids know how to pressure?'" Tresey said. "There are certain ways to attack bodies and certain angles you have to do precisely to bring it home. We think that ability exists in our players."

In other words: here we come.

"We're going to be aggressive," Dye said. "That's Coach Tresey's lifestyle. Now it's ours."

Linebacker Sean Westgate said the beauty of the plan was simplification.

"He just wants us to play fast," Westgate said. "The blitz packages are more complicated, but there's less adjusting. The big thing is our front line doesn't give it away. That's huge. When I'm looking at the tape from practice, I can't tell if we're blitzing and I'm one of the guys doing it."

Offensive changes

There are differences to offensive approach as well.

Quarterbacks Richard Brehaut and Kevin Prince rolled out on a handful of plays Friday, something almost unheard of in recent seasons. The Bruins are also utilizing running backs as receivers more.

Pass protection is the reason, Neuheisel said.

Roll outs, Neuheisel said, "take a lot of pressure off the front. We're trying to put this offensive line together and we got to make sure we're not asking them to do things they aren't capable of."

As for dump-offs to backs, Neuheisel said, "We were asking them to be in protection [last season]. Sometimes the easier way to do that is to get the ball in their hands. They can take a four-yard pass and make a big play out of it."

UCLA running backs combined for only 15 receptions in 2010.

Quick hits

Linebacker Jordan Zumwalt sat out practice with a concussion and will go through a concussion protocol period. … Linebacker Aaron Wallace has concussion-like symptoms. … Linebacker Mike Orloff will probably undergo surgery on his right knee. … Dye sat out practice with a slight groin injury. … Old Tappan (N.J.) High's Devin Fuller, one of the top quarterback recruits in the nation, was at practice. … UCLA will have a short live scrimmage during the afternoon practice Saturday.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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