USC Football Schedule Preview 2015: Scouting UCLA


USC football finishes off the regular season with a potentially pivotal rivalry game against the UCLA Bruins, who have won three straight over the Trojans.

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Jim Mora enters his fourth season in charge of the Bruins with a wealth of returning starters from last years’ ten-win squad. The challenge in 2015 is to make the next step in the national picture.

Here’s an early look at USC’s final opponent of the year:


There is no question about the biggest story line on offense this offseason.

Replacing three-year starter Brett Hundley is a major task, but Mora bagged one of the nation’s top quarterback recruits in 2015 and shows no intentions of wasting time getting him onto the field.

Josh Rosen was a five-star prospect. As an early-enrollee he participated in spring practice, likely locking down the starting job in the process.

The Bruins had great success with Hundley as a freshman, so it is not outside the realm of possibility that Rosen truly is read to take the reins.

It helps that UCLA returns the top running back in the conference, Paul Perkins. The junior rusher racked up 1,575 yards in 2014 and that production could very well rise as Rosen is eased into his first season.

Sep 13, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; UCLA Bruins receiver Jordan Payton (9) runs after a catch against the Texas Longhorns at AT&T Stadium. The Bruins beat the Longhorns 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Top running back recruit Soso Jamabo ran afoul of law enforcement earlier this year, so his contributions for the coming season remain in the wait-and-see department.

Senior receiver Jordan Payton opted not to enter the NFL draft this year, so the Bruins will have five of their six leading receivers from last season available. The lone departure was Devin Lucien, who transferred to Arizona State.

Though Payton, Thomas Duarte and Eldrige Massington look primed to fill starting positions, the entire unit should see plenty of action.

The good news on the offensive line is that all five starters in the unit return for 2015.

The bad news is UCLA conceded a Pac-12-worst 40 sacks last year with this group.

Left tackle Conor McDermott made a huge difference when he took over midway through 2014, so it is reasonable to assume that a bit of stability on the line could result in massive improvement.

Standing in the way of that stability is the murkiness of the Adrian Klemm situation. The Bruin offensive line coach has been suspended for recruiting violations and there remain no updates on his status.


Just as Hundley represents a giant hole to fill on offense, Butkus Award winning linebacker Eric Kendricks’ departure needs to be resolved immediately.

Myles Jack enters his junior season with high expectations after outstanding freshman and sophomore seasons. Sliding Jack inside alongside Kenny Young should help to handle Kendricks’ absence.

Outside linebacker Deon Hollins, who led the team in sacks, will keep his place close to the line, while senior Aaron Wallace is likely to join the starting line up opposite Hollins.

Sep 25, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; UCLA Bruins linebacker Myles Jack (30) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. UCLA defeated Arizona State 62-27. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Come fall camp, incoming freshman Keisean Lucier-South could offer a challenge for a starting job.

The defensive line loses leading-tackler Owamagbe Odighizuwa but welcomes two junior starters back in Kenny Clark at tackle and Eddie Vanderdoes at end. Another junior Takk McKinley and sophomore Jacob Tuioti-Mariner  are expected to battle it out for the right to fill Odighizuwa’s shoes.

Departed safety Anthony Jefferson led the defensive backs in tackles last season, but the secondary remains mostly intact otherwise. In fact, the Bruins welcome back safety Randall Goforth thanks to a medical redshirt granting him a final season.

Jaleel Wadood earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention status as a freshman safety, while first team All-Pac-12 selection Ishmael Adams and second team All-Pac-12 Fabian Moreau return at cornerback.

This spring Adams was shifted to nickelback, opening the door for junior Marcos Rios to take up a starting position.

The offense and defense share another stability-impacting similarity in the coaching staff after defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was hired by the Atlanta Falcons. Replacing him is former Penn State assistant Tom Bradley.

Special Teams:

Senior punter Matt Mengel returns, as does senior kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn.

Mengel left something to be desired with a 40-yard average on his punts.

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Fairbairn kicked a reliable 81.8% from place kicks in 2014, but he continued to struggle with kicks from range.

Adams will continue to handle punt and kick returns. His 9.19 yard average on punt returns could use some work however.

Threat Level: High

UCLA has had USC’s number during the Mora era and they aren’t about to roll over and let the Trojans take back the victory bell.

Though the Bruins lost key figures, they return the bulk of the squad and should at least be challenging for a spot in the Pac-12 title game.

It would be no surprise for this game to ultimately decide who will go on to face the north champion in Santa Clara.