Jim Mora Jr. made his debut at UCLA in impressive fashion.
Although, Mora Jr. is known for his defense, the new offense captained by new OC, Noel Mazzone, was more notable. Last year, Rick Neuheisel had UCLA in a pistol system. It was awkward and sometimes uncomfortable to watch. Mazzone is known as a single back guru who loves to throw the rock. Mazzone unveiled a couple new wrinkles from his ASU days and it appears he has been studying Dana Holgerson at West Virginia. I’d noticed Mazzone combining running plays with short passing plays in the past and it looks like he’s going to do this a lot more. The anatomy of the play is the OL is blocking like it’s a draw play and the WR’s are running a “Stick” passing concept. UCLA’s Jonathan Franklin scored against Rice on a Stick/Draw combo play when the LB jumped the stick route instead of playing the run, focus on Rice’s #44:
My guy, Chris Brown, does a great job of breaking this down over at Smartfootball.com. I figured it was easier to piggyback on his terrific analysis. We’ll be seeing a lot more combo-plays in the Pac-12 now that Leach, RichRod, and Todd Graham are in the conference. Sarkisian, Kelly, and Mazzone have been running combos already. Here’s a diagram below of a trips formation against a garden variety 2-deep 40-front nickel defense (cheers to Smartfootball for the image):
The QB is going to to read the circled defender. If the LB jumps the stick route, the QB hands off to the RB on a delayed draw. If the LB reads the OG’s stays inside and honors his gap responsibility, the QB hits the slot on a 5-6 yard stick route. Whatever the LB decides to take away the QB is going to make him wrong. Here’s a still image below of a 30 front defense:
Mazzone didn’t run the QB much in his 2-year stint as ASU’s OC from 2010-2011, but probably because of his personnel. The ASU QB’s he inherited, Steven Threet and Brock Osweiler, were both tall more pocket-passer types, while Osweiler’s athleticism was underrated, neither were fitted to run Zone-Reads or be much of a threat in the running game. Now at UCLA, Brett Hundley is a big, fast, and strong enough to take hits and make people miss, as evidenced in his first play from scrimmage:
Something to watch over the first half of the season is how much UCLA runs Hundley against Pac-12 teams.
Overall, I think Mazzone’s offense is evolving by imploring a few Air-Raid concepts into his offense and more run/pass combo plays. The simple stick/draw play is a very safe call on 1st and 2nd down. I saw a lot less swing and bubble passes as compared to his time at ASU as well. One thing I’ve always admired about Mazzone is he calls a few passing concepts like Stick, Scat, and Snag throughout a game but he does it from different formations keeping it simple enough for his players while complicated enough for opposing defenses. I’m a fan of this new UCLA Offense and have a feeling it’s going to put up a lot of points this season.