Pac-10 Q&A: UCLA D-coordinator Chuck Bullough

October, 9, 2009
10/09/09
1:26
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


Under new coordinator Chuck Bullough, UCLA's defense had been dominant until it slipped a bit at Stanford in a 24-16 defeat.

The Bruins, still ranked 20th in the nation in total defense and 21st in scoring defense, don't have long to lick their wounds, however. A rolling and 13th-ranked Oregon team comes to town on Saturday, and the Ducks, after a slow start, now lead the Pac-10 in scoring with 34.2 points per game.

 
 Reuben Canales/WireImage.com
 Chuck Bullough identified Brian Price, Reggie Carter and Kyle Bosworth as his best performers so far.
But Oregon will be without starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who suffered a bruise knee last week against Washington State. Backup Nate Costa is projected to start.

Bullough, a two-time All-Big Ten selection and second-team All-American linebacker at Michigan State University, brought a little Big Ten toughness -- not to mention a long NFL pedigree -- when he replaced DeWayne Walker as the Bruins coordinator.

So what does he think of the Bruins progress so far and how is he going to stop the Ducks' offense?

We decided to check in.

Four games into the season, what's your assessment of how the defense has played?

Chuck Bullough: We've played well. This last game [Stanford], we had a ton of mental errors. That was concerning. We don't know what that was. Since I've been here, when we start school -- and this is not an excuse -- but when we start school, we always have a bad game. We don't know why. We have a ton of mental errors the week we start school and that happened this game. Way more than the last three games. We've got to settle them down and get them playing into the scheme of things. Besides that, the defense has played well. This last game we had a bunch of mental errors on simple stuff, which was disappointing. We've got to go to the next game and get better.

Who's playing well for you?

CB: The guys who are really playing well are [tackle] Brian Price, [linebacker] Reggie Carter and [linebacker] Kyle Bosworth. The other guys are solid and haven't been bad. But the three studs so far have been Price, Carter and Bosworth. And obviously [safety] Rahim Moore, too.

Is there an area you are not happy with?

CB: Not necessarily. As I stated before, it was frustrating as coaches -- and it's on coaching -- but for some reason we had a lot of mental errors on stuff this past week that we generally don't do. Besides that, we've played well.

It appears you won't be facing Oregon's starting quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli, on Saturday. How do things change for you with backup Nate Costa starting? What do you know about him?

CB: He hasn't started a game, so you kind of don't have a feel for him going into a game. He's had a couple of games where he's come in and taken some reps. But the head coach [Chip Kelly], this is his system. He's not going to change his system. He may do some things differently like they did when [former Ducks quarterback Dennis Dixon] was out two years ago -- some little things different -- but basically he kept his scheme the same. You don't want to change your whole philosophy on one injury. You've got to plan for somebody getting injured. So we'll just plan for him and then we'll see how the game progresses -- what are they doing with him that is different than what they were doing with Masoli? If that's even the case.

What's different for the Oregon offense from the early season, when they struggled, to the past three games, when they've played well?

CB: Well, they had that one game at Boise State. Boise looked like they came out to play. Not that Oregon didn't but just that watching film, Boise State really came out and played hard. But since then, [Oregon] has been on a roll. They seem like they've gotten into their groove. They looked out of their groove at Boise State but regrouped. Now they are 13th in the country. They've regained their momentum.

True or false: Oregon tight end Ed Dickson is a handful?

CB: Yes. He is tough.

How do you contain him?

CB: We've talked to coaches who have played against him and that's the one they say is tough. You've just got to make sure you don't get matchup problems with him. You've got to match the proper people on him. You've always got to be aware of where he is, because obviously he is a great tight end. You stress to the players where he is and what his strengths are and what his weaknesses are and all that good stuff. And then you've just got to play.

You're closing in on midseason running this defense, how are things different with you versus with DeWayne Walker last year?

CB: The structure is the same. If somebody was just a casual fan -- a fan in the stands watching -- it would look basically the same. I think the difference could be if you were a coach studying the film and compared it to last year, you'd say, 'OK, they're doing it this way. They're playing this coverage a little different than they did last year.' That always happens when a new coordinator has new ideas. But also we have two new guys on staff [secondary coaches Tim Hundley and Carnell Lake] who bring in a lot of knowledge. To the casual eye, it looks the same. If you were a coach studying it, you'd notice the details inside of it.

UCLA has played pretty good defense for a while now. In terms of the young talent on hand, how close are you guys to becoming a dominant unit?

CB: We feel we can be a dominant unit. We feel we have the players and we want them to feel that feeling of doing that. We've had some talent the last couple of years. We've never as a coaching staff stressed that you're not good enough. It's always about them wanting to think they can be that great. And you strive to it every week. We had a fall back this past week, but it was good for them to see when they watched films that if you play the system, we'll be fine. And if you don't, on any defense you run, you are going to be in trouble.

You're a Big Ten guy from birth. Has it been a struggle for you deal with all that horrible sunshine in Southern California?

CB: No ... especially not for my wife. We have a lot of visitors this time of year when it starts getting cold. My parents just came in. But you know, kids are the same everywhere. I didn't know anything different coming out here to California but kids are the same everywhere, especially now-a-days because of the Internet. They're all doing the same stuff. When I was growing up, it was a whole different lifestyle, but now they're all doing the same thing.

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