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With a very young offensive line that has struggled early in the 2012 season, UCLA head football coach Jim Mora Jr. could barely watch film of Utah’s defensive line.
“When you watch the film, that front is impressive,” Mora said in his weekly press conference Monday afternoon. “I’d heard about (defensive tackle Star) Lotulelei, but I’d never seen him play, but when I turned on the film the other day, you want to turn it off after about ten plays. He’s a force.”
- Utah (2-3, 0-2 Pac-12) vs. UCLA (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12)
- Date: Saturday, Oct. 13
- Time: Noon PDT
- Site: Rose Bowl (91,500/Grass) Pasadena, Calif.
- TV: FOX
- Radio: ESPN700, SIRIUS/XM (139/201)
- Series Record: UCLA leads 8-2
- Last Meeting: 2011 (Utah 31-6)
- Kickoff Weather: Sunny, temps near 70
Despite that, Mora continued to watch film of the Ute defensive line and the rest of the Ute defense.
“They play physical, they play hard,” he said. “Lotulelei … is one of the best defensive lineman I think I’ve seen in a long, long time. He’s just a force. He plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage. He’s got great lateral quickness. He’s unbelievable off the snap in terms of his explosiveness … We’ve got our work cut out with those guys.”
Later, after Wednesday’s practice, Mora was asked how he was preparing for Lotulelei.
“It’s impossible,” he said amidst his own chuckles and that of the surrounding press. “The guy’s a great one. He’s a great one, and I don’t throw around that term too loosely. He’s the best I’ve seen, and I’ve seen them all.”
Mora simply could not stop gushing about the Utes’ standout in the middle.
“He wears those little tiny shoulder pads and he’s mean-looking, he’s quick and he’s fast and he’s aggressive and he’s nasty and he’s something special now,” Mora said. “I’m looking forward to watching him.”
Mora talked a little bit about the problems his young offense will face in playing against the Utes’ experienced defensive line.
“Hopefully the players don’t even watch this,” he prefaced. “We’ve got to go into this game with confidence. We can’t go into this game intimidated … We’ve got to understand that there’s going to be some tough downs and that they’re going to make some plays on us, and when they make some plays on us we’ve got to have the resiliency to come back and pop some of our own … understanding that they’re going to make some plays. This is a very good defense.”
Mora also mentioned one of the Utes’ unsung heroes along the defensive line.
“Tenny Palepoi … is the same type of guy,” he said, “He’s explosive. These are guys who I think will be forces at the next level.”
While this has been a popular sentiment among opposing coaches all year, Mora also gave high praise to the Utes’ much-maligned offense, specifically the wide receivers.
“Offensively, it’s probably the deepest group of receivers that we’ve seen,” Mora said. “They’ve just got a bunch of guys who can make plays. They’re all efficient doing what they do. It’ll be a tough task.”
While many Ute fans were frustrated with the outcome of the USC game, Mora watched it and came away impressed with how the Utes played the Trojans.
“We saw how they played USC the other night,” he said. “(They were) aggressive, up the field and physical on defense, so this will be a good challenge for us, especially up front.”
The Bruins are very young on the offensive line, and Mora believes this matchup will likely be the biggest test they face all season.
“With our young offensive line, going against these guys, it’ll be a real challenge,” he said. “We’ve got to have a good week of practice and stay focused, and come out and play as well as we can.”
Mora believes that the young offensive line needs to be tested and that the Utes will be a good test for that unit and for the rest of the team.
“It won’t be easy, but that’s OK — we don’t want it easy,” he said.
The Utes will take on the Bruins Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl, at 1:00 p.m. MT.
Trevor Amicone is the founder of byutahinsiders.com, which covers BYU, Utah and national college football with weekly polls, bowl projections, opinions and analysis. Follow its brand new Twitter page at @BYUtahInsiders and Trevor's at @TrevorAmicone.