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UCLA Position Previews — Defense

Each week, we take a look at the various fronts of Washington's upcoming opponent. Today, we examine the defense of the UCLA Bruins.

October 12, 2013; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins linebacker Anthony Barr (11) brings down California Golden Bears quarterback Jared Goff (16) during the first half at the Rose Bowl.
October 12, 2013; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins linebacker Anthony Barr (11) brings down California Golden Bears quarterback Jared Goff (16) during the first half at the Rose Bowl.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Players to watch
DE Eddie Vanderdoes, LB Myles Jack, LB Anthony Barr

Notable injuries/absences
DT Eli Ankou (Questionable—knee), CB John Johnson (Out—shoulder), DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (Out—hip), S Dietrich Riley (Out—neck/shoulder), CB Marcus Rios (Out—illness), DL Ian Taubler (Questionable—concussion), DL Brandon Tuliaupupu (Questionable—knee)

UCLA claims one of college football's good-but-not-great defenses, ranking 62nd in yards allowed per game but 36th in scoring defense. At home, they're even stingier, giving up just 16.5 points per game at the Rose Bowl to rank 23rd nationally. After having an easy go of things against Colorado and Cal, Washington will have to work to earn every point on Friday.

Though he doesn't have the most impressive statistical stat sheet, perhaps no player on UCLA's defensive line has a higher ceiling than that of true freshman Eddie Vanderdoes. A consensus five-star recruit, Vanderdoes has lived up to they hype, seizing a starting job in his first year and making 34 tackles through nine games, including 4.5 tackles for loss and contributing a half-sack. He's deceptively light on his feet—not many 300 lb. players possess the necessary quickness to play defensive end—and presents perhaps the greatest challenge that Husky right tackle Ben Riva will have faced this year.

At linebacker, UCLA boasts a potential top-five pick in Anthony Barr, a 6-4 pass rushing monster who has earned 13.0 tackles for loss and six sacks on 44 total tackles this season. Those number are off pace from his beastly 2012 season in which he earned 21 tackles for loss and 13 sacks, but he's already forced five fumbles in nine games this year. Washington will likely feature Bishop Sankey and little else in the running game, as the normally sure-handed ball carrier will need to play as expected to keep from giving the UCLA offense a short field.

Alongside Barr is freshman wunderkind Myles Jack, an alumnus of Bellevue High School. There's seemingly no limit to what Jack is able to accomplish: Aside from his breakout performance as a running back last week, he's started eight of UCLA's nine contests this season at linebacker, and has made 63 tackles, with five of them coming for a loss. He's also been superb in pass coverage, intercepting one pass and breaking up nine others.

The Bruins possess a dependable if not flashy secondary, having allowed 6.3 yards per pass attempt this season. They've earned 10 interceptions this year, but that number is a bit misleading, as six of them came in an abysmal performance by Utah's Travis Wilson; the Bruins haven't gained more than a single interception in any game outside of that one. That said, UCLA has allowed just 11 receiving touchdowns this year, good for third in the conference behind Washington and Oregon, which are tied for first with nine. The potential is certainly there for Washington to have a big game through the air, if—and it's a big "if"—the offensive line can keep Barr, Jack, Vanderdoes and defensive end Cassius Marsh from collapsing the pocket before the receivers get a chance to break free.


As always, thanks to College Football StatisticsESPN and USA Today's College Football Injury Report for the relevant data that went into this article. You can follow me on Twitter by clicking below.

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