Oregon-UCLA Position Battle: RBs vs. LBs

By Dave Razzano

Oregon RB's vs. UCLA LB's

On paper this looks like a complete mismatch, though it's hard to measure the emotion the Bruins will be playing with in what will be Rick Neuheisel's final game as UCLA head coach. The Ducks zone option attack has three very capable runners in LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, and freshman speedster De'Anthony Thomas. These guys all hit cutback lanes hard and fast. Bruin LB's Pat Larimore and Jordan Zumwalt can both stuff the inside run but can't afford to be overaggressive in their pursuit or they will give up big gainers. LaMichael James has unusual quickness bursting through the line and can explode into the secondary quickly if gap discipline is not realized.  UCLA LB Sean Westgate is the most athletic of the Bruin LB's and his lateral speed will be badly needed against this bunch. He can run and hit and is usually a very dependable tackler.  Look for him to put up double digit tackles in this contest. The biggest problem defending Oregon is the depth of their backfield. Kenjon Barner can be mistaken at times for James with his homerun speed, and everyone has seen the burst of true freshman De'Anthony Thomas all year long. Even though the Bruin defenders will be playing their hearts out trying for the upset, it is doubtful they can stifle the Ducks' ground game for four quarters.

UCLA RB's vs. Oregon LB's

The UCLA ground attack, led by talented runners Johnathan Franklin and 240 pound Derrick Coleman, is very capable of rushing for a lot of yards against Oregon in a close game scenario. The problem is that the Ducks usually jump out to a lead and force the opposition to rely more on the pass. Early in the game though, the Bruins should run right at the Ducks and try to establish the line of scrimmage early on. Franklin is a big play threat on any carry with his speed and elusiveness out in space, and Coleman, with his combination of size and power, can move the chains while wearing down a defense. Oregon inside LB's Michael Clay and Dewitt Stuckey both fill quickly at the line but are both undersized and will have to gang tackle the powerful Coleman to bring him down. Like UCLA, Oregon will have to play gap discipline defense to protect from the cutback abilities of the shifty Franklin, who can burst for a long gainer almost as quickly as LaMichael James. The Bruin RB's are very talented and both have very good NFL potential. I expect them to be productive in this contest but not enough to come away with an upset.

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Dave Razzano is a former NFL scout with more than 22 years of professional scouting experience with the San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals under NFL coaches Bill Walsh, George Seifert, Chuck Knox and Dick Vermeil. He's been a part of five Super Bowls with three Super Bowl wins (49ers, 1989, 1990; Rams, 2000).