UCLA’s new defensive coordinator makes a good first impression on players – Daily News

16 Apr 2022 | 15:47

LOS ANGELES – After last week’s training session, Bill McGovern, UCLA’s new defensive coordinator, got to Stephan Blaylock’s safety and told him: Always give input.

Blaylock, who has played under Jerry Azzinaro for the first four seasons, is looking into how McGovern runs things. And midway through spring practice, everything is good so far.

“I like him a lot,” Blaylock said. “And it looks like he likes us. He always talks to us as individuals or even as a group. He always encourages us. … I love the energy he brings to the building. ”

McGovern took over a defence, which was not one of the team’s bright spots under Azzinaro. UCLA won eight games last season following a Pac-12-led foul last season, averaging 36.7 points per game.

But their defense is near the bottom of the table, with 26.8 points per game – 74th nationally. That is indeed an improvement over the previous three seasons, when Azzinaro’s defense scored 30.7 points per game in 2020, 34.8 points in 2019 and 34.1 points in 2018.

While the Bruins have been strong for several seasons before defending against runaways, their secondary cost them some big games in nearly every game. UCLA dropped 260.2 yards of passes per game last season, the last in the Pac-12.

In no game in Azzinaro’s four seasons, UCLA ranks in the top half of the Pac-12 in defense. Azzinaro also did not respond to questions about his performances, not speaking to the media during his four seasons.

After more than a decade following head coach Chip Kelly as an assistant from Oregon for the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers and eventually UCLA, Azzinaro has been swapped for another former Kelly assistant at McGovern – who coached the Eagles defenders from 2013 to 2015.

McGovern, who spoke to the media after training this week, said he was still assessing the players and figuring out the system. But on a large scale, McGovern values ​​feedback and communication. The coach can draw the plans and break the movie, but the players are the ones who actually create the plays.

“You want their opinion,” says McGovern. “They are the guys on the pitch that are really doing it. They have a lot of good ideas. We can talk about something in the coach room, but when we put it to work on the field, it can be a little bit different from what people see. ”

McGovern, who has extensive coaching experience since 1985, wants his players to feel included in the decision-making process.

“We are developing relationships,” said McGovern. “In particular, this sport is a relational sport. We want to know what the guys feel and what they like. And if they can help us improve defensively, I’m all for that.”

One of the things McGovern has noticed so far in spring practice is the energy of the players, crediting Kelly for establishing a culture of “no games on the weekend but these guys are practicing.” Work hard and give your best,” he said.

McGovern said his plans at UCLA are well underway. He’ll be collaborating with the rest of the coaching staff, taking in everyone’s input and getting a better sense of what they’ll be up to near the season.

“I don’t know what was emphasized here last year, but there are things that we are emphasizing,” said McGovern. “People are emphasizing different things or certain things. When we put it all together, it’s taking shape. “