After offseason overhaul, UCLA defense set for opening test

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LOS ANGELES – When Chip Kelly signed a four-year extension to remain as UCLA’s coach, making changes to his defensive staff was at the top of his to-do list.

It turned out the offseason changes weren’t just confined to the coaching staff.

When the Bruins open the season Saturday at the Rose Bowl against Bowling Green, the defense will have only two starters and one assistant returning from the unit that took the field nine months earlier in the regular-season finale against California.

“I think (the staff has) meshed well as a group in presenting the package and making sure the group has grasped it before going on to the next step,” Kelly said. “I’ve been impressed with how they played in the spring preseason game and now we get a chance to test it on Saturday against another team.”

Headlining the changes is Bill McGovern at defensive coordinator following the resignation of Jerry Azzinaro. McGovern was on Kelly’s staff with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2013-15 and was the inside linebackers coach for the Chicago Bears last season.

McGovern, who is a coordinator for the first time in 10 years, when he was at Boston College, was pleased with the installation process and how players adapted to new schemes throughout preseason camp.

“The guys we have are sharp guys, they pick stuff up very quickly,” he said. “One of the biggest things is finding out what our guys do well and try to put them in those situations and let them excel in there.”

McGovern’s biggest task is fixing a pass defense that has struggled in recent years. The Bruins allowed 260.2 passing yards per game last season, the worst in the Pac-12 and 56th out of 64 Power Five schools.

UCLA allowed over 300 yards three times and at least 280 yards in half of its 12 games.

The Bruins ran a nickel as their base defense the past couple seasons, but McGovern has changed things up a little bit with a variation of a 4-3. North Texas transfer Gabriel Murphy and Bo Calvert, one of only two returning starters, will be expected to provide the pass rush as hybrid defensive linemen/outside linebackers.

Murphy had seven sacks at North Texas last season and is one of three transfers who will start Saturday, along with linebacker Darius Muasau (Hawaii) and Azizi Hearn (Wyoming) at cornerback.

“Everybody always wants to know, ‘Are you 3-4, 4-3?’ You gotta be everything,” McGovern said. “You can’t live just in man or in a straight zone. You’re gonna have to have what we call tools in different coverages to help with different routes. Guys are getting a hang of that, but we’re running a complete defensive package.”

Kelly also brought on former UCLA standout and three-time Super Bowl champion Ken Norton Jr. as inside linebackers coach. Norton had been coaching in the NFL since 2010 and had been a coordinator the past seven seasons with the Raiders and Seattle Seahawks.

Norton has been the most vocal coach during practices when it has come to instructing and motivating his players.

“Just through our research, we wanted to get some NFL-style coaching,” Kelly said. “I think we’ve done a really good job against the run, but we need to do a better job in pass defense, so some of the principles that Bill and Ken have and pass rush schemes is kind of what we were looking for.”

Chad Kauha'aha'a (defensive line) and Ikaika Malloe (outside linebackers/special teams), who have experience in the Pac-12, were also added to the staff.

Safety Stephan Blaylock, who has made 31 straight starts for the Bruins, said forcing turnovers has been an increased focus since spring drills.

“We want to be physical, run to the ball and get off the field,” he said. “We don’t want to keep our offense cold. We wanna get our playmakers out there and put points up on the board.”

With temperatures expected to reach 102 degrees Fahrenheit (39 Celsius) Saturday, UCLA will be cycling through plenty of players. The first three nonconference games – which also include FCS foe Alabama State and South Alabama – should also give the Bruins a chance to get plenty of underclassmen some game experience.

WVU RB Donaldson in concussion protocol, out for Baylor game

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) West Virginia running back CJ Donaldson is in concussion protocol and will miss next week’s home game with Baylor after he was injured in a loss to Texas, coach Neal Brown said Tuesday.

Donaldson remained on the ground after he was tackled on a short gain in the third quarter of Saturday’s 38-20 loss to the Longhorns. His helmet and shoulder pads were removed and he was carted off the field on a stretcher. After the game he was cleared to travel home with the team.

“He’s recovering,” Brown said. “There is a strict return-to-play (policy) that we have to follow here and I’m zero involved in it. All I do is ask the question. They don’t even start the return-to-play until they’re symptom free.”

Donaldson, a 240-pound freshman, leads the Mountaineers with 389 rushing yards and six touchdowns, with an average of 6.9 yards per carry.

West Virginia (2-3, 0-2 Big 12 Conference) is idle this week and hosts Baylor (3-2, 1-1) next Thursday, Oct. 13.

Taulia Tagovailoa says he visited brother, Tua, over weekend

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was able to visit his brother, Tua, last weekend after the Terrapins’ game against Michigan State, he said Tuesday in his first comments to reporters since Tua left the Miami Dolphins’ game against Cincinnati last Thursday with a frightening head injury.

Taulia played in Maryland’s win over Michigan State on Saturday but was not made available to the media afterward. He said Tuesday he was able to go to Florida and spend some time with his brother, who suffered a concussion four days after taking a hit in another game but was cleared to return.

“He’s doing good, everything’s fine,” he said. “My biggest thing was just seeing him and spending as much time as I can with him. I came back Sunday night.”

Tagovailoa said he appreciates the support for his brother.

“My brother’s my heart. He’s someone I look up to, someone I talk to every day,” he said. “It was just a hard scene for me to see that.”

Tagovailoa said he was in constant contact with his mother about his brother’s situation, and he was finally able to talk to Tua on Friday night.

“I really just wanted to go there and just spend time with my family, hug them and stuff like that,” Taulia Tagovailoa said. “But he told me he’s a big fan of us, and he’d rather watch me play on Saturday. … After that phone call, I was happy and getting back to my normal routine.”

Tagovailoa indicated that his brother’s injury didn’t make him too nervous about his own health when he took the field again.

“I guess when that happens to someone like my brother, or when anything happens to one of my family members, I don’t really think of how it will be able to affect me,” he said. “I just think of: `Is he OK? How’s he doing?”‘

Although it was a short visit to Florida, he said he and Tua made the most of their chance to be together.

“I just wanted to make sure he’s healthy and stuff, which he is,” Taulia Tagovailoa said.