A look down the Bruins’ football roster reveals a clear lack of distinct positions when it comes to the personnel listed on UCLA’s secondary.
That may not necessarily represent just an ambiguity, but rather the potential versatility defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin sees in his corps.
“Ever since recruitment, he’s always said, ‘I don’t recruit corners, safeties, nickels – I recruit DBs,’” said redshirt senior Randall Goforth. “When he’s coaching us, he coaches the safeties to know corner spots; he coaches the corners to know safety spots.”
A case in point would be Goforth himself. The defensive back has been most frequently spotted lining up as a safety in his five years at UCLA, but prior to donning a Bruin football jersey, the former Long Beach Poly High School player primarily saw defensive reps as a cornerback, and was even listed as such as a recruit.
Just two weekends prior, he was asked to revert the change made half a decade ago, filling in as a starting corner in place of sophomore Nate Meadors when the Bruins faced off against the Arizona State Sun Devils.
It was a move that might’ve seemed like a novelty to fans familiar with UCLA’s defensive scheme, but it also came as a surprise to the player himself.
“I think the thing you don’t realize is that two weeks ago, before it happened, it was right before the game,” said defensive coordinator Tom Bradley of Goforth’s position switch. “So it’s not even like he gets the chance to practice it, or even go over it.”
Goforth’s switch from safety to corner has come with its own set of adjustments, some of which are consequential nuances stemming from their literal positions on the field.
“The way you view the offense is a different angle from corner to safety, so how you see route concepts is different,” Goforth said. “You basically want to train your eyes differently than it would be as a safety.”
With a matchup against Utah (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) coming up Saturday, UCLA (3-4, 1-3) has once again called on the versatility of Goforth. The Bruin veteran has been positioned as a nickelback in practice while the defense adapts to the Utes’ spread offense helmed by dual-threat quarterback Troy Williams, who has already rushed for 215 yards this season.
Bradley credited Goforth’s proficiency at different positions to his knowledge and understanding of UCLA’s defensive scheme. And regardless of where Goforth eventually lines up Saturday, that’s what he will be relying on against the Utes.
“Well, I feel like if you can play football, you can play football,” the defensive back said. “By me always knowing the defense and knowing where everybody is, it’s kind of an easier transition rather than just one position. Just knowing everything will help when you’re needed at a different position.”