Jedd Fisch wasn’t about to slap a label on his offense.
“Just offense. Just an offense,” UCLA’s new offensive coordinator said when asked if he had a name for the attack the Bruins will run.
His answer to the media may have been lacking in detail, but Fisch’s approach with the players has been just the opposite in the early days of UCLA’s spring practice.
“He’s very precise,” said senior wide receiver Darren Andrews. “He wants things run exactly his way.”
For the receivers, Andrews said, that means an increased focus on running their routes exactly as the play-call intends them. If a receiver is supposed to break off his route 15 yards from the line of scrimmage, he better break it off right at 15 yards – not 14.5 or 15.5.
“He’s strict, he’s a stickler,” Andrews said. “It’s kind of like school. If the teacher gives you the prompts and guidelines for an essay, you’ve got to do it that way or you’re going to get points knocked off.”
The Bruins hope that level of detail will revitalize an offense that ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring last season and dead last in rushing yards per game.
So far, the signs point up, Andrews said.
“Everybody seems to know what they’re doing, unlike last year, when it kind of felt willy-nilly,” Andrews said. “It wasn’t too loose (last year), but it definitely wasn’t as strict as it is now.”
For his part, Fisch said he hasn’t even watched tape of UCLA’s offense from last year. His family still hasn’t moved to join him in the Los Angeles area, so he’s had plenty of free time to pore over film, but he said he doesn’t feel he can take much away from watching the Bruins’ offense without knowing what the players had been asked to do on each play.
“I didn’t see much value,” Fisch said. “I wouldn’t know what they were told, what they were assigned on a certain play. I don’t want to sit there and look at the film and guess.”
As for how to jumpstart the stagnant running game, which ranked second-to-last in the nation last fall, Fisch said the focus will be on generating big plays. Last season, UCLA tied for last in the country in run plays of 10 yards or more and didn’t record a single rush over 32 yards.
“You have to fight for the extra yard and then make the explosive play if it’s there,” Fisch said. “There’s always a lot of runs for two or three yards, but the ones that let you have big rushing days are the ones you can break, a 38-yard run or a 50-yard run.”
Early in spring practice, junior running back Soso Jamabo has clearly taken on the lead role. A former five-star recruit, Jamabo started for the first two games of last season before missing the Bruins’ third game for unknown reasons and then falling into a five-back rotation throughout the remainder of the year. He finished the season with 321 yards on 82 attempts, an average of 3.91 per carry.
“I feel like I’ve gotten more explosive, more strong, and I’ve gotten leaner,” Jamabo said of his offseason preparation. “Everyone wants to be the starter. I’ve got the job right now, and I’ve got to keep running with it.”
Fisch will also have a five-star recruit under center, with junior quarterback Josh Rosen returning from a shoulder injury, an appealing prospect for a coach who served as the passing game coordinator in his previous gig at Michigan. With a signal-caller as talented as Rosen, Fisch said he’s learning to strike a balance between tweaking things and allowing Rosen to maintain what he’s done previously.
“There’s always going to be a little flavor we add, a new staff, a new coach,” Fisch said. “Maybe he learned it one way, I know it another, so we come to a nice compromise…I think he would say we’re challenging him a little bit to come out of his comfort zone. On the other hand, I’ll come out of my comfort zone.”