Tag:Mike Johnson
Posted on: December 28, 2011 10:58 pm

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Key Matchup

Posted by Bryan Fischer

A look at the key matchup that could decide the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. 

UCLA's pistol offense vs. Illinois defensive line

When it comes to stopping UCLA's Pistol, an attacking front four can cause havoc against the run-based offense. The Bruins have been pretty good on the ground this year - one of the few things they've seemed to execute ok - finishing 29th in the country with 190 yards per game rushing. Kevin Prince wasn't the greatest signal-caller (1,627 yards passing, 10-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio) but was a solid trigger man who could pull the ball and run for a first down when needed. Johnathan Franklin had a big game against Colorado but other than that was nothing to write home about after being held under 100 yards rushing in all but three games this season. Fellow back Derrick Coleman was on and off throughout the year but turned in a productive season.

Though the Bruins have faced some good defensive lines, they haven't faced anybody like defensive end Whitney Mercilus. The 6-foot-4, 265-pound All-American led the country in sacks with 14.5 and led the conference in tackles for loss with a total of 19.5 for the year. Though Illinois struggled down the stretch by losing six straight, it wasn't because of the defense, which finished seventh overall in total defense. Michael Buchanan finished 8th in the Big Ten in tackles for a loss playing on the line and was also a disruptive force at times this season. If the line can get penetration and make some plays, that allows the back seven to matchup well against UCLA's skill position talent that hasn't done much all at all outside of Nelson Rosario. Freeing up linebacker Jonathan Brown to make some plays will be something to watch if the Illini want to win the game.

Points might be hard to come by given the way Illinois' offense has looked down the stretch so that puts the pressure on the defense once again. If the team has any hope of ending the slide, they're going to have to limit big plays from an offense that can create some with misdirection. A good push from the defensive line against a bad UCLA offensive line is where things start.

On the other side, if the Bruins want to avoid going 6-8 on the year, the offense has to execute less like they did against USC and show some of the signs of life like they did against Oregon. Prince can pick up first downs and there should be a solid rushing game but if the o-line can't block Mercilus and the defensive line, interim head coach Mike Johnson could be in for a long night.

Posted on: December 10, 2011 3:16 am
Edited on: December 10, 2011 2:14 pm

UCLA hires Jim L. Mora as head coach

Posted by Bryan Fischer

After letting go of head coach Rick Neuheisel and attempting to hire several big names, UCLA has finally found a head coach.

Former Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons head coach Jim L. Mora will be the new coach in Westwood, the school announced Saturday morning. The Bruins had attempted to hire Boise State's Chris Petersen, Houston's Kevin Sumlin and Washington's Steve Sarkisian before Mora took the job. This will be the first time the Bruins have hired a head coach who has not been an assistant coach or player at the school since 1949. The LA Times first reported the news Friday night.

"As someone who has been around the game of football my entire life, I have always held the UCLA job in the highest esteem," Mora said in the release. "Given its location and its tradition, UCLA is truly a sleeping giant and I realize that an opportunity of this magnitude doesn't present itself more than once in a career, so I jumped at the chance to be a Bruin."

Mora has been out of coaching since 2009 after being let go by the Seahawks. He has been in the NFL since 1985, including stops in San Diego, New Orleans, San Francisco and Atlanta. In four seasons as a head coach, Mora compiled a 31-33 overall record and reached the NFC championship game in 2004 before losing to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Mora was serving as an analyst for the NFL Network the past two years before being hired by UCLA. Better known as Jim Mora Jr., he lived in Los Angeles when his father, Jim Sr., coached at the school in 1974. The 50-year-old also played defensive back at Washington in the early 1980's.

"UCLA has always been a place of high expectations, as it applies to our students, our faculty, our researchers and, not least of all, our athletic program. With more NCAA championships than any other university, the reality is that our fans count on us to be great. The hiring of Jim L. Mora as head coach of UCLA football proves that this is still a place where champions are made and integrity matters," said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.

The Bruins went 6-7 on the season under Neuheisel, losing 50-0 to crosstown rival USC and most recently to Oregon in the first ever Pac-12 Championship game last week.

UCLA will play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on December 31 with offensive coordinator Mike Johnson serving as interim head coach.

Posted on: December 1, 2011 12:36 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 12:38 pm

VIDEO: Bruins carry Neuheisel off practice field

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

After the 50-0 humiliation at the hands of USC -- not to mention the fact that none of his four regular seasons were any better than the worst regular season turned in by fired predecessor Karl Dorrell -- it was, almost certainly, time for Rick Neuheisel to go. But say this for the UCLA head coach: he never lost his players.

You can see as much in this video from the end of Wednesday's final full practice under Neuheisel before they take on Oregon in Saturday's Pac-12 championship game. Yes, that's Neuheisel being carried off the field on his players' shoulders as they sing the UCLA fight song:

Not surprisingly, Neuheisel -- a UCLA alum and former Bruin quarterback star -- was more than a little moved by the gesture, pausing to compose himself more than once while delivering his post-practice comments to the media:
“(A better tribute) is tough to imagine but it’s meaningful when you work to create relationships and you want desperately for them to achieve what they’re capable of achieving. Despite the fact that we didn’t win enough games, I think they are achieving as people.

I’m extremely proud to be a part of this team and I’m looking forward to a what is hopefully a grand finish.”
That finish might be tough to come by against the Ducks in Autzen, the same team and location where Neuheisel's Bruins were demolished 60-13 last season. But UCLA will at least have the chance to play in a bowl game after the NCAA approved a waiver to allow them into the postseason at 6-7.

Neuheisel won't be coaching the team for that game, as interim coach Mike Johnson will have taken the reins. But after the above send-off, he's already got an ending as happy as this season was going to allow.

HT: Dr. Saturday
Posted on: November 28, 2011 2:56 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 3:05 pm

Rick Neuheisel officially out at UCLA

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

As has been expected since the moment USC finished their 50-0 demolition of the Bruins Saturday, UCLA has officially fired head coach Rick Neuheisel. Athletic director Dan Guerrero announced the decision Monday afternoon.

Neuheisel will, however, be allowed to coach the Bruins in Saturday's Pac-12 championship game at North division winner Oregon. Following the game, offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will become interim head coach and would presumably coach the Bruins in any potential bowl game, including the Rose Bowl. (Barring the massive upset in Eugene, the Bruins would need a waiver from the NCAA after finishing with a 6-7 overall record--a game short of the .500 mark normally required for postseason play.)

In his statement, Guerrero said that he had "great respect" for Neuheisel and "the manner in which he has run this program," but added that he felt the time had come to make a change.

"Decisions such as this one do not come without a great deal of heartache," he said. "However, it is apparent to me that a move was necessary at this time in order to give UCLA the best chance to enjoy the success that we all desire."

Neuhseisel leaves with just a 21-28 mark in his four seasons at the Bruin helm, one bowl appearance, and a 13-23 mark against the Pac-10/12.

Apparently, Guerrero neglected to let Neuheisel inform the team the decision had been made before the news became official. A tweet Monday from from junior tight end Joseph Fauria expressed his frustration:

Posted on: July 15, 2011 12:06 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2011 12:40 pm

Even Neuheisel agrees: it's bowl game or bust

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The consensus has been that after three seasons with no achievement more impressive than a handful of blue-chip signings and an EagleBank Bowl victory over Temple, Rick Neuheisel must either guide his UCLA team back to the postseason or get fired trying.

One person at UCLA who won't argue with that consensus? Rick Neuheisel, as it turns out:
The UCLA football coach must win at least half of his games and play in a bowl or he's gone, and he knows it.
"I hate talking like that, but, as an alumni, I would say absolutely yes," Neuheisel said Thursday. "At the end of the day, I am responsible for this program."
That's from a conversation between Neuheisel and Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke, during which Neuheisel tocuhed on various aspects of last year's disastrous 4-8 campaign. One of those aspects was the hiring of since-departed offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who the Bruins paid some $500,000 to coach somewhere else. Despite Chow's pedigree, it's clear from Neuheisel's comments he feels he never should have hired the current Utah OC in the first place:
"I was more enamored with Norm's profile than anything else," Neuheisel says ... "I was trying to hit a home run ..."
"It just didn't work, and it's not Norm's fault. It was that chemistry thing. We didn't have the usual give-and-take that staffs need to be successful," Neuheisel says. "You have to have a staff that develops a recipe for success and stays united behind it. … I don't think that always got accomplished and, because of that, there's a trickle-down effect on your players."
The result of the Chow hire was that between Neuheisel and his star offensive coordinator, Plaschke writes, the Bruins saw their offense pulled in two different directions. He neglects to point out, however, that with neither Neuheisel nor Chow having any experience with the pistol offense installed before last season, Neuheisel also gave his team a third separate direction for the offense to juggle.

Here's how Plaschke describes Neuheisel's attempt to remedy the situation:
[H]e hired a bunch of strangers to everyone but him, coaches whose main attribute was that they shared his boundless optimism and energy. Anonymous guys. Neuheisel guys. He hired Mike Johnson to bring NFL offensive smarts, Joe Tresey to bring a Midwestern-style defense, and Jim Mastro to bring some secrets from that crazy Nevada "pistol" offense.
That's right: he hired a dyed-in-the-NFL-wool pro-style coordinator to oversee a doubling-down on the pistol ... or, in other words, he created -- on paper -- the exact offensive identity crisis that caused so many problems for his team last season.

We're wishing Neuheisel the best of luck. As good as the Bruins' defense shapes up to be, we're guessing he'll still need it.
Posted on: January 22, 2011 2:22 pm
Edited on: January 22, 2011 4:20 pm

UCLA hires Mike Johnson as offensive coordinator

Posted by Tom Fornelli

It's been rumored for a while, but UCLA made it official on Saturday afternoon, announcing that Mike Johnson has been hired to be the Bruins offensive coordinator.  Of course, the school hasn't officially fired Norm Chow yet, nor has Chow officially accepted a position at Utah as has been rumored as well. Still, the fact that the Bruins have a new offensive coordinator is a pretty good indication of where Chow won't be coaching next season.

In the official release, not only has Johnson been brought on to replace Chow, but Rick Neuheisel will be taking on the role of quarterbacks coach as well.

"During my assessment of our program, I felt it was necessary for me to be more involved in the day-to-day operation of the offense," Neuheisel said. "I decided that going forward, I will coach the quarterbacks and will be more hands-on in the area of play calling with a new coordinator.

"Mike is a great addition to our staff. He has a background with a multitude of offensive schemes, has coached several different positions and has experience in our conference as well as in the National Football League. Mike brings a wealth of knowledge and adds versatility to our offense and I can't wait to get in the film room and start planning for 2011 and the Pac-12.

"In addition, Mike is a dynamic and tireless recruiter who is familiar with the Pac-12 area and, in particular, southern California. He will be a great plus for our program in this important area."

Johnson spent the last few seasons with the San Francisco 49ers as a quarterbacks coach before taking on the position of offensive coordinator in 2010. He also spent two years working with Neuheisel on the Baltimore Ravens staff from 2006-07.

UCLA's offense was rather abysmal in 2010, as it finished 104th in the nation in scoring, averaging 20.2 points per game, and 116th in passing. The Bruins finished the season with a 4-8 record, including a 2-7 campaign within the Pac-10.
Posted on: January 13, 2011 12:01 pm

Norm Chow seems destined for Utah

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Although UCLA says that he's still currently its offensive coordinator, all indications are that Norm Chow doesn't have much time left working for the Bruins.  At least, you wouldn't think so considering the team is reportedly hammering out a deal with former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Johnson.  Fear not for Norm Chow, however, for it seems that should he be replaced by Johnson in Los Angeles, he won't be out of a job for long.

While Rick Neuheisel is busy trying to replace Chow, Norm isn't just sitting around waiting for the axe to drop.  He's reportedly involved in talks with Utah about their offensive coordinator position.  It seems Kyle Whittingham wasn't exactly thrilled with the Utes' offensive performance down the stretch, and is looking to make a change.  Which is somewhat understandable considering Utah scored 68 points over its final five games, and 38 of those came in a win against San Diego State.

Chow has long been considered one of the best offensive coordinators in college football, though his time at UCLA has been pretty forgettable. He also has ties to Utah, where he played guard -- NORM CHOW WAS AN OFFENSIVE LINEMAN!? -- from 1965-67.  If he did return to his alma mater, it would make for some interesting matchups when the Utes move to the Pac-12 next season.

Once there he'd be facing two teams he used to work for in UCLA and USC, not to mention the fact that Chow also spent many years at Utah rival BYU, where he mentored guys like Jim McMahon, Steve Young and Ty Detmer.  
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