Let’s start our walk with an extensive fall camp preview of our offense by Tracy Pierson at Bruin Report Online. The post is not behind the BRO subscription firewall. So take a look. Pierson offers a sobering perspective:
UCLA has decent talent on its roster –everywhere but on the offensive line. And after reviewing our booklet of Football 101, we know that, if you can’t get decent production on your offensive line, your offense can’t move the ball, and because of that, you can’t score. The defense, then, has to spend way too much time on the field, which puts even more pressure on it to limit opposing offenses.
It’s a snowball effect.
The most up-in-the-air position on the OL is easily the right guard spot. Currently, Scott Glicksberg (SR, 6-4, 300) is penciled in there. Glicksberg has had an interesting career at UCLA – originally coming in as an offensive lineman, then was switched to the defensive line. He then had a bout with mononucleosis, and lost quite a bit of weight and didn’t get on the field for a while. When he returned, he came back as a 250-pound tight end. He then injured his shoulder last season as the designated blocking tight end, but when the offensive line was growing even more thin, he gained his weight back, did some considerable time in the weight room and was plugged back into the offensive guard position. It would be a great story if, this fall, Glicksberg had a good season for the Bruins.
Nick Ekbatani (JR, 6-4, 295) is also a candidate for the starting right guard position. Ekbatani, a former JC prospect, came to UCLA with big expectations, having been recruited by some big-named schools. But with some injuries here and there, he’s been limited, and sat out the entire season in 2007. He then sat out much of spring practice, so the coaches are anxious to see him healthy next week.
Ekbatani will also be a candidate for the starting spot at right tackle, which has to be the hardest hit position on UCLA’s football team. Aleksey Lanis, who was a good, young player, quit football after too many knee injuries. The projected starter after Lanis, Sean Sheller, had a serious knee injury in an ATV accident in the off-season and will be out for the season. There is actually some question whether he’ll be able to return to football at all. So, UCLA is now dipping down into essentially its third string at right tackle. Mike Harris (R-FR, 6-5, 305) will get a chance there. Harris, physically, is impressive-looking, but he’s young, inexperienced and there were some issues: 1) Whether he has the foot quickness and 2) the fact he was struggling to pick up the blocking schemes last season as a true freshman.
In the off-season, the guy who has lined up at the informal workouts at right tackle is Brandon Bennett (SO, 6-4, 310). Bennett has had his body transformed since coming to UCLA, having lost a good 30 to 40 pounds and added muscle, and he could still do some more work on it. Bennett, once he lost the weight, showed some decent quickness, so since UCLA is so thin at tackle, that’s where he found himself.
Not only is UCLA’s OL lacking elite talent and experience, but depth. After those six, there is Jake Dean (SO, 6-4, 295), who has hopped between center and guard, and is now settled in at center again. UCLA is grooming him as the center of the future when Reed leaves after this season. He did, however, injure his foot in the off-season but the MRI was negative and he’s expected to be ready to start camp next week.
The only other lineman who returns from last season is Sonny Tevaga (SO, 6-3, 320), who is written in as a back-up guard. Tevaga, like Bennett, has lost a ton of weight, but we haven’t see him this off-season at all and haven’t heard about his progress.
So what should we look from our OL (which the coaches are trying to patch by converting TEs)? Here are they keys per Pierson:
The biggest key, truly, to the offensive line in fall practice is to stay healthy. One more injury to one of the key players and they might have to convert more tight ends or defensive ends to the OL.
It’s key that the offensive line show, by the end of fall practice, some cohesion, and just a bit of capability of run blocking. We’re not going to even think about pass protection, since that would be asking too much (and actually, it’s far more difficult to develop). If this group can get Palcic’s new blocking schemes down and, by the end of August, show that they’re capably of opening some holes against UCLA’s defensive front seven in practice, consider that a big win.
Agree with him whole heartedly. Read rest of Pierson’s preview here.
Well we will have some RBs who will be eager for to run through those holes. And it looks like Bell is now ready to go when training camp opens up next week:
UCLA running back Kahlil Bell, recovering from a knee injury, was cleared for full practice when preseason workouts begin Tuesday.
Bell, who led the Bruins in rushing last season, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a 20-7 loss at on Oct. 27 and had surgery a few weeks later. The senior tailback didn't participate in spring practice. Washington State
had 795 yards rushing last season. Bell
This is great news. Note freshman running back Raymond Carter was cleared for practice few weeks ago. Also speaking of RBs, it looks like coaches are in sync with our ideas. Remember who we were discussing about perhaps trying out
In talking to the coaching staff, UCLA plans to use junior running back Chane Moline in a hybrid role this season, having him split time between tailback (mostly for short yardage) and also utilizing him as a fullback.
For their part coaches are scouring all over for noted. According to Dohn Chow recently attended the Cowboys’ camp in
We will end with a note on our opponent. Apparently