UCLA LBs - Westgate (11), Larimore (42), Love (20) & Bowen (58) - looking on at Spaulding this past spring. Photo Credit: E. Corpuz
Let's start with a recruiting note. Little more than couple of weeks ago we wrote about a JC quarterback prospect from the Bay Area. There is a good chance that Darius Bell, a 6-0, 218, mobile and athletic QB out of San Francisco City College could be transferring into UCLA this off-season and be eligible to play during the upcoming season. Bell happens to be the younger brother of former Bruin Kahlil Bell.
Well according to Jon Gold Bell "will be at UCLA after he graduates in June, "if" he graduates in June." We will have to see how it all plays out. We all know how tricky it can get for a JC transfer to satisfy eligibility requirements to get into UCLA. If he gets in though he could potentially add legitimate depth at the QB spot. His athleticism and mobility could be good fit with the revolver formations we experimented with this spring.
Moving on to the guys who are already on the roster, the OC Register last week put up multiple posts on our LBs. The competition for the starting spot at MLB was intense this spring and that battle is still too close to call:
The battle between Sloan and Larimore was the most competitive of any position. Sloan has reshaped his body since being an interim starter at outside linebacker in 2008. Lea said the 6-4, 232-pound redshirt junior still needs to work on changing speeds and directions but otherwise has been one of the most improved Bruins.
That title unofficially belongs to Larimore, who took a big step forward in UCLA's bowl practices this past December.
"That was the first time I saw him really starting to get it," Lea said of the 6-3, 250-pound redshirt sophomore. "I'm not shocked he's had a good spring. The thing I like is he's been consistent. It hasn't been a good day here and a good day there and then a bad day."
Lea said the two pushed each other and controlled the first-team defense, a perquisite to playing their position. Judging by the first-year coach's tone, UCLA feels comfortable with either one starting in the fall and both might get significant run regardless.
"We need a guy that can really run the show, make the checks, make the adjustments, get everybody lined up," Lea said. "Both of those guys have shown the ability to do that.
As usual the OC Register needs to get its fact straight. Sloan never was an "interim starter" at OLB. He started few games in 2008 at Mike shifting Reggie Carter over to Will and John Hale at Sam. It is amazing to me how despite beating beat "reporters" these guys keep screwing up details like this which can be easily checked.
Anyway, the competition between Larimore and Sloan was pretty intense. I got the sense that Larimore might have gained a slight edge but we will see. Sloan wasn't spectacular when he got his shot two years ago but he was adequate. It will be interesting to see if his experience will give him a boost.
There was Sean Westgate, the "crafty, knows what to do" veteran, as linebackers coach Clark Lea put it. The there was converted safety Glenn Love, who's been a linebacker for all of four weeks.
"He's still feeling his way through," Lea said. "The thing I'm looking for with Glenn is when it does click, how physical a player he can be."
He gave us more than one glimpse this spring. The 6-4, 214-pound junior flattened running back Derrick Coleman (Sheldon Brown-Reggie Bush style) in the spring game and was flying all over the place in the Bruins' first scrimmage.
Such performances showed that Love is playing full speed. He's not reacting, not hesitating, which is often the case with young players or those switching positions. Lea seemed almost giddy when discussing his prospects after an offseason of strength and conditioning.
"For a guy like Glenn, it's no more clear for anyone than him: I need to put 10 pounds on. I need to get stronger and study the defense," Lea said.
If Taniela Maka makes it in by this Fall, we can expect him to emerge as a factor at this position. Of course Maka is not the only talented new comer arriving this summer. We are also going to be anticipating the arrival of few freshman LBs such as Aramaide Olaniyan from VA. Why did I mention Aramide's name? Well AO has been getting ready for UCLA:
Gotta love that enthusiasm. Can't wait to see what he does in Westwood.