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UCLA Football: 2012 Spring Preview of Bruin Defensive Line

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PASADENA, CA - OCTOBER 29:  Let's hope we see a lot more sacks from the defensive line this year.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - OCTOBER 29: Let's hope we see a lot more sacks from the defensive line this year. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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As we did last year, we will once again be going through the position groups, starting with the defensive line. The defensive line will be coached by Angus McClure. While we respect McClure's recruiting, we're a little unsure of this choice from a coaching and teaching perspective:

The sole holdover from both the Neuheisel era and Dorrell era, McClure is making the switch from the offensive side of the ball to the defensive line, a position he has never coached before. In fact, it will be his first defensive gig since he was the defensive coordinator at McClatchy HS in Sacramento in 1995. Obviously, given how poor our defensive line was this past year, it's a bit concerning that we don't have a proven DL coach coming in to coach up these guys.

McClure's first job (other than continuing to recruit) is figuring out how to adjust the depth chart.

Here's what the depth chart looked like at the end of the season, with the bowl guide (PDF), listing the depth chart as follows:






Nate Chandler

Justin Edison






Aramide Olaniyan

Seali’I Epenesa


In terms of experience, the bowl release also noted that Datone Jones has had 28 starts, Damien Holmes 19, Nate Chandler 15, Justin Edison 14, Cassius Marsh 12, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Keenan Graham 6, and Donovan Carter 1. Graham and Holmes (and Olaniyan) are now linebackers. Chandler and Edison were seniors so they will not be returning.

Back in February, we took an early look at the potential defensive depth chart, at that time, the educated guess for the defensive line was:

Datone Jones
Ellis McCarthy Iuta Tepa
Damien Holmes
Cassius Marsh
Brandon Willis
Owamagbe Odighizuwa Kevin McReynolds
Keenan Graham
Sam Tai
Donovan Carter
Seali'i Epenesa

Brandon Tuliaupupu

Since that time, the pre-Spring position and number changes were released, including some interesting changes on the defensive line, including Damien Holmes and Keenan Graham moving from defensive end to linebacker. Additionally, according to the official roster, Cassius Marsh and Brandon Willis are now defensive ends. This makes a lot of sense when you consider the base scheme that Jim Mora and Defensive Coordinator Lou Spanos will likely be running for the 2012 UCLA Bruins football season:

So that's what we expect from the base defense. Three down linemen, get more athletes and more speed on the field, attempt to disrupt and confuse the offenses by bringing pressure, but try to keep the defense behind the pressure pretty safe and make where the pressure is coming from unpredictable.

So, what do we expect the defensive line to look like for the upcoming season? Of course, we expect competition, but this is how we think it plays out.




Datone Jones (6-5, 280, RS Sr)

Ellis McCarthy (6-5, 295, Fr)

Cassius Marsh (6-4, 295, Jr)

Owamagbe Odighizuwa (6-5, 278, Jr)

Kevin McReynolds (6-3, 310 RS Fr)

Iuta Tepa (6-2, 268, RS Jr)

Sam Tai (6-4, 275, RS Fr)

Donovan Carter (6-2, 313, RS Sr)

Brandon Willis (6-3, 275, So)

Seali'i Epenesa (6-2, 323, Jr)

Brandon Tuliaupupu (6-2, 331, RS Fr)

At defensive end, we expect Marsh and Jones to win the starting positions. A 3-4 defense end is more like a 4-3 defensive tackle than a 4-3 defensive end, and the end's job in the base 3-4 is usually to occupy blockers, and provide some pass rush. Marsh has experience as a 4-3 defensive tackle and Jones played better inside than outside during the 2011 season. We all still expect big things from Odighizuwa, but he's still maturing physically and will have to learn how to play as a 3-4 end. Tepa will also likely see significant playing time. It will be interesting to see how Willis transitions into this defense. We don't think Tai will make much of an impact this year, but will provide depth, especially a year or two down the road. Depending on rotations, game situations, injuries (knock on wood), and how things go in practice, Carter or McReynolds could also see time at defensive end if needed.

Ellis McCarthy projects as an ideal nose tackle (while not as big as NFL 3-4 NTs, he's young and has the frame to add size; additionally, you don't need quite the same size players to run the 3-4 in college as in the NFL). It will be interesting to see the battle between McReynolds, Carter and Epenesa in the spring, but we think that McReynolds will push to see a lot of playing time. In this defense, it all starts inside, with the nose clogging it up and taking on as many blockers as possible.

McCarthy is really the only true freshman I expect will see significant playing line on the defensive line. Other defensive recruits will likely see substantial playing time at linebacker and defensive back. Nate Iese and Jeremy Castro seem like linebackers in this defense. Eli Ankou will likely redshirt. With added size and strength, he could develop into a useful defensive end.

With the way the offenses in the Pac-12 spread the field and bring on extra receivers, we probably won't be in the base 3-4 all that often. It will be very interesting to see what the defensive staff intends to do in these situations. For instance, in the NFL, Dom Capers and the Packers have been using the 1-5-5 "psycho" and the 1-4-6.

With the defensive line occupying blockers, the linebackers in this defense will have a lot of play-making opportunities. The linebacker preview is up next.