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UCLA Football: 2012 Spring Preview of Bruin Offensive Line

We are continuing with our Bruins Nation 2012 spring football previews. We have had several installments so far which have looked at a program overview and coach Mora and coordinators, position coaches here and here, and the defensive scheme. We have also looked at specific units on the field, including the defensive line, linebackers, and special teams.

Today we look at the most important unit on the field, the offensive line.

First and foremost, the newest face on the offensive line is OL Coach Adrian Klemm. Klemm replaces our previous OL coach Bob Palcic, and brings an impressive resume that was discussed in our position coaching preview. Klemm is a local kid from Inglewood who went to HS in Santa Monica, and then played his college ball at Hawai'i. He was a second round pick of the New England Patriots (4 rounds ahead of Tom Brady, btw) and then enjoyed a 7 year NFL career which included 3 Super Bowl wins with NE. Klemm joined Jim Mora's staff from SMU where he was the offensive line coach for 4 years, including a season that saw SMU set several school records for offensive production. In a strange twist, Coach Palcic has recently taken over as OL coach at SMU. Anyone see a reality show called Coach Swap? Klemm was already known as an ace recruiter, and he immediately proved this in Westwood too, and his famous #8clap tweets announced the commitment of several great new recruits. If his enthusiasm and ability to win over recruits are any indication, he will undoubtedly be a fantastic motivator for our athletes.

But as Coach Neuheisel proved, it takes more than just enthusiasm to generate a winning team. Whereas Palcic worked some small miracles to produce a functional unit out of an often patchwork roster, Coach Klemm will need to take this unit a step further and develop a more consistent and dominant offensive line for the offense to really produce. Especially considering that the Bruins will feature a new offensive scheme and will likely need to protect some inexperienced quarterbacks like Brett Hundley, a solid and reliable OL will be key to providing the foundation for the new spread offense.

Fortunately, Klemm looks to have the parts needed to make just such a jump.

If you look at the current roster on the official site, you'll notice that player positions have been updated since the arrival of the new coaching staff with the subsequent change in scheme. Specifically, the offensive lineman are rostered as centers, offensive tackles, and offensive guards. So that gave me a clue as to how the team is looking at certain players and positions. With that roster in mind, we'll look at the projected starting spots and depth chart after the jump...

Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle

Xavier Su'a Filo

SO 6-4 310

Jeff Baca

R SR 6-4 304

Greg Capella

R JR 6-4 310

Chris Ward*

JR 6-4 318

Brett Downey

R SR 6-7 305

Connor Bradford

R SR 6-5 278

Wade Yandall*

R SO 6-4 315

Jake Brendel

R FR 6-5 295

Alberto Cid

R JR 6-4 305

Torian White

R FR 6-6 295

Will Oliver

R FR 6-7 305

Casey Griffiths

R JR 6-5 292

Kody Innes

R SO 6-4 285

Ben Wysocki

R FR 6-4 300

Michael Padovese

R FR 6-5 322

Sam Saultz

SO 6-2 315

(* denotes player is unavailable or limited for spring camp)

This depth chart is meant as more of a projection to the fall, as well, because two players who saw starting time last season will be limited in their participation during spring drills Projected RG starter Chris Ward will be held out of spring drills completely as he is still recovering from knee surgery he had following the regular season. Also, Wade Yandall will not be in any contact drills as he is still recovering from a head injury that shortened his season last fall. Both should be ready by fall camp, though, and barring any unexpected setbacks, I expect they will both be high up on the depth chart at that point.

The good news is that 4 of the 5 projected starters were starters last year (or as a freshman for Su'a-Filo) and this may be the best talent along the front line the Bruins have seen in years. Also, there is good experience in Cid and Yandall at the guard positions, too. The bad news is there isn't a lot of experience behind them, with the remaining lineman having very little or no game time under their belts.

Another interesting factor is that the new offensive system that Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone will bring to Westwood is brand new for every one of those players, so last year's game experience will only help these guys so much. Each of them will be learning new terminology and new reads, so I wouldn't be surprised if there is a some shakeup in this projection as certain guys may get a better grasp on the offense and set themselves ahead. This is particularly true at center where the line reads and adjustments are made. Also, the requirements for the line in the new style of offense may favor more mobile players as opposed to a classic straight ahead power run blocker. It will be interesting to watch how these young men develop to fit into the new system.

By far, the biggest upgrade to the OL will be the return of sophomore Xavier Su'a-Filo from his 2 year LDS mission. As a freshman, XSF became the first Bruin to start an entire season at left tackle, upstaging previous Bruin greats like Johnathan Ogden and Kris Farris. The return of XSF will see Jeff Baca, who did an admirable job holding down the LT spot last season, slide over a spot to left guard, giving the Bruins a really really strong left side of the OL. Greg Capella led the squad last season with 14 starts and should take over the center position.

As I mentioned above, the listing of the players' positions on the roster helped determine where I slotted them in the projected lineup above. However, several of these guys would be able to move right or left along the line should the inevitable accursed injury bug rear its ugly head. For instance, Baca is likely our second best LT on the squad, and theoretically would be in line behind XSF at that spot. Baca can play anywhere along the line, and I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up as the starting RT, but I am still going with the official roster which currently lists him at guard. Similarly, Capella played guard last season and was a very nice surprise there, but he is currently listed as center so I have him slotted as the starter there.

We also had 5 lineman in our 2012 recruiting class. As is often the case with lineman, I expect they will get a year to redshirt with S&C coach Sal Alosi, hit the weight room and the training table, and add some bulk and strength to their frames before being thrown into the D-1 front lines. All of these incoming freshmen have great size and athleticism, with several of them playing other sports besides football, notably basketball and wrestling. In the video introductions of these players Coach Klemm specifically mentioned that several of them were "raw" and that he was going to teach them technique. I think this reflects the philosophy of the coaching staff with regard to developing our OL: Get big physical athletic bodies and then coach them up in terms of technique. As a result, and based on their recruiting rankings,I don't think any of them will be ready to see playing time right away, the way XSF did as a freshman. But given their potential, with the right coaching they can all turn into dominant forces along the OL. Our incoming recruits are 3* Simon Goines, (6-8, 295), 3* Colby Cyburt (6-5, 265 pounds), 4* Lacy Westbrook (6-5, 300 pounds), 3* Carl Hulick (6-2, 285 pounds), and 3* Alexandru Ceachir (6-5, 300 pounds). Per Klemm's introductions, Westbrook and Cheachir will play guard and Goines will play tackle. Ceachir, originally from Moldova, is a transfer from Santa Monica City College and should be on campus for spring drills. The rest are freshmen and we will look forward to their addition in the fall.

I've said it before in my previous O Line previews; offensive success goes how the OL goes. The best running backs can't run where there are no holes. The best quarterbacks can't throw if they are on their backs looking at the sky. Conversely, running backs who are making first contact 4 yards down field will gash defenses, and QB's with clean jerseys put up big numbers. A dominant offensive line will control the game and put up points, which in turn makes the opponent play from behind and helps our defense. If Coach Klemm can transform the 2012 OLine into a group of bullies who push the opposing defense wherever they need, open lanes for our shifty tailbacks and provide time for our WR's to get uncovered and for our QB's to pick and choose where they want to throw, then the new U.C.L.A. offense will be as productive as we hope.

Line wins games. Go Bruins!