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UCLA Football - Pre-Season Camp Preview: Offensive Line

With UCLA's pre-season football camp in San Bernardino on the horizon, Bruins Nation will preview the 2013-14 roster with a look of each positional group and offer some thoughts about the Bruins' projected depth chart. Part 1 examined the Special Teams. We continue today with our look at the Offensive Line.

The Bruins offensive line was good in 2012.  Four starters return for 2013.
The Bruins offensive line was good in 2012. Four starters return for 2013.

Consistency is not a word that has commonly been attached to the U.C.L.A. Offensive Line. Several years of misadventures with injuries and grades and transfers and varying personnel were the norm for the Bruins. When I'd write this preview in past years, I would look long and hard for positives and we'd fall back on potential and stab at position changes and in the end we'd be left relying mostly on hope.

Fortunately, times have changed, and Bruin fans have a lot more than hope to rely on this season. The Bruins return 4 starters from an 2012 offensive line that was generally quite good. I haven't gone back and look, but I'll bet it's been a very long time since we had that many starters coming back. And while it is comforting to have not just hope, but also talent and experience returning, the 2013 OL unit is also bolstered by an incoming class of linemen can legitimately push those 4 starters and may even be good enough to supplant them by the time kickoff comes. Things in the trenches are good and getting better. And for a welcome change, the Bruins offensive line can reliably be seen as a known strength, rather than a work in progress, as we head into the 2013 pre-season camp.

Credit for this goes primarily to O Line Coach Adrian Klemm, who is one of the top recruiters in the country and filled the roster with good young talent, and then developed that talent and coached up an effective unit. In his first year in the program he took a roster of question marks which included some untested freshmen and fashioned the best offensive line the Bruins have seen in a decade. The line still has some holes to fill, as they had some trouble with penalties and also surrendered far too many sacks. But they also led the way for Johnathan Franklin's 1700+ yard season and record career rushing mark while protecting a freshman QB and operating a new offensive system.

Jeff Baca, who played center, guard, and tackle during his Bruin career, graduated in June and will be our only 2012 starter who will not return this fall. While Baca got flagged more often than we would have liked, proof of his talent and versatility was confirmed when he was drafted in the 6th round by the Minnesota Vikings, making him the first Bruin lineman drafted by the NFL since Kris Farris in 1999.

That means the Bruins will start out the 2013 season with tackles Torian White and Simon Goines, guard Xavier Su'a-Filo, and center Jake Brendel. This gives Klemm and Head Coach Jim Mora a rare commodity in Westwood, a seasoned and experienced offensive line to begin the season, and just one open spot on the line that needs to be filed. Of course, there is a crop of outstanding freshmen who may have something to say about who those starters will be. But let's look at those returning starters first.

Though you won't hear the coaches say it, I can, junior Xavier Su'a-Filo doesn't have to worry about his position. XSF is not only the Bruins' best lineman, he is one of the top handful of linemen in the country. As a freshman in 2009, he started every game at the critically important left tackle spot. Then after taking two years off for his LDS mission, he returned to the line in a new position and was still our best OL. He was first team All Pac-12 and a third team All-American. The biggest question with XSF is where he is going to play in 2013, as some see him going back outside to the LT spot.

Jake Brendel will return to the center position after an impressive freshman year which saw him start all 14 games. He was first team Freshman All Pac-12. Fellow redshirt freshman Torian White started all 14 games at left tackle. These two were a relative veteran compared to the two true freshman who held down the tackle positions. Simon Goines started 13 games at right tackle, matching the record for freshman starts at tackle set by XSF in 2009. That record was immediately broken by left tackle Torian White who started all 14 games last season.

As always, there have been some ups and downs with the roster in the off season. To start with the downs, there has been some attrition this off-season. In the rare occasion where losing a player is for a happy reason, Kody Innes graduated early and he will not return to U.C.L.A. this fall. We wish him the best in his future and he should be very well set up for that future - he has the diploma to prove it.

On the more unfortunate side, several Bruins have taken medical retirements. Will Oliver (shoulder), Greg Capella (concussion) and Albert Cid,(concussion) have officially left the program. It also looks like Alexandru Ceachir will also take a medical retirement due to concussions, though I don't believe that has been confirmed. We wish all of these guys the very best and I hope we'll see them on the sidelines in sweats this fall. They may not officially be on the team, but they will always be teammates.

The loss of Cid and Capella hurt as they both had a legitimate shot at starting at right guard in Baca's spot. That leaves returning Bruins Ben Wysocki, Conor McDermott, Carl Hulick, and Kevin McReynolds to battle for the spot. Colby Cybert missed spring following back surgery, so we will hope he is recovered enough to get back on the field. The medical status of Lacy Westbrook still appears to be up in the air. We'd love to see him back in uniform but trust that he will do what is best for himself from a medical standpoint.

On the upside, the incoming OL recruits look bigger (literally) and better than ever. The Bruins signed one of the top OL classes in the nation this February, and there are several players who we should expect to see on the field during this season. And if we learned anything from last season, we may very well see them out there for the first snap of the first series of the first game.

So even though the Bruins have the best corps of returning starters in years, it is actually more difficult predicting what the starting lineup will look like in game 1. A lot depends on whether XSF stays at guard or slides over to left tackle. If he does that, then there are two guard spots that would fit Wysocki and McDermott but they will have to battle several of the freshman.

Jack Wang at InsideUCLA made his prediction here, and I can see his reasoning. XSF is our best lineman, so it makes a lot of sense to move him to LT. That however leaves two new positions on the line which could slow the development of the unit as a whole as opposed to just replacing one spot. Also I'm going with the positions listed in the spring media guide, though we know that depth charts and positions are mere formalities to Coach Mora and staff. So for now I'll slot the 4 returners in their spots and put Wysocki in the right guard spot, as Mora had a lot of praise for him at the end of spring camp. Most importantly, while we may talk about specific players on the OL, no unit is more intertwined and dependent on the group as a whole than the OL. The year of experience and playing together in 2012 should serve them very well as we look forward to 2013.

So here's my guess at how the OL looks in camp entering the 2013 season. The freshmen are placed somewhat randomly, though Scott Quessenberry is a true center and Alex Redmond and Caleb Benenoch probably have the best shot at starting, so I've slotted them in at guard for now. Of course, knowing Mora's and Klemm's penchant for putting players wherever they think they will contribute best, I won't be shocked if this doesn't last into the second week in San Bernardino.

Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle

Torian White

RSo 6-5 282

Xavier Su'a-Filo

Jr 6-3 304

Jake Brendel

RSo 6-4 276

Ben Wysocki

R So 6-4 280

Simon Goines

So 6-6 320

Conor McDermott

RFr 6-8 260

Caleb Benenoch

Fr 6-5 321

Scott Quesenberry

Fr 6-4 276

Alex Redmond

Fr 6-5 302

Colby Cybert

RFr 6-3 250

Kenny Lacy

Fr 6-6 270

Kevin McReynolds

RSo 6-2 292

Carl Hulick

RFr 6-2 277

Lacy Westbrook

Fr 6-4 320

Christian Morris

Fr 6-6 293

Poasi Moala

Fr 6-5 270

John Lopez

Fr 6-6 315

One time...Line wins games!