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2016 UCLA Football Fall Preview: Offensive Line Is A Big Question Mark

As fall camp opens today, there are some very big questions on the offensive line which UCLA will need to find answers for prior to the start of the season.

Joe Piechowski

"Line wins games." - gBruin

If we’ve said that once, we’ve said that a million times. But, it bears repeating again. Why? Because the new offense is reliant on more of a "downhill" scheme. That is, the offense wants to focus on a power running game which relies on the offensive line to open up holes between the tackles, rather than trying to run to the outside so much.

Personnel Changes

Based on the performance of the line in Spring Practice, any concerns about the offensive line will focus the right guard spot. That’s the position that opened up when Alex Redmond declared for the NFL Draft. The Bruins have also lost center Jake Brendel and tackle Caleb Benenoch to the NFL this season.

The tackles shouldn’t be an area of concern as Conor McDermott is back this season and Kolton Miller, who filled in last season when McDermott missed some time, is also back.

Scott Quessenberry returns to the team after missing last season due to surgery on both shoulders and will replace Brendel at center.

The guard spots may be the biggest concerns on the line. While Najee Toran seemed to win the left guard spot in Spring Practice, Kenny Lacy is also back at guard, but, whether he ends up starting on the left side, the right side, or at all, remains a question as the guards as a group did not seem to perform all that well in the Spring. Redshirt senior Cristian Garcia didn’t seem to do much to win a starting spot in Spring either.

The saving grace may be that there are three incoming freshmen and several redshirt freshmen who will want to compete for playing time. The newcomers are Paco Perez, Alex Akingbulu and Michael Alves, while the redshirt freshmen include Andre James, Tevita Halalilo and Josh Wariboko-Alali.

Here’s the full roster of offensive linemen:

No. Name Height Weight Year
52 Scott Quessenberry 6-4 295 R-Jr.
55 Michael Alves 6-5 320 Fr.
56 Josh Wariboko-Alali 6-2 305 R-Fr.
58 Gyo Shojima 6-3 310 R-Jr.
59 Zach Bateman 6-6 295 R-Jr.
63 Jake Tourville 6-1 290 R-So.
65 Paco Perez 6-4 320 Fr.
68 Conor McDermott 6-9 310 R-Sr.
69 Najee Toran 6-1 285 Jr.
71 Poasi Moala 6-4 290 R-Jr.
72 Cristian Garcia 6-3 315 R-Sr.
73 Tevita Halalilo 6-4 335 R-Fr.
74 Alex Akingbulu 6-6 255 Fr.
75 Andre James 6-4 290 R-Fr.
76 Kenny Lacy 6-4 285 R-Jr.
77 Kolton Miller 6-9 295 R-So.

Whether the incoming freshmen will be able to redshirt and spend a year bulking up under Strength Coach Sal Alosi will depend largely on whether the Bruins are able to find a pair of guards who can play open up holes for the backs and protect Josh Rosen while playing disciplined football.

Projected Depth Chart

The three-deep projected depth chart shows how thin the offensive line could become if injuries become a problem.

Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle
Conor McDermott Najee Toran Scott Quessenberry Kenny Lacy Kolton Miller
Andre James Josh Wariboko-Alali Najee Toran Poasi Moala Zach Bateman
Alex Akingbulu Paco Perez
Cristian Garcia Andre James

UCLA might take as few a two injuries away from needing to start a true freshman and, if one of those injuries occurs at center, Jim Mora, Adrian Klemm and Kennedy Polamalu could have major problems to solve.

A lot of articles have been written about the wide receivers as one of the biggest question marks on this year's team. For some reason, there hasn't been much of a focus on the offensive line. But, in my mind, this is a much bigger question mark.

Hopefully, the team gets this figured out prior to the A&M game on September 3rd.

Go Bruins!!!