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Gettin’ to know U(CLA) — Linebackers

The Bruins linebacking corps is set to look a bit different in 2020

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 02 Colorado at UCLA Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2020 season is continually approaching, and we’ve gotten through all the positions on offense in our positional preview. So now, we switch to the defensive side of the ball and to the linebackers.

Gone are Krys Barnes, Josh Woods and Lokeni Toailoa, the team’s three top players at the position in terms of snap counts from a season ago, so this unit will look much different than years past. And it’s a huge unit.

Let’s take a look.

#0 Damian Sellers — Fr., 6’4, 222

A four-star recruit from Saguaro High School in Chandler, Arizona, Sellers was the 111th-best player on ESPN’s Top 300 players last season. He had a 4.5-sack, 6-TFL, 13-tackle performance in his team’s high school semifinal playoff win and had 32 TFL his senior season. He was invite to play in the 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame World Bowl.

#9 Choé Bryant-Strother — Fr., 6’2, 228

A three-star recruit and a top-20 inside linebacker prospect according to ESPN and 247Sports. Bryant-Strother comes to Westwood from Greater Atlanta Christian School in Georgia where he was selected All-County First Team by the Touchdown Club of Gwinnett. He was a Super Six selection and finished his senior year with over 100 tackles, four sacks and a pick.

#11 Kenny Mestidor — Fr., 6’2, 216

A three-star prospect and the 26th-ranked weakside defensive end in the class, Mestidor was a top-10 player from the state of Connecticut this past recruiting cycle from St. Thomas More School in Oakdale. He was named his team’s Defensive Player of the Year and is originally from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

#20 Kain Medrano — R-Fr., 6’3, 229

A special teams contributor a season ago, Medrano was an incredibly-gifted two-sport athlete in Pueblo East High School in Pueblo, Colorado. He caught 66 passes for 1,211 yards and 21 touchdowns on offense in his senior year while also posting 80 tackles, 9.0 TFL and six interceptions. He earned a spot on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll for Fall 2019 and his athleticism should earn him a ton more of the departing snaps.

#25 Myles Jackson — Fr., 6’2, 238

A three-star recruit, Jackson was the 21st-ranked weakside defensive end in the class, according to 247Sports, hailing from Mill Creek High School in Jonesboro, Georgia. He recorded 63 tackles including 9.0 for loss and 11 sacks as a senior. He was an All-County First Team member by the Touchdown Club of Gwinnett.

#26 Leni Toailoa — R-Sr., 6’1, 215

A three-game starter last year and has seen action in 30 games overall. He was third on the team with 7.0 tackles for loss and fourth on the team with his 2.5 sacks. Toailoa picked up a pass breakup in 2019 as well and multiple other pressures in addition to his sack. He’ll likely garner more snaps and more production this year.

#29 Adam Cohen — R-Fr., 6’0, 231

Cohen appeared in four games last year, recording two tackles against Cincinnati and one stop against Oklahoma. He was a two-time all-league first team at Phillips Academy in Plainview, New York, credited with multiple school records including tackles and defensive player of the year nods. He was a member of the wrestling and track team as well and already earned spots on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll in Spring 2020 and Winter 2020.

#31 Ioholani Raass — Fr., 6’2, 239

A three-star recruit from Utah, which has turned into a linebacker factory over the years. Raass was the ninth-ranked prospect in the state from Skyridge High School in Lehi. He was invited to play in the 2020 Polynesian Bowl and was had 45 tackles, 14.5 TFL and 9.0 sacks as a senior.

#33 Bo Calvert — Jr., 6’4, 231

Calvert had one start last season after seeing action in five games a year prior. He recorded seven tackles against Cal in his lone start last season and was great in coverage over the middle of the field. He was a big recruit for the Bruins as he was one of the nation’s top outside linebacker prospects and the 31st-ranked recruit from California. His dad played football at Utah and he’s already earned a spot on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll for Spring 2020.

#35 Carl Jones — So., 6’1, 210

Jones logged action in 12 games as a true freshman, included starts against Washington State and Colorado. He was great in run defense and even better in coverage a year ago as his athleticism was on display. He was a multi-sport star in high school, playing basketball and track as well as football at Bakersfield High School. He’s also earned a spot on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll in Spring 2020 and is in line for a ton more production this fall.

#40 Caleb Johnson — R-Jr., 6’1, 230

Johnson enters the linebacker room from Fullerton College where he was a three-star recruit and the 40th-ranked JUCO prospect by 247Sports. He was the second-best inside linebacker prospect at the JUCO level last year and he had 41 tackles, 8.5 TFL and 5.5 sacks in 2017 when they won the CCCAA State Championship.

#43 James Dinneen — R-Fr., 6’2, 211

A redshirt season takes us back to his days at Saint Francis High School in Los Altos where he was an All-WCAL and NorCal honorable mention selection. He was a dual-sport athlete as well, and played a bit of offense for Saint Francis, as he also played volleyball as an All-WCAL selection.

He earned a spot on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll for Spring 2020.

#45 Mitchell Agude — R-Jr., 6’4, 245

A JUCO transfer from Riverside CC, Agude was the 10th-ranked JUCO prospect by Rivals, and the No. 2 JUCO weakside defensive end by 247Sports. He had 43 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2018 including a dominant 10-tackle, 3-TFL, 1-sack performance in the SoCal Championship Game.

#46 Hayden Harris — R-Fr., 6’5, 238

Harris didn’t see action during his redshirt season last year but did earn a sport on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll for Spring 2020. In high school, he was a member of the track and field team and also played a bit of quarterback and was a jack-of-all-trades. He had 37 tackles, seven TFL and ran for 147 yards with two touchdowns and a receiving touchdown to boot on offense. He threw for 10 touchdowns during his junior season as well at Eastside Catholic School in Mill Creek, Washington.

#47 Erich Osteen — R-Fr., 6’3, 227

Though he didn’t see any action last season, Osteen entered the linebacker fold after playing linebacker, defensive end, offensive line and fullback for Chaminade College Prep in Simi Valley where he was a two-time CIF champion. He was a member of the wrestling team and as a senior, had 57 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 9.5 TFL.

He was the 2018 Daily News Wrestler of the Year and he’s already earned spots on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll in Spring 2020 and Fall 2019.

#47 Shea Pitts — R-Jr., 5’11, 204

Pitts now has 23 games worth of action, mainly on special teams but did force a fumble against USC last year. He saw 65 snaps on defense and had two total sacks and multiple wins against the run. Previously, he was a standout captain and first-team all-county at Oaks Christian School in Agoura Hills.

Even more impressively, he’s already earned a spot on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll in Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020 and Spring 2020 quarters.

#48 Joquarri Price — Fr., 6’1, 214

A three-star recruit and the 30th-best prospect from the state of Arizona, according to 247Sports, Price joins UCLA from Desert Ridge High School in Mesa. As a senior he had 85 total tackles including 15 sacks last season, as well as another 12 sacks as a junior. He led his division and conference in Arizona in sacks in 2019 and was No. 31 on the Arizona Republic’s Big 150 list.

#49 Jonny Garnett — R-Fr., 6’3, 214

A two-time MVP on his high school team at Campbell Hall in Sherman Oaks, Garnett also played basketball. He played on both sides of the ball and had 28 catches for 598 receiving yards with 14 touchdowns on offense and 62 tackles with 17 TFL as a senior on defense. He’s a Bruin legacy as his mom, dad and uncle all attended UCLA.

#52 Jeremiah Trojan — Fr., 6’2, 210

Don’t let his name fool you, Trojan is a talented linebacker for your Bruins. He was a three-star recruit and a top-50 ILB prospect from Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona. He was the 24th-ranked player in Arizona and had 97 tackles with 10 TFL and 5.0 sacks as a senior.

#54 John Ward — R-Fr., 6’3, 242

He played in two contests a year ago, vs Oregon State and Cal, but didn’t record a tackle. Prior to UCLA, Ward was a three-star recruit and the 76th-ranked player in the state of California, hailing from Palmdale High School where he had 34 tackles, five TFL and two sacks as a senior. He’s already earned a spot on the Athletic Director’s Academic Honor Roll in Spring 2018, Fall 2019 and Spring 2020.

#56 Kobey Fitzgerald — Jr., 6’0, 215

A JUCO-transfer, Fitzgerald played the last two seasons at Riverside City College where he led the team with 60 tackles a season ago. He also had six tackles for loss and forced two fumbles as he was named First-Team California Community College Football Coaches Association All-American. He was the CCCAA’s State Championship Defensive Player of the Year and was his team’s captain to boot.

#95 Sitiveni Kaufusi — R-Fr., 6’3, 258

Kaufusi didn’t see action last season after entering the program as a three-star prospect from Hawaiian powerhouse Punahou. He was a running back and linebacker in high school and ended his senior and sophomore seasons with all-league mentions. He’s already earned a spot on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll in Spring 2020.

#98 Jaymax Jacobsen — Fr., 6’3, 224

A three-star recruit for the Bruins, Jacobsen enters from Temecula Valley High School where he was the 52nd-ranked player in California. He had 77 tackles, 25.0 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks a season ago. He helped lead his team to their first ever CIF Division 3AA State Regional Game last year as well and his grandfather played football at ECU while his mom was a track athlete at Auburn.