We continue our 2016 UCLA Football Fall Preview with a look of the defensive line.
The defensive line is a unit in some degree of flux due to the shift from a predominantly 3-4 defense to a predominantly 4-3 defense. I say predominantly because if you ask Defensive Coordinator Tom Bradley about his base defense, he’s likely to say something like, "We’re multiple," meaning that the team will shift formations dependent on the situation.
Frankly, the move away from the 3-4 is not unexpected. When Bradley was the DC at Penn State, he ran a 4-3 defense and, after the difficulty UCLA had stopping the run last year, putting another down lineman on the defensive front just makes good sense.
The shift in scheme does mean that a few players have shifted positions from linebackers to the defensive line. The two most notable position changes are senior Deon Hollins and redshirt freshman Keisean Lucier-South who have both moved from linebacker.
Overall, UCLA lists seventeen players as defensive linemen. They are:
Of course, Kenny Clark is gone. He's off to play for the Green Bay Packers after being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
This year’s line will be anchored by Hollins at one defensive end, Takkarist McKinley on the other side, and Eddie Vanderdoes and Eli Ankou at the tackles. This is a seasoned defensive line which promises to be even better because of the return of Eddie Vanderdoes. But the thing that this line does is create problems for the opposing offensive line. Opposing teams can't just say, "We're going to double team Vanderdoes" because, if they do, they will leave someone else unblocked. Among the probable starting four, they have a total of 113 games experience. That's a lot of experience on the defensive line.
Underclassmen Matt Dickerson and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and JUCO transfer Nick Terry add depth to the starting four. Meanwhile, redshirt freshmen Rick Wade and Keisean Lucier-South should also compete for playing time.
UCLA also has four true freshmen on this year's roster in Boss Tagaloa, Jake Burton, Osa Odighizuhwa and Marcus Moore. Any or all of the guys could see some playing time, but, hopefully, with the level of experience on this year's line, most, if not all, of them will be able to redshirt. That will depend on how healthy the starters can stay.
A projected 3-deep depth chart should look like this:
|Defensive End||Defensive Tackle||Defensive Tackle||Defensive End|
|Deon Hollins||Eddie Vanderdoes||Eli Ankou||Takkarist McKinley|
|Keisean Lucier-South||Nick Terry||Jacob Tuitoti-Mariner||Matt Dickerson|
|Boss Tagaloa||Jake Burton||Marcus Moore||Rick Wade|
That's how things will likely shape up for the defensive line. Of course, staying healthy is key to the success of the unit. We saw last year what happened when Eddie Vanderdoes got hurt. But, the upside is that guys who may not have played last year got a chance to get experience and that should make this year's line even stronger as a result.
One thing is almost certain. These guys will be tested each and every week as teams will try to pound the ball thinking that, because teams ran all over UCLA last season, they will be able to do it again this year.
I look for Vanderdoes, Ankou, Hollins, and McKinley to prove them wrong.
What are your thoughts? Do you think the depth chart will look different? If so, leave it in the comments below.