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2019 UCLA Football Fall Preview: Linebackers Have Both Experience & Youth

The Bruins are supplementing a group of veterans with twelve newcomers including ten freshmen.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 20 Arizona at UCLA
Krys Barnes returns to lead the Bruin linebackers this season.
Photo by David Dennis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Today, I’m going to take a look at the 2019 UCLA Bruins linebackers in our final Fall Preview for this season. The linebackers probably represent the unit where there is the most room for improvement, although that’s due mostly to the fact that the unit was devastated by injuries last season.

The injuries started with the loss of Josh Woods and there were times last season when it seemed like the Bruins were lucky to have 11 defenders on the field because head coach Chip Kelly, defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro, linebackers coach Don Pellum and outside linebackers coach Roy Manning seemed to be moving guys from all over the place.

At the same time, it’s also the youngest unit for UCLA. While the Bruins have a total of 48 newcomers, 42 of the 48 are freshman. Ten of those freshmen are linebackers. So, almost 25% of the freshman are linebackers. The Bruins have 23 linebackers on this year’s roster and more than 43% of them are freshmen. Gosh, that’s young.

As if that’s not bad enough, most of them are walk-ons. Only three of the ten freshmen were a part of the 2019 recruiting class announced back in February. All of that said, it doesn’t mean that we’ll necessarily going to see walk-ons starting at linebacker this season, but these guys will provide depth at a position where UCLA desperately needs some.

Who’s Gone

UCLA lost five linebackers after last season. Three of those were due to transfers while the other two are not known. The transfers are Jaelan Phillips, who left for Miami after UCLA doctors refused to clear him medically; Mique Juarez, who will play for Utah this season as a grad transfer after UCLA doctors refused to clear him medically as well; and, Rahyme Johnson, who has transferred to San Jose State. The other two linebackers to leave the program were walk-ons Donovan Williams and Winston Anawalt.

Who’s Back

While the linebacking corps may be the youngest unit due to the number of freshmen, there are a bunch of veterans in the unit as well. There are six senior linebackers on this year’s team. Josh Woods returns for one more season after getting hurt in training camp last year. Krys Barnes and Keisean Lucier-South also return, although the latter looks to miss the first three games due to academic issues. Tyree Thompson and Je’Vari Anderson, who both transferred to UCLA from JC’s last year are back for one more year as is Lokeni Toailoa. Toailoa’s brother Leni Toailoa is also back but Leni is a redshirt junior while Lokeni is a senior. Bo Calvert, Elijah Wade, Shea Pitts and Jayce Smalley are the unit’s sophomores.

Who’s New

Jayson Harris joins the linebackers as a grad transfer from Illinois State while John Ward, Noah Keeter and Hayden Harris are the three freshmen who were recruited as scholarship players in the 2019 recruiting class. The rest of the newcomers including sophomore Adam Cohen are all walk-ons.

Let’s take a look at the roster of linebackers.

2019 UCLA Football Linebackers Roster

# Player name Height Weight Year
# Player name Height Weight Year
2 Josh Woods 6-2 240 R-Sr.
11 Keisean Lucier-South 6-4 235 R-Sr.
14 Krys Barnes 6-1 235 Sr.
25 Tyree Thompson 6-1 237 R-Sr.
26 Leni Toailoa 6-0 214 R-Jr.
29 Adam Cohen 6-0 223 So.
33 Bo Calvert 6-3 235 So.
39 Barret Albright 6-0 210 Fr.
41 Jayce Smalley 6-0 231 R-So.
43 James Dinneen 6-4 240 Fr.
43 Je'Vari Anderson 6-0 220 Sr.
45 Anthony James 6-1 237 Fr.
46 Hayden Harris 6-4 226 Fr.
47 Erich Osteen 6-3 226 Fr.
47 Shea Pitts 5-10 198 R-So.
48 Noah Keeter 6-5 217 Fr.
49 Jonny Garnett 6-3 197 Fr.
52 Lokeni Toailoa 6-1 252 Sr.
54 John Ward 6-3 231 Fr.
57 Connor Barbato 6-2 202 Fr.
81 Kayden Hoal 6-3 200 Fr.
95 Jason Harris 6-4 254 Gr.
99 Elijah Wade 6-5 270 So.

Outlook

There are some definite questions that the coaching staff will need to find answers for during training camp. The advantage to having so many guys getting experience last season is that there could be some surprises when it comes to who starts and who sees playing time when the Bruins face Cincinnati to start the season.

In fact, if you look the projected depth chart, it doesn’t appear to be the likely depth chart for the season opener because Keisean Lucier-South will probably be unavailable for that game.

2019 UCLA Linebackers Projected Depth Chart

OLB ILB ILB OLB
OLB ILB ILB OLB
Keisean Lucier-South Krys Barnes Josh Woods Lokeni Toailoa
Elijah Wade Tyree Thompson Je'Vari Anderson Jason Harris


Frankly, of all the projected depth charts we’ve put together over the last few weeks, this one may be the most likely to be completely wrong. I don’t think it will be so wrong as to see a walk-on freshman starting but, if injuries crop up again, anything is possible.

Let’s just hope the guys who do start can stay healthy all year.


Go Bruins!!!