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Spring Practice: A Look at UCLA's Offensive Line

Spring football is fast approaching, with Jim Mora and our Bruins returning to Spaulding Field on April 1. As we get ready for what should be an elite, special year in the third year of the Jim Mora era in Westwood, Bruins Nation takes a look at how our 2014 and 2015 depth chart projects, all to assess where our coaching staff will need to focus their recruiting efforts. This part of our series takes a look at the Offensive Line

Redshirt junior Torian White (77) is the most senior Bruin returning to the OL.
Redshirt junior Torian White (77) is the most senior Bruin returning to the OL.
Harry How

If there are any questions how valuable Offensive Line coach and top recruiter Adrian Klemm is to Jim Mora, consider that Mora just got Klemm a roughly 100% pay raise.

That's nice. And it's well deserved.

The Bruins' offensive improvement the last two years parallels Klemm's efforts to recruit and rebuild the Bruin offensive line, a unit which was often a piecemeal operation under the two previous coaching regimes and frequently struggled against better and more experienced defenses. But Klemm and Mora understand that if you want to give a QB time to pass and a running backs places to run, you gotta start with the guys in the trenches. Southern Cal recognized how important Klemm is to the Bruins success and tried to buy him away from Westwood. Fortunately, Mora was able to create a competitive offer to keep Klemm home. Coach Klemm recognized good and evil and the Bruins will be better off for it.

To see proof of Klemm's handiwork, look no further than the roster going into spring practice. In Klemm's third season, the Bruins are returning six linemen who saw starting time last season and that includes three players who were in the starting lineup to open the season for the last 2 years. Add in Miami transfer Malcolm Bunche who is expected to be on campus, the redshirts from the outstanding 2013 OL class, and early enrollee Najee Toran, and the Bruins start the spring with the deepest offensive line in forever.

Depth is always a key factor in a violent game like football, and this was especially true for the Bruins OL last season. The unit was dealt not one but two serious blows when starting tackles Simon Goines and Torian White were lost with season ending injuries. Klemm plugged the holes with 2 true freshmen, Caleb Benenoch at RT and Scott Quessenberry at LG (LG Xavier Su'a-Filo moved to LT). Jake Brendel and true freshman Alex Redmond were reliable at the center and right guard spots respectively. The unit continued to do an admirable job, but was finally exposed in the ASU game against a more talented and experienced Sun Devil D line. That game came down to one score and was the difference between the Sun Bowl and the Bruins getting another shot at the Rose Bowl. A healthy line and the Bruins would have been Pac-12 South champs.

But looking on the bright side of things, because that's how we roll here at BN, those injuries during the 2013 season gave several more Bruins the opportunity to get game experience. Whereas in recent years the Bruins may have returned just 4 or 5 players who played significant snaps in their careers, this spring the Bruins will have 7 linemen who got meaningful game action last season. Besides the six players listed above, the Bruins should be just as optimistic about redshirt junior Ben Wysocki. Wysocki was competing for the right guard spot in preseason when he found his way in to Mora's dog house. But he emerged looking great when he had to suddenly replace Benenoch in the Southern Cal game and he and the line didn't miss a beat. He'll be in the mix for a lot of playing time this season, as well.

The Bruins do have one spot to fill, however, and it is a big one. Xavier Su'a-Filo was the Bruins best offensive lineman since Kris Farris 15 years ago and leaves a big hole not just on the line but also in the locker room where he was a fantastic leader. Both roles will be impossible to replace right away, though there should be several players competing to take a shot at it.

Assuming that White and Goines are healthy and ready to go (and that White's legal issues are resolved, which has never been completely answered to my knowledge), it makes sense that they step back into their starting spots and have a chance to defend them. Brendel has the center spot locked down, and Redmond was solid enough at right guard to get the nod there. Left guard is the most interesting spot. Benenoch was in the running with Redmond to start at guard, so he could fill the left side if he is not playing tackle. Quessenberry will be the #2 center but played well in the guard spot last season, too, so the coaches may find time for him there. Wysocki showed in the $c game just how valuable he can be. And it's also possible that Redmond moves over to the left side and the coaches fill the right guard spot instead. And then there is Bunche, who graduated from Miami and therefore can play this season for the Bruins and will have just one year of eligibility.

So here's my best guess at the starting unit we'll see this spring.

Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle

Torian White

RJr 6-5 290

Malcom Bunche

Sr 6-6 315

Jake Brendel

RJr 6-4 285

Alex Redmond

So 6-5 305

Simon Goines

Jr 6-6 325

Poasi Moala

RFr 6-4 265

John Lopez

RFr 6-5 325

Scott Quessenberry

So 6-3 288

Ben Wysocki

RJr 6-4 280

Caleb Benenoch

So 6-5 320

Conor McDermott

RSo 6-8 277

Colby Cyburt

RSo 6-3 270

Carl Hulick

RSo 6-2 278

Kevin McReynolds

RJr 6-2 300

Kenny Lacy

RFr 6-4 290

Najee Toran

Fr 6-3 263

These depth chart predictions, of course, are totally unofficial guesses on my minimally educated part. And knowing Mora and his staff a bit, this lineup is not just subject to change, it is guaranteed to change. We know Mora hates the whole idea of a depth chart in the first place. There is a lot of talent and depth in this unit, and we know the coaches won't hesitate to take the 5 best guys and find a spot for them to play. All of which makes predicting a lineup really difficult.

But man, it's nice to have these sorts of problems for a change.

Line wins games.

Go Bruins!.