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UCLA Football Spring Preview: Offensive Line

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We continue our Spring Preview series with a look at the offensive line and the projected depth chart.

Left tackle Conor McDermott will be charged with protecting his quarterback's blind side.
Left tackle Conor McDermott will be charged with protecting his quarterback's blind side.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ed note: The OL preview was originally scheduled to go up on Wednesday, but Dan and Steve's ongoing basketball atrocities took up a lot of front page space earlier this week, so the football articles were pushed back a day and so I didn't finish it as originally planned. But I neglected to tell anyone else that part, and when an opening in the schedule popped up, I wasn't ready. My sincere apologies for the premature publication of this article yesterday. I swear it's the first time that's happened to me...

Maybe we can try this again...

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For the first time in the last couple years, the U.C.L.A. Offensive Line will have to do some major rebuilding for the upcoming season following the loss of 3 starters from the 2015 squad. That unit began last season with more returning starts than any OL in the country, but that unit didn't always perform to its potential either, so it's hard to say if this is going to be a significant hurdle for the Bruins for 2016. Gone is their senior leader, 4 year starter, and Rimington semifinalist Jake Brendel along with juniors Caleb Benenoch and Alex Redmond, both 3 year starters. The Bruins also lost promising true freshman Fred Ulu-Perry to homesickness for his native Hawai'I, (I've been to Hawai'i a few times. It's understandable.)

With all those holes, there will be increased pressure on the coaching staff to fill in the spots and coach up the new unit.The line remains under the direction of Adrian Klemm, who himself had a pretty bad 2015. He was suspended by U.C.L.A. for the first part of the season for undisclosed violations, and his OL actually seemed to play better when he wasn't on the practice field. Coincidence? Well, there have been plenty of observers who have suggested that Klemm is the biggest underperformer on the Bruins coaching staff, though a few have suggested that his schemes did not translate well to Noel Mazzone's offensive system, too. In any case, the jury may still officially out on Klemm as a coach, but this will be a make or break year in that regard. Klemm's major strength has been his recruiting and that suffered notably during his absence last year, as well. He's been doing better on the retching trail so far this spring, but verbals now mean as much as political promises, so we will have to wait until next Feb to really see how his efforts (and those promises) pan out.

So there are a lot of question marks for the Bruins line as we prepare for Spring Camp, but there are also some promising signs, too.

The biggest return for UCLA is left tackle Conor McDermott. As much as Benenoch's and Redmond's departures were a surprise, McDermott's return caught most of us off guard. But thank goodness. Conor had a very good 2015 and stayed relatively healthy through the entire campaign. He appeared to be a much more realistic prospect for the NFL. but fortunately, he'll be protecting Josh Rosen's blindside again this season. He has the prototypical left tackle body and very good bend and footwork for his size. If he improves this season the way he did last season, he could easily be one of the top OL draft choices in the 2017  NFL draft.

The center position specifically will be bolstered by the return of Scott Quessenberry who redshirted last year after a pair of shoulder surgeries, and also by the addition of graduate transfer Jake Raulerson from Texas. Jake will graduate from UT this May so he won't be on the field next week, but he's spent three season with the Longhorns so he should be game ready for the Bruins this fall. Quessenberry will be the number one center this spring, but I'd expect Raulerson to get the spot in the fall and let Quiz move over to guard where he played very well as a sophomore two seasons ago.

Kenny Lacy was solid in extensive playing time at left guard last season and should be a lock to retain one guard spot this spring and beyond. That leaves the other guard spot for Quessenberry if he's not at center or for someone likePoasi Moala or Tavita Halalilo, both of whom got some snaps last season.

Kolton Miller was drawing raves for his development going into last season and showed it on the field as he became the starter at right tackle by season's end.

So the starting 5 is actually reasonably experienced, but it falls off pretty quickly after that. As is the case with Klemm's recruiting, the Bruins have a lot of promising talent. However as is often the case with Klemm's coaching, those players don't always develop as expected. Injuries are pretty unavoidable in football so the Bruins will need to have reliable depth across the line and will need players like John LopezZach Bateman, and Josh Wariboko-Alali to really take that next big step or two to be ready when the time comes. Their next opportunity to really prove it comes Tuesday.

With as thin as the line is at center specifically, it is possible that Najee Toran could see some time with the unit in spring. Toran was recruited as an OL and started his first game as a freshman at right guard but struggled, fell down the depth chart, and eventually moved across to the defensive line. It is also a great opportunity for one or more of the other linemen down on the depth chart to give some playing time at the spot.

So with all that in mind, here's how I guess the Bruins OL will look through Spring Camp.

Left Tackle Left Guard Center Right Guard Right Tackle

Conor McDermott

*Sr 6-9 310

Kenny Lacy

*Jr 6-4 285

Scott Quessenberry

*Jr 6-4 280

Poasi Moala

*Jr 6-4 290

Kolton Miller

*So 6-9 295

Kolton Miller

Josh Wariboko

So 6-2 305

Tavita Halalilo

So 6-4 335

Zach Bateman

Sr 6-7 320

Zach Bateman

Sr 6-7 320

John Lopez

*Sr 6-5 325


Giovanni Gentosi

*So 6-2 255

Andre James

So 6-4 290

Jake Tourville

*So 6-1 290

Cristian Garcia

*So 6-4 315


Gyo Shojima

Sr 6-3 310

As always, the OL is key to it all. They must open holes for our stud running backs which keeps the D line and linebackers from teeing off on the pash rush, and they must pass block and pick up stunts to let our stud QB to have time to pick his receiving targets. The run game opens up the pass game and the pass game opens the run game, and to make either successful, the OL has to dominate ithe play. The Bruins have all the talent needed at the skill positions. Can Coach Klemm and the revamped line do what they need to make the new offense go?

Let's say it...Line Wins Games!

Go Bruins!