UCLA spring football practice is nearing an end and a majority of the depth chart is starting to come into shape for head coach Jim Mora and the rest of the Bruins staff.
While most of the positions have received high praises from the coaching staff throughout the spring, a few groups, such as the running backs and secondary, continue to give the coaches fits as they prepare for the spring game. The position that has by far created the most concern for the Bruins, however, has to be the offensive line.
The Bruins' offensive line has been dealing with issues of health and consistency throughout about a month of spring practices. Players like Albert Cid and Simon Goines, both of whom are expected to contend for starting positions, have had trouble staying on the field, while the rest of the group simply has not been showing up. In fact, Jack Wang of Inside UCLA, reports that only All-American guard Xavier Su'a-Filo and center Jake Brendel have solidified starting roles.
Practices for the offensive line have been sloppy, marred by excessive penalties and blown reads, and position coach Adrian Klemm has been less than happy with his team's performance. On April 18th, when Klemm was asked about the day's practice, one which saw the Bruins play without pads due to injury concerns, he reportedly said that it was the worst offensive line practice that he has experienced at UCLA.
Later, when asked about how the offensive line was shaping up, Klemm was quoted as saying: “I would expect to have two or three freshmen start this season. So that shows you how comfortable I am.”
This is scary news for Bruins fans who watched an inexperienced line struggle throughout the 2012 season: UCLA gave up 52 sacks in 2012, second worst in the PAC-12.
Fortunately for the Bruins, as Klemm alluded to, there is a lot of offensive line help coming into Westwood this fall. Mora and his staff were able to gain the commitments from seven highly rated players, six of whom were rated as 4-star players by rivals.com. Alex Redmond, of Las Alamitos, CA, and Caleb Benenoch, of Katy, TX, are two of UCLA's most touted recruits and could both grab starting guard spots. If Su'a-Filo makes a move back to left tackle, where he played earlier in his career, and Brendel locks up the center job, this would leave the Bruins with four solid starters.
The last job for the coaching staff would be to identify the starting right tackle. The race would likely be between Simon Goines and Torian White, both returning starters, and the advantage would seem to be with White. For a quick peak into Mora's feeling about both of these players, take a look at 4:30 of the video.
No matter who ends up on top of the depth chart, the Bruins offensive line will need to see marked improvement in 2013 if the team hopes to build off their last season. Strong line play could very well make or break this season for UCLA.