A UCLA offensive line that was young and at times rendered downright patchwork in 2013 loses its cornerstone, Xavier Su'a-Filo. The Bruins roster is rife with candidates ready to compete for Su'a-Filo's spot, but replicating his contributions to the offense could be a multiple-person job.
Su'a-Filo was able to fill needs across the front line, playing both tackle and guard. He started half of 2013 at each position, adjusting according to need. And the need was prevalent at both spots.
UCLA faced a series of injuries to its starting offensive line last season, which forced true freshmen Caleb Benenoch and Scott Quessenberry into the lineup. Quessenberry handled the guard position when Su'a-Filo was moved to tackle, and the in-game experience will serve him well heading into his second season. Ben Wysocki could also step into a prominent role on the interior.
Finding a suitable replacement at left tackle will not be quite as smooth.
The Bruins first lost Torian White at left tackle after he suffered a broken ankle early in the season and may not have him at all in 2014. White is serving an indefinite suspension, stemming from a November 2013 arrest.
White's replacement, Simon Goines, suffered two injuries last season, the second of which required surgery and could keep him out of spring practices.
Miami transfer Malcolm Bunche is eligible immediately and targeting the starting left tackle job. His father, Curtis, told The Miami Herald Malcolm Bunche's goal at UCLA is to "protect that Heisman Trophy candidate's [quarterback Brett Hundley] blind side."
Hundley will certainly need the protection. The shell game head coach Jim Mora and offensive line coach Adrian Klemm were forced to play contributed to the Bruins giving up 36 sacks, second most in the conference.
Two of those sacks came in the Bruins' critical, final possession against Pac-12 South champion Arizona State. The de facto divisional championship ended when UCLA failed to score trailing 38-33, giving up both sacks and penalties that limited Hundley.
"It would have been difficult for Brett to do anything about that," Mora told The Los Angeles Daily News. "You could always say he could have thrown it earlier or he could have used his legs to get out of there. The answer in most cases was he could not."
Su'a-Filo's willingness and ability to fill in at various spots on the line encapsulates what might be his most difficult quality to duplicate: his leadership.
Expectations for Su'a-Filo's replacement will be high, per the standard set by Mora and his staff. Su'a-Filo described UCLA's attitude under Mora to Yahoo! last month.
"[T]he environment that they created at UCLA was something that I imagined at the NFL, the next level," Su'a-Filo said.
Inherent in that mindset is a next-man-up philosophy, both in playing time and in on-field leadership roles.
Alex Redmond is a candidate to take on that responsibility. He proved to be a more-than capable player in his debut campaign, earning All-Conference honorable mention and Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-American. Redmond was a constant for the constantly in-flux Bruins offensive line, playing with a savvy beyond his freshman status.
Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com.
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