Meet UCLA Football's New Starters for 2014 Season

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Meet UCLA Football's New Starters for 2014 Season
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

With the Pac-12's most experienced starting rotation returning for 2014, UCLA's lineup will not feature much in the way of new faces. 

Bruins who played significant reserve roles a season ago are vying for the few spots opened by departures. However, a high-profile transfer and highly touted recruit are also in the mix for roles in UCLA's starting lineup. 

These newcomers, coupled with proven commodities, will fill out the Bruins' starting lineup in a potential championship run. 

 

Malcolm Bunche, OT

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Miami transfer Malcolm Bunche brings the Bruins front five some much-needed experience. He will also be tasked with protecting quarterback Brett Hundley's blind side, as he was named the team's starting left tackle last week.

"It's a tremendous honor playing the blind side for one of the most explosive quarterbacks in college football," Bunche said, via Abbey Mastracco of FoxSports.com. "I've just got to keep grinding and working hard on the position and protect my man Brett."

When Bunche announced his transfer to UCLA in the spring, his father, Curtis, talked about the impact Bunche could make for the Bruins. 

"They need an O-lineman to protect that Heisman Trophy candidate's blind side," he told Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald.  

Indeed, Hundley could use the protection. Last season, UCLA surrendered 36 sacks to rank No. 109 in the nation. 

 

Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE

Redshirt senior Owamagbe Odighizuwa played in all 14 games of UCLA's 2012 Pac-12 South-winning campaign. He made quite an impact with 44 tackles, six tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, three pass deflections and two fumble recoveries. 

That should have been a springboard into a monster 2013, but a hip injury sidelined Odighizuwa for the duration of the campaign. 

His return to the Bruins' defensive front is met with great anticipation. Last year when he was injured, Dan Greenspan wrote on NFL.com that a returning Odighizuwa was "likely [UCLA's] top [2014] draft prospect on [defense]." 

Pro scouts are not alone in their excitement about Odighizuwa

"He's come back immensely," linebacker Eric Kendricks said last month at Pac-12 media days. "He's going to make a huge impact. You guys are going to start writing about him soon, I guarantee it." 

 

Kenny Orjioke, Deon Hollins and Aaron Wallace, OLB

Replacing game-changing pass-rusher Anthony Barr is no easy feat, and the competition to do so has extended throughout the offseason.  

In fact, defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich may not even rely on any one player to step into Barr's massive shoes. Talking with Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times, Ulbrich hinted at a platoon-style shift in response to the Pac-12's many uptempo offenses:

We're going to rotate more than we have in the past. You look around at some defenses that are paired [against] tempo offenses, I think it's necessary that you start to rotate guys. Those teams are healthier towards the end of the season, and they are fresher.

The Bruins see the benefit of flexibility, as Deon Hollins told Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News

It’s much more amorphous. Since we have so many guys, you can just be so versatile. ... You can do so much with a lot of the guys we have on the field. I think Coach Brick does a great job mixing and matching looks, not having the same concepts.

Obviously, by Week 1, head coach Jim Mora and Ulbrich will place one of the three of Kenny Orjioke, Aaron Wallace and Hollins atop the depth chart. Orjioke and Wallace have each had first-string repetitions, but Wang writes Hollins is a potential difference-maker in nickel formations. 

 

Isaako Savaiinaea and Kenny Young, ILB  

Another heated competition ensues for UCLA's other starting linebacker spot. A number of candidates are vying for the position, but two standouts are Isaako Savaiinaea and Kenny Young. 

Savaiinaea was one of 18 true freshman to play for the Bruins in 2013. He appeared in all 13 games and made his first career start in the Sun Bowl rout of Virginia Tech, filling in for an injured Kendricks. 

Relieving the team's leading tackler was quite an introduction for Savaiinaea into the starting rotation, but his coaches were confident in his ability to acclimate. 

"From Day 1, he has had an uncommon maturity for a freshman," Ulbrich told Foster. "I am not worried at all."

Kendricks returns, but gone is fellow inside linebacker Jordan Zumwalt. That leaves a starting role alongside UCLA's top tackler and defensive leader Kendricks, which Savaiinaea could fill. If it's not him, look for Young to emerge. 

The true freshman Young has turned heads at fall camp and earned praise from teammate Myles Jack, a first-year linebacker breakout in his own right a season ago. 

"I love his natural instincts to the ball," Jack told Foster. "Even when the play is not to his side, he's shedding blockers, making his way to the football. He just has a knack for getting to the ball." 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics compiled via CFBstats.com

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