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UCLA Offensive Line Takes Shape Against the Aztecs

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UCLA Offensive Line Takes Shape Against the Aztecs
(Photo by Jacob de Golish/Getty Images)

First off: Wow, does it feel good to watch some football that counts again!

Week One of the 2009 season proved to pick up right off from last year with one hell of an opening (Ohio St-Navy, 31-27), all the way through an electrifying Monday night football game (Miami-Florida St., 38-34).

Hope everyone enjoyed this past weekend as much as I did.

Now, back to the point at hand: Coming into the 2009 season for UCLA, there were a few things I have kept a watchful eye on throughout the grueling, never-ending summer practices leading up to the season opener against San Diego St.

One of the most important aspects I watched for is to see how the offensive line would shape up, and if there was any sort of improvement in that area from last year.

Sure, the almost mythical bad season Kevin Craft put together last year grabbed most of the headlines, but the lacking offensive line unquestionably contributed to last year’s misadventure just as much, if not more.

While last year was certainly one of the worst in recent memory for UCLA at the offensive line position, the line also did nothing in the ways of gaining any sort of ground for improving in 2009 throughout last season as well.

But, with three highly-touted newcomers—two being true freshman—and an offseason of dedicating themselves to the beautiful facilities that the UCLA athletic department supplies for them, and the UCLA offensive line could really have something going.

Walking away from the 33-14 victory for UCLA, I felt I had gained some serious direction towards how exactly this aspect is in fact taking shape.

Let me just say, the offensive line played extremely well in the Rose Bowl against SDSU, all things considered.

First, the air in Pasadena was as hazy as a Snoop Dogg tour bus, and second, UCLA’s extremely young offensive line was going up against a very difficult to grasp Rocky Long 3-3-5 defense.

But UCLA still put together 144 yards rushing to go along with two touchdowns and zero fumbles.

To put this into better perspective, let me break it down like this:

Sophomore RB Derrick Coleman’s 29-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter garnered more yards than any of the UCLA rushing touchdowns last year combined (nine TDs for a total of 18 yards).

Adding a 12-yard rushing TD by redshirt freshman RB Jonathon Franklin to the mix makes this effort by the UCLA line even better.
 
Additionally, if there is one glaring thing that stood out on the offensive line for me from last game, it is the cornerstones UCLA are developing on the line.

True freshman Stanley Hasiak (6'5", 318) and Xavier Sua-Filo (6'4", 310) are undeniably long time fixtures for the left side of the UCLA line. Both of these recruiting gems played with a hard-nose and showed no sign of backing down to the jump in competition they are experiencing going straight from high school to FBS football.

Another fixture on the line for UCLA this upcoming year and beyond is starting sophomore center, Kai Maiava (6'1", 310).

He is a big body who recently transferred from University of Colorado to join the UCLA line as its anchor.

I thought against San Diego St., Maiava played exceptional and showed that UCLA, and head line coach Bob Palcic, have a force to reckoned with now and the future.

The only caveat to UCLA’s long-term plans at the offensive line position seems to be the pink elephant in the room that Xavier Sua-Filo has already put in his application for the required mission LDS members must partake in at this time in their lives.

A two-year absence of your true freshman starting left tackle will certainly shake up the offensive line to the point where the only cornerstone may be Kai Maiava at the center position.

Of course, this is all just speculative until XSF actually packs his bags and waves goodbye while getting onto a plane sending him off to the area where Tibet meets India.

Until then it will be business as usual for the UCLA offensive line against the University of Tennessee in Week Two.

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Also, make sure to take a look that the most recent Bleacher Report NCAA FBS Top 25 poll voted on by all the Bleacher Report Featured Columnists Community.

My Poll

1.    Florida
2.    Texas
3.    Alabama
4.    USC
5.    Penn St.
6.    Ohio State
7.    Ole Miss
8.    California
9.    Oklahoma St.
10.    Boise St.
11.    LSU
12.    BYU
13.    Georgia Tech
14.    Virginia Tech
15.    Oklahoma
16.    Utah
17.    Georgia
18.    Cincinnati
19.    Nebraska
20.    TCU
21.    Miami
22.    UNC
23.    UCLA
24.    Tennessee
25.    Boston College

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