As part of my UCLA spring ball preview, we break down the position groupings. With a new coaching staff, the competition should be fierce in the spring, as few players did much too cement starting roles going into spring ball. The Bruins are going to more of a base spread offense and a base 3-4 defense – though they will mix packages and personnel frequently – so take into account the changes. This is only a spring preview, so only freshmen who are participating – T.J. Millweard and Marcus Rios – will be listed.
Datone Jones 41 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 PBU
Donovan Carter 36 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 FR
Cassius Marsh 22 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 2 sacks
Owa Odighizuwa 21 tackles, 3.0 TFL
Iuta Tepa 19 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1 sack
Seali’i Epenesa 7 tackles, 1.0 TFL
Projected Depth Chart
End: JR Cassius Marsh, RS SO Brandon Willis, RS FR Sam Tai
NT: RS SR Donovan Carter, JR Seali’i Epenesa, RS FR Kevin McReynolds, RS FR Brandon Tuliapupu
End: RS SR Datone Jones, RS JR Iuta Tepa, JR Owamagbe Odighizuwa
Coming In / Heading Out
In: FR Ellis McCarthy, FR Eli Ankou
Out: SR Nate Chandler (graduation), SR Justin Edison (graduation), Wesley Flowers (dismissed)
At a certain point, there has to be a confluence between potential and performance, and that time must be now for the UCLA defensive line. The unit looked almost unstoppable last spring and summer, and under the bright lights, they soured like spoiled cheddar. There appears to be depth, but the depth that is there didn’t do too much last year, and justifiably, there is some doubt that the group will take a massive leap.
Perhaps the switch to more of a 3-4 look will jar the unit into productivity.
Heading into spring, Datone Jones will be one to watch as his position remains somewhat undefined. Does he bulk up and become a force inside? Does he continue to work on his outside rush technique and settle in at end/linebacker? His ascension to a premier defensive player in the conference is absolutely pivotal to the season, as is the growth of guys like Cassius Marsh and Owamagbe Odighizuwa, for whom the time has come to produce. Then there’s Brandon Willis, still somewhat of an unknown but with a special gear that has been on display at times.