Those three true freshmen on UCLA’s offensive line might stay there all season.
Assistant coach Adrian Klemm said Wednesday that if his current front five continues to perform, he could consider sticking with what is now his third starting lineup. Injuries have forced the fluidity: starting left tackle Simon Goines, who has a history of knee problems, is still limping with an injured right MCL; backup Conor McDermott (shoulder) is also sidelined.
“I want to have continuity, but at the same time, I don’t think a guy loses his position to injury,” Klemm said. “If we’re rolling and things are good, we have cohesiveness and we’re playing well, I don’t see any reason to shake it up.
“Regardless of if Simon comes back next week or two weeks from now, he’s not going to be healthy anyway. Maybe it’ll do him some good.”
Klemm has maintained all season that he will start whoever can best help the team, regardless of age or experience. He offered a similar caveat this week: If the Bruins struggle on the edge, and Goines is healthy enough to assist, he’ll likely get the call.
That said, the coach is eager for some familiarity and chemistry in his unit, even if it means working with a trio of first-year players. Right guard Alex Redmond won his starting spot before the season opener, and right tackle Caleb Benenoch has started three games since redshirt sophomore tackle Torian White’s season-ending ankle injury.
The greenest member is left guard Scott Quessenberry, who was redshirting as the team’s No. 2 center until Saturday’s 42-14 loss at Oregon. The brother of NFL sixth-round pick David Quessenberry, Scott looked surprisingly good at the position he had seen briefly in fall camp. Klemm said the 6-foot-3 freshman was mentally ahead of most players his age even back in August, but needed to develop physically.
Strong play from the three freshmen would also creates stability for Xavier Su’a-Filo, who shifted to left tackle in Eugene. While the All-American guard is capable of playing both, he looked a little rusty on the edge against the Ducks. Su’a-Filo started 13 games at left tackle in 2009 and hasn’t complained about a move back.
Still, Klemm would rather the junior perfect one position rather than worry about which spot he’ll man from week to week.
“I’d like him to stay at the same place throughout the season,” Klemm said. “If I feel like there’s a chance he might have to move back, I’ll just leave him at tackle.”