This is what UCLA’s two-deep at offensive line looks like early in spring:
LT – Caleb Benenoch, So.; Kenny Lacy, RSFr.
LG – Scott Quessenberry, So.; John Lopez, RSFr.
C – Jake Brendel, RSJr.; Carl Hulick, RSSo.
RG – Alex Redmond, So.; NaJee Toran, Fr.
RT – Poasi Moala, RSFr.; Ben Wysocki, RSJr.
Of course, the lineup is still very fluid — particularly without junior tackle Simon Goines (leg) and graduate transfer Malcolm Bunche (still awaiting admissions clearance). Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, who received an associate head coach title in February, also looks for positional flexibility in his recruits and is always open to shifting his players around. He also stressed that he hasn’t gotten a chance to look at the unit in pads yet this spring.
Klemm talked at length about a few of the Bruins after Thursday’s practice.
Caleb Benenoch: “He looks like a totally different person. We were laughing the other day. We were looking at him on the internet. He was about 350 in high school, belly hanging between his legs in his stance and all that. So that’s really helped him out a lot in terms of — not just being able to get through practice — but as practice goes on, that he gets better and better as defenders get a little tired. From a mental standpoint, I think it helps him out a lot too. Now he’s not focused on just getting through the practice or the game. He’s focusing on … technique and being physical. …
“I wouldn’t say he’s a prototype left tackle, but I think he can have success over there. He gives us our best chance. He’s very mature for his age. He’s very smart. I think he’s picked up things really well, and he’s done really well over there.”
Poasi Moala: “I was working him at left tackle last year, but he’s played right all throughout high school. He just feels more comfortable over there. One of the things I want to do with him is, while he’s learning, I want him to be a little bit more comfortable. I wanted him to gain confidence. I want to put him in a position he’s familiar with, and so he can focus on getting what we do schematically down and focusing on technique and things of that nature. Eventually, I can kick him back over to left tackle.”
Simon Goines: “I’m not really sure (about his health). I just go with the reports. I just know he’s not practicing now. He won’t be practicing this spring. I see he’s doing things over there (on the sideline), but my thing is, I don’t want to rush him. We don’t have as much depth as I would like, but we do have guys that can fill in at the position. … I don’t want to rush him. I want to be fair to him. Two years, he played with injuries. He tried to pushed through different things. To a certain degree, I don’t know if that hurt him a little bit. From a confidence standpoint, it probably shook him up a little bit. I want him to gain that back. I want him to have every opportunity to be the guy we all knew he could be coming in here.”
Kenny Lacy: “He’s another guy that made a transformation. A dramatic transformation, physically. I’ve been impressed with his work ethic. He’s done a lot more than what he’s been asked to do. … He’s a lot more mature than he was when he walked on campus. His work ethic is improving every single day. He’s taking things personal in terms of — I think he saw other guys playing at his age, and that makes guys a little bit hungrier. At a certain point, we had to have a heart-to-heart in our group: ‘There’s about nine of you guys that are about the same age. Either guys are transferring or guys are sitting on the bench. One of the two.’ You’ve got to get cracking, and he’s one of the guys that took it to heart. Came back a different guy. I knew he’d be a little bit better, but I was shocked at what I’ve seen the first couple of practices. It’s not that I didn’t think he could do it. I just didn’t think it could come this soon.”
NaJee Toran: “I like that kid. He gets after it. You see him driving guys 30 yards downfield. He’s a pretty good kid. A little bit of a motor on him. He’s one of the guys I don’t have to run around, telling him to get after it a little bit. I’ve been impressed that, he’s supposed to be in high school right now and he’s mixing it up with the older guys. Came more mature physically than I thought he was going to be. I assumed he’d be about 250 or so, but I think that was just being worn down from the season and maybe not having the meal plan and different things he has here. … He’s a little bit further than what we thought.”