— Inside linebacker Isaako Savaiinaea left UCLA’s practice early on Wednesday morning with his left arm in a sling. The severity of his injury is not yet clear, but he did not return to the field.
The Bruins are without both their inside starters from last season, with Jordan Zumwalt training for the NFL draft and Eric Kendricks still recovering from ankle surgery. Savaiinaea started one game last season, and was a candidate to play next to Kendricks this fall. Sophomore Jayon Brown and senior Ryan Hofmeister are also in the rotation.
Still, the team is thinner at outside linebacker, where a stable starter has yet to be found opposite Myles Jack (who actually worked with the inside linebackers during individual drills). Junior Kenny Orjioke is still the favorite to secure that spot, but rising sophomore Deon Hollins and true freshman Zach Whitley are vying for the job too.
Whitley is a very promising talent, but is more comfortable inside. The four-star early enrollee looked lost on several plays at outside linebacker, and was pancaked by more than one offensive lineman.
— Caleb Benenoch continues to look good at left tackle, but don’t expect graduate transfer Malcolm Bunche to be able to run block nearly as effectively as Xavier Su’a-Filo did last season.
Head coach Jim Mora said this week that Bunche will remain at guard, but the senior still looks more like a tackle at 6-foot-7, and likely close to 330 pounds. The offensive line has plenty of depth, but lacks a guard that can pull the way Su’a-Filo did so well before moving to left tackle as an injury replacement.
For what it’s worth, Bunche — who said he got a fourth-round draft evaluation — was confident in his ability to move in space:
— Ka’imi Fairbairn looks like more or less the same kicker he’s been the past two seasons. The rising junior is capable of hitting some long field goals, but still isn’t consistent from around 40 yards and beyond.