For the second year in a row, a true freshman start a season opener on UCLA’s offensive line.
After enrolling in spring, four-star recruit NaJee Toran is on track to start at right guard. In 2013, it was Alex Redmond who began the season there — though injuries eventually pushed two other first-year players into the starting five. Redmond is slated to start at left guard as a sophomore.
Toran has taken the bulk of first-team reps on the opposite side over the last week, and based on his conversations with offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, he expects to be in the starting lineup when the Bruins face Virginia on Aug. 30.
“A big possibility,” Toran said. “Just keep playing like I am, that’s where I’ll be at, most likely.”
At 6-foot-3, 267 pounds, he makes up for his lack of size by playing a physical brand of football, one that’s drawn praise from both Klemm and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone.
“Heart, staying low to the ground, being as physical as I can be — at my size, my height, my weight, you’ve got to be physical or you’re going to be pushed around,” Toran said. “It comes with the territory of being small … but you ain’t going to push me around. You’re gonna have to fight. …
“I don’t let people just punk me. I like to make people look stupid, make them look weak.”