Caleb Benenoch didn’t get a chance to ease into his freshman season.
Originally in line to start at right guard, he lost the competition to fellow first-year Alex Redmond shortly before UCLA’s 2013 season opener. Four games in, however, he got his chance — albeit at a separate position.
Starting tackle Torian White broke a bone in his lower leg in an Oct. 3 win at Utah, opening a spot in the staring lineup for the 6-foot-5 Benenoch. The toughest part of his adjustment, Benenoch said this week, was keeping up with the speed of the game and refining his technique. He needed another four games or so to get comfortable with the pace.
The schedule didn’t give him room to breathe. On Oct. 26, injuries forced Scott Quessenberry into action, adding a third true freshman to the offensive line. Across from the line of scrimmage was then-No. 2 Oregon, which had won its previous seven games by an average of 40 points.
But asked if he or his fellow freshmen felt overwhelmed in that eventual 42-14 blowout at Autzen Stadium, Benenoch said no.
“We didn’t,” he said. “I felt in over my head, I would say, when I got thrown into the fire at Utah, and they started blitzing me and Alex from the same side.
“When we went into Oregon, we didn’t realize how big the stage was. That it was College GameDay. We were kind of like, ‘Let’s just go play. We’re freshmen — who cares?’”
Benenoch is again slated to start this season at tackle, though he could be moved to guard if center Jake Brendel (MCL) isn’t ready for the Bruins’ Aug. 30 opener at Virginia.