The last time Simon Goines took the field for UCLA, he was part of an offensive line that included three true freshmen. Fast forward 16 months, and that picture has changed dramatically.
While the redshirt junior sat out all of the 2014 season recovering from leg injuries, the Bruins grew up in the trenches. Now practicing next to Goines on the first-string offensive line are a senior at center (Jake Brendel), a redshirt junior at left tackle (Conor McDermott), as well as a junior (Alex Redmond) and redshirt sophomore (Kenny Lacy) at left and right guard.
As a unit, the five have combined to start 89 games. That doesn’t even include two more starters from last season, Caleb Benenoch and Scott Quessenberry, who are recovering from offseason surgeries.
“It feels a lot different,” Goines said. “I don’t really have to say anything anymore. … I don’t have to make calls for everybody. It feels good.”
Goines fractured his right fibula against Arizona State on Nov. 23, 2013, and underwent another surgery last August to remove bone spurs from his ankle. These were only the latest setbacks in a checkered healthy history, a list that also includes a right MCL injury.
So, Goines spent most of last fall in street clothes, working his way back slowly. The final week of the regular season, he said, was when he felt fully comfortable again putting weight on his leg in the same way.
He is now 335 pounds, and plans to shed another 10 when the 2015 season nears. His training with strength coach Sal Alosi has made his right leg even stronger, and he is eager to finally to step into the Rose Bowl in full uniform again on Sept. 5 against Virginia.
“I actually feel like I’m the most mobile I’ve been since I’ve been at UCLA,” Goines said. “More fluid motions. I think that doesn’t just come with healthiness. It comes with maturity … work on my feet, learning how to shift your weight more so than anything.”