Deon Hollins expects LB Isaako Savaiinaea to return soon for UCLA

Could UCLA’s battered linebacker corps be inching closer to full strength? Asked about the chemistry of the position group, outside linebacker Deon Hollins hinted at the return of fellow junior Isaako Savaiinaea.

“We’ve got Isaako coming back,” Hollins said. “Kenny Young had a great game last week. Jayon (Brown) as well. Every single week is big for guys who haven’t played as much, just to see what mistakes they made on film and correct those. I think we’re starting to gel.”

He could be leaning on the side of optimism. Savaiinaea has yet to participate in a full UCLA practice since spraining his ankle in a 40-24 win over Cal on Oct. 22. The former four-star recruit left the Rose Bowl that day as UCLA’s leading tackler, and remains tied for second on the team with 49 despite sitting out the past two games.

Hollins didn’t specify a timeframe on the inside linebacker’s potential return. If Savaiinaea can recover in time for Saturday’s 7:51 p.m. kickoff against Washington State, he will provide the Bruins with size — 250 pounds — unmatched by any other linebackers on the roster.

“He’s a really smart player,” Hollins said. “He picks up on his keys and he just attacks. That’s one of the big things about Isaako — he attacks.”