‘Big possibility’ for guard NaJee Toran to start UCLA season opener

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.” Continue reading

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UCLA post-spring position outlook: Offensive line

Spring football is done, and over three months still stand between us and the start of UCLA’s third season under Jim Mora — one that comes with national title aspirations and accompanying media glare. Over the next week, this blog will cover each of the Bruins’ position groups. Next up …

Offensive line

UCLA is facing life without left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo, set to become the school’s highest-drafted offensive lineman since Kris Farris went to the Pittsburgh Steelers as a third-round pick in 1999. And yet, the Bruins aren’t in bad shape without the man they voted their offensive MVP, one who earned the conference’s Morris Trophy as well as All-American nods.

No returning lineman is as versatile or mobile as Su’a-Filo, and not having a dynamic pulling guard will likely impact the Bruins’ running game. What should balance out his absence is a unit that is deeper and more experienced that it was a year ago — a continuing reclamation project sparked by 2013’s stud signing class. Continue reading

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UCLA assistant Jeff Ulbrich named defensive coordinator

Linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich has been promoted to defensive coordinator, making official a promotion that had been expected for weeks. He fills the vacancy left by Lou Spanos, who left the Bruins last month to become the Tennessee Titans’ linebackers coach.

Ulbrich was also the team’s special teams coordinator, a unit that leads the country in blocked kicks and punts over the last two seasons, and was top-20 last fall in both kick and punt return coverage. The 36-year-old was nominated for the 2013 Broyles Award for college football’s top assistant coach. Continue reading

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UCLA lands linebacker Dwight Williams, misses Joe Mixon

In a surprise move, four-star linebacker Dwight Williams put on a UCLA hat Saturday morning. The Gardena Serra standout announced his decision during the second quarter of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

The Bruins had verbal commitments from four other Army All-Americans. Zach Whitley, the No. 6 linebacker in the country, called assistant coach Adrian Klemm Friday night to flip his decision from Alabama and will enroll early. UCLA also secured prior verbals from three other four-star recruits at the bowl: receiver Austin Roberts, cornerback Jaleel Wadood, defensive tackle Ainuu Taua.

The team did miss out on two other announcements in San Antonio. Continue reading

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