UCLA spring camp position review: Offensive line

UCLA's offensive line during spring football practice at Spaulding Field on April 23, 2015. (Andy Holzman/Staff)

UCLA’s offensive line during spring football practice at Spaulding Field on April 23, 2015. (Andy Holzman/Staff)

The improvement of UCLA’s offensive line has been a recurring storyline for more than a year, so you’re allowed some skepticism as you read this: Despite allowing 128 sacks over the last three seasons, this could be one of the team’s strengths.

As usual, the caveat is that the line will need to stay healthy. But unlike the last few years, the unit has the sort of depth that can sustain a certain amount of attrition. Two starters are crucial: left tackle Conor McDermott, and center Jake Brendel. The former has had shoulder problems in the past, but was a game-changing left tackle through the second half of last season. He looked healthy and capable all of spring. Brendel is still the only full-time center UCLA has had in the Jim Mora era, and the one game he missed wasn’t pretty.

Injuries to either one could throw the line completely out of whack. But the other spots? Losing someone for a few games wouldn’t be a death sentence. Continue reading

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UCLA’s Simon Goines eager for game action after leg injuries

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.” Continue reading

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VIDEO: Jim Mora talks about UCLA’s approach vs. Cal offense

UCLA head coach Jim Mora talked on Thursday about the keys to stopping Cal’s explosive offense, and also touched on the state of the Bruins’ offensive line: offensive tackle Simon Goines, who has yet to play this season after undergoing ankle surgery in August, had “a good week of practice”; offensive guard Alex Redmond remains a gametime decision with a sprained ankle.

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UCLA linebacker Kenny Orjioke to undergo knee procedure

UCLA linebacker Kenny Orjioke will have a procedure on right knee on Tuesday, said head coach Jim Mora.

The junior was on crutches and had his right knee heavily wrapped. Initially thought to be a bruise, the severity of Orjioke’s injury is still uncertain pending further medical examination. He has eight tackles this season in reserve action, including one for loss.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’s just something minor,” Mora said. “Maybe he misses this game and he’s back next week.”

Starting offensive guard Alex Redmond (ankle) is still in a boot after spraining his ankle in the first half of UCLA’s win at Arizona State last Thursday, but Mora didn’t rule him out of playing against Utah this weekend. Continue reading

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Notes and quotes: Brett Hundley’s brilliance leads UCLA past ASU

In the second quarter of what would become UCLA’s 62-27 blowout of Arizona State, Brett Hundley showed everyone just how healthy he was.

On second-and-7 near midfield, the Bruins’ star quarterback capped a six-yard scramble with a hurdle, leaping over one linebacker before another came and hit him on his left arm. Hundley knew that this could happen — that by favoring thrill over caution, he could open himself up to defenders who were surely eyeing that heavy brace covering his left elbow.

He also knew he didn’t care.

“I’m playing football,” Hundley said. “I can’t not do what I like doing and how I like playing. … That’s what I wanted to do this game, is not come in and think that I’m limiting myself by not running. I wanted to show that I could still run the ball and still do all the things God has blessed me to do.”

Arizona State bore the brunt of all that Thursday night. This was as masterful a performance that Hundley has ever delivered in UCLA colors — one only highlighted by the fact that it came less than two weeks after an elbow injury that had fans holding their breath.

His final line was absurd: 355 yards and four touchdowns on just 23 pass attempts. He only had five incompletions, and two were dropped by receiver Kenneth Walker. He tacked on 72 rushing yards, punching in a one-yard touchdown for the final score, after the game was well in hand. In the end zone, he looked up at the stands and slapped his left arm.

His two 80-yard passes were a career-high, and marked UCLA’s longest pass completion since Drew Olson’s 91-yarder to Joe Cowan in 2005. He now has seven 300-yard games in his career four behind Cade McNown’s school record of 11.

In another blowout, UCLA might have already trotted out backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel, the team’s savior in a 20-17 win against Texas almost two weeks ago. But Hundley wasn’t sitting this one out. Not in front of his hometown crowd, not when he had missed nearly the entire game against the Longhorns, and certainly not against the team that had beaten him a year ago for the Pac-12 South title.

“Brett, I’ve never seen him this hyped (as he was) this whole week,” said receiver Thomas Duarte.

» Someone scratched “UCLA” into Arizona State’s midfield pitchfork logo before kickoff, and the Bruins all but said that one of them was responsible.

Take it away, Brett Hundley and Thomas Duarte:

Mildly reminiscent of another midfield controversy, perhaps?

» UCLA’s offensive line played one of its better games of the season, allowing Hundley to get sacked just once despite losing starting left guard Alex Redmond in the first half. Continue reading

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