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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Schedule lines up to honor David Quessenberry’s battle with cancer

UCLA’s matchup with Colorado on Saturday couldn’t be better timed as far as Buffaloes coach Mike MacIntyre is concerned. It falls on the same weekend as San Jose State’s game at Navy, creating a confluence of the four teams with strong ties to Houston Texans second-year offensive lineman David Quessenberry.

Quessenberry, who was diagnosed with lymphoma over the summer, will be honored when all four teams wear stickers with his initials on their helmets, including Quessenberry’s two younger brothers.

UCLA starting right guard Scott Quessenberry and Navy defensive end Paul Quessenberry are just two of the people involved in the pair of games that have relationships with the 24-year-old David. MacIntyre, in his second season at Colorado, was the head coach at San Jose State when David Quessenberry arrived as a walk-on tight end before transforming into a 2013 sixth-round draft pick.

Continue reading

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Center Jake Brendel, running back Paul Perkins start for UCLA

PASADENA >> Center Jake Brendel started his first game of the season on Saturday night, as UCLA opened its home schedule against Memphis.

The third-year starter sat out the Bruins’ season opener at Virginia with a sprained knee, his absence contributing to the offensive line’s dysfunction. With sophomore Scott Quessenberry making his first career start at center — not to mention true freshman NaJee Toran at right guard — the Bruins gave up five sacks and committed five false starts.

Brendel had started 27 straight contests before sitting out at Scott Stadium, making him the only center quarterback Brett Hundley had ever played behind during a game.

Against Memphis, Quessenberry replaced Toran at guard. He had started six games there as a true freshman after injuries to the offensive line.

Redshirt sophomore Paul Perkins started at running back for the first time this season, an unsurprising move given his performance in Week 1. Perkins led the team with 80 yards on 16 carries against the Cavaliers in Charlottesville, while then-starter Jordon James finished with three yards.

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Scott Quessenberry to UCLA defense: ‘Thanks for cleaning up our mess’

UCLA made a bit of history during Saturday’s 28-20 win at Virginia. In the second quarter on Saturday, cornerback Ishmael Adams and linebacker Eric Kendricks returned interceptions for touchdowns, while safety Randall Goforth took a fumble back 75 yards for the score.

It was the Bruins’ first game with three defensive touchdowns since 1986, when they hit the trifecta in a 49-0 win over Oregon State. Perhaps no one was more thankful than UCLA’s offensive line. The unit looked awful without center Jake Brendel (knee), committing numerous penalties and allowing five sacks.

“I was telling the guys — Eric, Ish, RG — the three guys that scored, ‘Thanks for cleaning up our mess,'” said sophomore Scott Quessenberry, who replaced Brendel in the starting lineup. “Especially us up front, we didn’t play our game today. They really stepped it up for us.”

RELATED:
— UCLA’s offense was far from championship-caliber in a 28-20 win over Virginia. Coordinator Noel Mazzone: “I’m hoping we got it all out of our system.”
— The Bruins’ defensive front shined despite not notching any sacks.

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