SAN BERNARDINO — Kenny Orjioke is 6-foot-4, 240 pounds. Through the first five camp days in San Bernardino, he has looked like a potential star, a heavy-hitting blur who could top of UCLA’s already impressive pass rush.
As a 17-year-old true freshman, the linebacker played mostly on special teams. He finished with two tackles in five games. Should he have redshirted instead?
“It’s kind of a delicate deal,” head coach Jim Mora said. “You’re always trying to win right now. If you see a guy who can help you, my instinct is to use him.
“But I think you have to be sensitive to the kid. If you’re not going to use him to the extent where you’re really getting something out of him and he’s really getting something out of the experience — you hate to waste that year just to get a few plays.”
Mora wasn’t talking about Orjioke, but it’s a perennial conversation for any college football program: Use a promising youngster immediately and let him learn through experience, or stash him for future dividends? (Orjioke said in spring that not redshirting made him value his remaining seasons more, pushing him to work harder.)
The freshmen who prompted the discussion late Monday morning were Jalen Ortiz and Darren Andrews, two receivers who stand at about 5-foot-9. The pair made their share of plays over the middle Tuesday, with Andrews impressively holding on to a ball as he bounced off defensive back Anthony Jefferson’s tackle attempt.
Both could add speed to special teams, or be saved on the sidelines as they watch and learn.
Another example in this year’s class is 17-year-old defensive tackle Kenneth Clark, a player who could easily fit in the rotation. The question is whether a limited number of plays as the No. 3 nose tackle will benefit more than a redshirt season.
Asked if he’s handling redshirts differently than last year, Mora said no: “I felt like all the freshmen that played (last year) got something out of it.
“I guess if you look back and say, ‘Is there any player that didn’t redshirt, that played, that it was a waste for?’ — I don’t get the feeling that there was.”
BENENOCH CLOSE TO STARTING
UCLA’s starting offensive line isn’t set in stone, but the order is at least wet concrete. Freshman Caleb Benenoch has run almost exclusively with the first-team offense for most of the camp’s first five days. So far, he’s handled the task with aplomb — easily setting himself out as the best of the seven-man freshman haul. Continue reading