UCLA Football: Defensive Line Roster and Projected Depth Chart


As we continue to look at the different position groups of UCLA Football, we turn to the defensive line which is very talented, but very thin.

The UCLA Football Defense Getting In Front

It took a while to click, but the UCLA Football defensive line was able to push through their opposition as the 2014 season progressed. Last season under first time defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was a bit of a work in progress, but he is now gone to the NFL and long time college football defensive coordinator Tom Bradley has taken over.

With Bradley, it is believed that the Bruin defense will take a step up. They have the talent and the depth, and now have coaching. Although depth is something we will get into shortly with the D-Line.

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On The Line

Sep 25, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes (47) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

So let is start with the guys up front that are getting a lot of attention. The Bruins will most likely be in a 3-4 defense (mixed with elements of 4-3 and nickel) led by two of the most talented and feared duos in the country as tackles Eddie Vanderdoes and Kenny Clark once again will lead the push against their offensive foes.

Vanderdoes will be starting on the line for the third straight year, so he has already carved a notch in his spot. Though he was not much of a pass rusher, last season Vanderdoes was able to get into the opponent’s backfield and disrupt the offense. He finished the season 5th in tackles among all retuning Bruins with 50, had 5.5 for a loss, 2 sacks (for 19 yards), 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovered. So yes, he is a huge weapon for the Bruins.

Clark is very similar to Vanderdoes, which is great for the Bruins. Though Clark will be handling more of the nose tackle position, having the Vanderdoes/Clark tandem will cause a lot of problems for teams up front. Clark is big, strong and can run over people. He excelled as a starter last year and was 3rd among all Bruin returners in tackles with 58. He also had 5.5 tackles for a loss, 1 pass breakup and 1 recovered fumble.

They will also have Takkarist McKinley holding down the right side of the line who will be starting off his first full season. Last year, he committed to the Bruins the day before the big showdown with Texas in Week 3 and though it took a few weeks to get acclimated to a new system, he quickly assimilated and emerged as a strong pass rusher off the line. In just 10 games he had 3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble.

The Second Wave

With so much talent in front of them, plus the intermixing of linebackers helping on the line, we only got to see these players sparingly, but the young back-up D-Liners have a lot of raw talent. The most experienced is Eli Ankou who battled for time at nose tackle behind last year’s back-up Ellis McCarthy. With McCarthy leaving early for the NFL, Ankou has a clear shot at the #2 nose tackle position and should see more action than last year when he played in 13 games, but only recorded 5 tackles.

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Jacob Tuioti-Mariner is a younger guy that stood out in the time he was on the field. With good IQ and field presence, Tuioti-Mariner was rewarded with time in 13 games, but like Ankou, only got 5 tackles. The same goes for Matt Dickerson who played in 12 games but had just 1 tackle.

Ainuu Taua came to UCLA in the same class as Tuioti-Mariner and Dickerson, but was not able to see field time last year. Expect that to change as the Bruins are quite thin up front and will need Taua to get acclimated to the system to prepare for the future. Najee Toran is a converted O-lineman that moved over to the D-line this last spring practice. Though he needs time to develop in his new position, Bradley liked his progression.

Rick Wade was the lone DL commit in 2015 which is a cause for concern. Though recruiting D-linemen is a topic for another article, right now the Bruins will need every available body they have and Wade looks like a fierce competitor that will come in and battle for playing time right away.

Some Depth, If Necessary

Just like every other position group, the Bruins have several players that are vital to their success. Though Jesus Moreno, Jake Jones, Alex Rassool, Taylor Prenovost, Justin Rittman and Thomas Schwab did not see game time last year, they are still important to the foundation of the team and this year will be key to supporting a thin defensive line.

The majority of these players will see time on the scout team, but because of the possible need for more bodies on the line, expect to see a few of these players make an appearance for UCLA Football this season.

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Next: UCLA Football Predicted To Win The Pac-12 South By ESPN

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