UCLA Football: The Fallout From Eddie Vanderdoes’s Injury


Nov 22, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler (6) is pressured by UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes (47) and linebacker Deon Hollins (58) during the first half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The loss of star defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes puts the UCLA defense in a bind, but there are some talented options ready to step up and fill that spot on the defensive line for the rest of the season.

While Bruin fans everywhere were swept up for roughly 24 hours in the euphoria of freshman quarterback Josh Rosen‘s emphatic entry onto the college football scene, the news of Eddie Vanderdoes‘s ACL tear that will force star defensive tackle to miss the rest of the season brought them slightly back down to Earth and left most fans to ponder the potential impact of Vanderdoes’s injury on defensive coordinator Tom Bradley‘s defense in 2015.

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There’s no doubt that losing Vanderdoes is a significant blow: the true junior was a force on the line of scrimmage against Virginia. He made multiple incursions into the Cavaliers’ backfield and, alongside fellow defensive line stalwart (and BFFKenny Clark, occupied multiple blockers at the point of attack, making it impossible for the Hoos, who were held to under 100 yards rushing, to ever get their ground game truly going.

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By the time he departed from the action at the Rose Bowl, Vanderdoes had already accumulated a team-leading 8 tackles, including 2 tackles for losses, and generally been the star of a really solid Bruin defensive performance. Watching his performance against Virginia, it seemed like Vanderdoes, a consensus 5-star recruit in the class of 2013 from Placer High School in Auburn, CA, was poised this season to make the jump into stardom that had long been foreseen for him.

With his loss, though, opportunities now become more available for three players who have the physical potential to be pretty solid replacements on the line for the rest of the season. Among the defensive linemen likely to see significantly more playing time going forward, the two names UCLA defensive line coach Angus McClure has already cited are sophomore Matt Dickerson and redshirt junior Eli Ankou. Another player to watch out for who could challenge to replace Vanderdoes for the season is sophomore Jacob Tuioti-Mariner.

Dickerson and Tuioti-Mariner were consensus 3-star recruits in the class of 2014 who saw playing time as true freshmen last season. Dickerson is likely to get the first shot at slotting in as a 3-technique defensive lineman against UNLV.

Unlike the girthier Vanderdoes who looks more like a nose tackle than a defensive end, Dickerson is 275 pounds of pure muscle and his game is all about using that strength to dominate at the point of attack. Tuioti-Mariner, on the other hand, is an amazing jumbo athlete who actually played volleyball throughout high school at St. John Bosco (and won two Trinity League titles in volleyball) despite weighing 250 pounds by his senior year of high school. He projects as the option most likely to cause havoc in passing situations with his surprising ability to be nimble and escape the clutches of offensive linemen, but isn’t likely to be nearly as stout against the run just yet at this point in his UCLA career.

Tom Bradley and Angus McClure might choose to mix and match against different offenses in different situations.

The wild card in the battle is Ankou, a 3-star recruit originally from Canada who was part of Jim Mora‘s first recruiting class at UCLA in 2012. Out of the three competitors to replace Vanderdoes, Ankou is the one with the most similar body type to Vanderdoes, but Ankou isn’t as powerful or explosive. Ankou might be more valuable in his current place on the depth chart as the backup nose tackle who spells Kenny Clark. True freshman defensive end Rick Wade, a 4-star recruit out of Santa Margarita who impressed many fall camp observers in San Bernardino, might also be thrust into action now as a rotation option in order to keep the starters fresh as games progress.

Given the diverse array of talents competing to get the lion’s share of reps in place of Vanderdoes, it might very well end up being a situation in which Tom Bradley and Angus McClure choose to mix and match against different offenses in different situations. It is undoubtedly really tough to lose a behemoth of Vanderdoes’s caliber, but with every loss comes an opportunity and it will be very interesting to see how each of the players in question rises to the challenge of maximizing this opportunity.

Next: Virginia vs UCLA Football Report Card

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