Go Joe Bruin continues to project the 2017 depth charts as we now look at one of the more key position groups of the defense, the linebackers.
The way UCLA Football‘s defense is set up, requires them to be thick up front and in the defensive backfield, which means that they might be a little thin in the middle. This translates to the linebackers not being as deep as other position groups, but they do not necessarily need to be.
Defensive Coordinator Tom Bradley likes four guys up front and often plays with a fifth man (nickel back) in the secondary. That allows the Bruins to play three linebackers and it is not uncommon for them the have only two on the field.
Still, the big concern is how they will bounce back from losing a few guys to the NFL and graduation, though success in recruiting and development is making this position unit one of the more exciting to watch in 2017.
Strongside Linebacker Depth Chart
- DeChaun Holiday, #17, 6’2″, 225 lbs., R-So.
- Krys Barnes, #14, 6’2″, 250 lbs., So.
- Mique Juarez, #32, 6’2″, 255 lbs., R-Fr.
- Rayme Johnson, 6’4″, 210 lbs., Fr.
The Bruins lose four key linebackers from last season (leading tackler Jayon Brown, Deon Hollins, Cameron Judge and Isaako Savaiinaea) which means a few younger players have to step up, especially on the outside.
One of the fixes to this problem was bringing the multi-talented DeChaun Holiday from the secondary to the linebacking corps. The Bruins’ secondary is deep, so this is a move UCLA can afford to make, but it will be interesting to see how Holiday adapts to his new position.
Holiday did not play much in 2016, as he was a backup and played on special teams. This season he gets to show off his skills as one of the bigger threats on LB Coach Scott White’s crew. The good thing is, he has a lot of young talent behind him waiting to help out. (Note: Jim Mora said at Pac-12 Media Day that Holiday might be limited or unavailable for fall camp, possibly due to injury.)
Barnes has experience as a middle linebacker, so he can play a few different spots if need be. He only played on special teams last season, but should see the field on defense a lot more behind Holiday.
Juarez needed some personal time last season, but is back and looking to once again make an impact for his team. The former 5-star LB might need some time to get back into game mode, but when he does, the Bruins will have a very deadly weapon on their hands. Johnson was the only LB UCLA brought in last signing day. Though he has talent, he will most likely redshirts.