In an effort to improve the offense, the UCLA Football team has been working diligently on improving the offensive line and to do that, the Bruin coaches are doing a lot of shuffling.
It was bad last season. The UCLA Football team had a lot of problems on offense and was not efficient from the mid-point to late in the season (some would say sooner, but it really doesn’t matter as the Bruins finished 4-8).
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One of the reasons for this was the shift in offensive philosophy that saw the Bruins go from a spread-based offense to power-based schemes.
When you have an offensive line whose players are built for playing looser and faster and then suddenly expect them to adapt to a style that requires more strength and mindfulness, things are going to go wrong in a big way. Sure enough, things went wrong in a big way.
Those wrongs are looking to be corrected this season as new Offensive Coordinator Jedd Fisch and Offensive Line Coach Hank Fraley have tailored an offense to utilize the strengths of their players. So far it has worked, albeit slowly.
Before fall camp, Go Joe Bruin projected that the starting offensive line would look like the following: LT Kolton Miller, LG Andre James, C Scott Quessenberry, RG Najee Toran and RT Sunny Odogwu.
UCLA got a surprise at the beginning of the summer when Odogwu announced he would transfer from Miami. That gave the Bruins some talent and experience with Miller and Quessenberry on the line. The guard spots would yet be determined, though the development of James, Toran and even Kenny Lacy (who has also been in the first string shuffle) showed progress.
At this point, with just under two weeks until the season opener, the line has taken on a transformation that many would not have imagined at the beginning of August. Here is what the first string has looked like after the conclusion of fall camp:
LT Miller – LG Toran – C Quessenberry – RG Michael Alves – RT James
The only two players that remain consistent with our projections is Miller at left tackle and Quessenberry at center.
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Though Toran and James remain, they have been moved around by Fraley who has been working hard to identify the five best players to start on the line.
The surprise here is Alves, a redshirt freshman. Per Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the OC Register, the reason for the newly appointed promotion is because of “Alves’ consistent improvement.”
That is the biggest thing Fraley is looking for. It’s not just players that can fill a position, it’s about how well they assimilate his techniques and bring consistency to the offensive line.
Though this is what UCLA is going with right now, don’t expect it to be set in stone. As we get closer to the season, the coaches are going to diligently put together a line that will best accommodate Fisch’s offense and help move those sticks.
Still, if there are players that emerge over others, regardless of experience and past recruit ratings, then those are the players that should be in the starting lineup. At this point, don’t think of it as “who is going to start?” Think of it as, “who will be best to accomodate the offensive line?” We will soon find out.