We are continuing the defensive heavy trend in this piece but shifting from the defensive backfield to the front line. The UCLA Football defensive line had more than it’s share of struggles the past two seasons struggling to both slow rushing attacks and get after the passer. The interior has been particularly tough to stomach as they were constantly being blown off the ball and allowing offensive linemen to get to the second level and engage the Bruin LBs.
Tagaloa doesn’t carry the blame alone for the uninspiring DL play but is going to receive a hefty focus here. A four star prospect who joined the UCLA Football team in 2016 from powerhouse De La Salle, Tagaloa dominated high school teams with his power and strong base. He was part of a concerted recruiting effort to get bigger across both lines in order to better handle the rushing attacks from Stanford that gashed the Bruins year in and year out.
However that effort hasn’t exactly panned out in the Bruins’ favor. Tagaloa in particular, a player who was brought in to handle double teams and make running in the interior a nightmare, has struggled to do just that.
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One on one with offensive linemen he’s more than able to handle his man. However double teams have given him trouble which is obviously not something you want from your projected starter at nose tackle in 2018.
The Bruins signed massive Atonio Mafi in their 2018 recruiting class but the six-foot-three, 360 pound defensive tackle is going to need a redshirt year to not only allow his Achilles to fully heal but to work himself back into football shape under the new staff. That means a light UCLA Football defensive line moving back to the 3-4 defense will need to get creative for at least a year as the prototypical pieces continue to assemble in WestWood.
The good news for Tagaloa is that while the defensive ends typically are long, athletic, prototypical five techniques in defenses under Chip Kelly, the nose tackles aren’t the textbook 320 pound pluggers and instead rely on athleticism, technique and aggressiveness to threaten opposing run games. However there will still be times Tagaloa needs to keep his pads low, take on the double team and either find a way to split it or become an immovable object for this defense to live up to it’s potential.
It won’t be an easy road for any of the aforementioned Bruins and let’s be clear I’m not saying what they’ve done up to this point is unappreciated but I’d be willing to bet that they’d agree with me when I say they can do and be so much more for this UCLA Football team.