UCLA Football Spring Practice Preview 2018: Offensive Line

PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 19: The UCLA Bruins line up against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on October 19, 2013 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 19: The UCLA Bruins line up against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on October 19, 2013 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Go Joe Bruin continues our UCLA football spring practice previews as we shift toward a position group that is of great concern… the offensive line.

“Is the glass half empty or half full?” This age-old question sums up the way UCLA football fans might look at the offensive line entering the 2018 season.

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In one sense, the glass is half empty.

UCLA’s starting offensive line for all 13 games in 2017 was made up of C Scott Quessenberry (Sr), LG Najee Toran (Sr) LT, Kolton Miller (Jr-R), RT Andre James (So-R), and RG Michael Alves (Fr-R).  Quessenberry and Miller both declared for the NFL draft following the 2017 campaign, while Toran is slated to walk in June.

That leaves James and Alves as the Bruins’ only returning starters on the offensive front.  With the experience gleaned in 2017, the Bruins will be comfortable on the right side of the line with James and Alves.

By the numbers, UCLA’s average line size in 2017 hovered around 299 lbs. and 6-4. With the departure of the Bruins’ upperclassmen and the addition of their four recruits, the offensive line average size drops to 292 lbs, but will remain at 6-4 in 2018.

At the same time, it could be said that the glass is half full.

While the Bruins’ are departing with three major components of their offensive front, they are definitely not without options.

Assuming 2017’s offensive line roster carries over to 2018, newly-minted head coach Chip Kelly has 13 returners to work with.

UCLA’s Josh Wariboko-Alali (6-2, 305 lbs., So-R) appeared in 10 games in 2017 on the offensive front.  Should he stay with the program, his size and experience could be just what Kelly is looking for when evaluating the left tackle vacancy.  There are also expectations that Wariboko-Alali could try his hand at center in the spring.

Elsewhere, Jake Burton (6-5, 295 lbs., Fr-R) received playing time in five games during the 2017 season, while Clayton Demski (6-2, 260 lbs., Fr-R) saw the field in one game.

The Bruins also welcome four OL recruits to Westwood in 2018.

Highlighting the pack is four-star offensive guard Chris Murray (6-3, 300 lbs.).  Murray’s experience on the prep level could help fill the Bruins’ left guard opening.  His athleticism could also help fill the need at center.  While he will not be in Westwood for the spring practices, the left guard or center positions could be his to lose once fall camp starts.  Either way, fans can expect Murray in the Bruins’ starting lineup this fall.

The Bruins’ other incoming offensive linemen include Alec Anderson (three-star, 6-5, 283 lbs.), Jon Gaines (three-star, 6-5, 270 lbs.), and Baraka Beckett (three-star, 6-4, 280 lbs).  While the aforementioned trio of recruits are not expected to compete in the spring practices, it will be interesting to see how they are woven into Kelly’s offense in the fall.

Considering the above information, one can argue that the Bruins’ starting offensive front for the upcoming spring practices will be made of James (RT), Alves (RG), and Wariboko-Alali (LT/C).  The left guard and center position will remain a mystery for some time.  However, fans should keep a close eye on both Stephan Zabie (6-6, 290 lbs., Fr), and Alex Akingbulu (6-5, 285 lbs., Fr-R) as they are also expected to battle for time (presumably in the left guard/tackle positions).

Kelly has inherited a semi-undersized offensive line unit, and it will be interesting to see what he ends up doing with this group in 2018.

Next: Three players that needs a fresh start in 2018

Chip Kelly and his Bruins kick off spring practices on March 6 at 7:15 a.m. in Westwood.  Following practices will take place on March 8 (7:15 a.m.), March 10 (10:00 a.m.), March 13 (7:15 a.m.), March 15 (7:15 a.m.) and March 17 (10:00 a.m.).  All practices will be open to the public via a provided viewing area at the top of Lot 8 across from Spaulding Field.  

A month later, the Bruins will host their annual spring game at Drake Stadium on April 21 at 11:00 a.m.  Admission will be free for UCLA season ticket holders and current Den pass holders.  General admission is $10 via pre-sale ($15 on the day of the event).  Kids (3-12) admission and current UCLA students can both get in for $5.