UCLA Football 2018: Projecting the Depth Chart – Linebackers

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 03: Jacob Tuioti-Mariner
PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 03: Jacob Tuioti-Mariner /
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Go Joe Bruin continues to analyze the UCLA football team as we project what the 2018 linebacker depth charts will look like this fall.

The UCLA football team will return a lot of familiar faces on defense, but these faces will have a new look. With the Bruins having a changing of the guard over the season, new head coach Chip Kelly has employed the services of Jerry Azzinaro to make the defense more aggressive.

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Along with new linebacker coach Don Pellum, Azzinaro will change the shape of the Bruins and make them more of “violent” squad. Though there have been issues with linebacker recruiting and development with the old regime, Azzinaro looks like he will have his linebackers raring to go in 2018.

In spring, the defense really took to the new style. But things are going to be knocked up a notch this fall as a few more players join the group, positions are moved around and the depth is finally set. So let us take a look at what UCLA could be utilizing this fall.

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EDGE Linebackers

  1. Jaelan Phillips, 6-5, 245, So.
  2. Leni Toailoa, 6-0, 225, R-So.
  3. Elijah Wade, 6-5, 255, Fr.
  4. Rahyme Johnson, 6-4, 230, So.

UCLA’s defense may be in a 3-4 base scheme, but do not expect them to stay in that formation. Azzinaro and company want to make things difficult for every offense they come up against and will throw different looks at each of them.

On the weak side, the linebackers will be fronted by Jaelan Phillips, who only played in seven games last season due to injury. Still, in that time he was able to collect 7 tackles for a loss (4th on the team) and 3.5 sacks (2nd on the team), so just imagine what he can do with a full season and a group of competent coaches that know how to deploy an attacking defense.

Leni Toailoa has had a hard time finding playing time with the Bruins. Last season he saw time in a backup role as he only played in 10 games and accumulated a minuscule six tackles. If he can work on his hitting and tackling, he should accumulate more minutes as a guaranteed backup.

Behind him, it looks like true freshman Elijah Wade is getting the nod from the coaches to back up Phillips. Wade is a big, ferocious defender who was originally recruited to play DE, but with the coaches using the art of deception, he could thrive in this hybrid role.

Rahyme Johnson is another athletic defender the coaches are looking to utilize. Though it seems they want him to develop a little bit more, he should fit nicely on the weak side.