UCLA Football: It is Keisean Lucier-South’s time to shine


Despite a forgettable season full of underachievement, there were a few bright spots with UCLA football’s defense. One of those, OLB Keisean Lucier-South, will look to build off of his production from last season and could have a breakout year with the new coaching staff guiding him.

Hopefully, this is the last time I type the phrase “bend but don’t break”. That is how one would describe the defensive scheme of the UCLA football team last season. Essentially, it was a strategy based on waiting and reacting so to not give up big plays. I did not work.

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Fortunately, there were some talented players on the defense that saved the Bruins from being a complete embarrassment. One of those is a player that should have a huge impact on the defensive production in 2018, especially with defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro in charge.

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Meet Keisean Lucier-South.

KLS started his UCLA career off slowly. Though he came to Westwood as a highly-touted 5-star outside linebacker, he did not see time on the field until his second year, redshirting his first year. When he finally got on the field, he moved up to the line as a defensive end but was used sparingly, only playing in six games and getting a total of six tackles.

Things changed last season when he landed the starting strongside DE spot. Though his progress was slow, it was indeed progressing and it finally started to pay off in 2017.

Lucier-South often seemed stuck in his position and reacting to plays late, but knowing what kind of system he was in the last few years, his slow development could partially be placed on the former regime. But that did not stop KLS. Last season he made himself known and became a lot more reactive, despite the system.

Lucier-South appeared to be more focused, more aggressive and more determined. That led to him accumulating 53 total tackles (5th on the team) with 5.5 of them going for a loss. He also added one sack, two pass breakups, one quarterback hurry and one forced fumble.

All that occurred in a system that was wait and react, but what will he do in a system that will require him to act first and ask questions later? Simply, he will become a terror for his opponents.

Since Azzinaro and LB coach Don Pellum has taken over, they are expecting their players to run downhill, which is something KLS has been adept with since high school. He has no problem bolting off the line and charging into the backfield.

With Jaelan Phillips on the other side, both should form a pass rush tandem that will heavily disrupt offenses, something Bruins fans have been waiting on for quite a while.

Though this will help him and the defense, the thing that stands out about his progress is how he reacts in open space. In the spring he showed how he can play tight coverage as well as pursue ball carriers and limit extra yardage gained. Yet the biggest trait that he possesses is that of a leader. Now that he is a junior, he has the experience and attitude that others will look up to. He is also leading by example with his gameplay, which many younger Bruins will learn from.

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It is not easy to go through a season like the defense did in 2017, but that knowledge will help KLS breakthrough in 2018. It will also show that KLS is more than just a cog in the machine, but a machine himself. As they say on the ‘What’s Bruin Show’ podcast, “KLS is going to rock you!”