We will finish up with a quick look at personnel. What did the Bruins have, who stood out and what does that mean for 2019?
The biggest loss will be that of leading tackler (123) Adarius Pickett. Think about that, a defensive back had the most tackles during the season. Aside from the fact that he is incredibly athletic, he also had to make up for some of the defense’s weaknesses, like their thin LB corps. He defended his area, as well as dipped into the second level. Who knows where the Bruins would be if they did not have Pickett this season.
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Nate Meadors is also moving on. He is a Bruin that always gave it his all, unfortunately, this season, he did not play to his potential. Still, his contributions helped the team make big steps forward. The Bruins do get to retain the services of Darnay Holmes who will be the best DB UCLA has next season. He led the team with 3 interceptions this season. Holmes and Quentin Lake will be the leaders of the secondary, which will also help the pass defense improve because the run defense is looking good for 2019.
Who knew that UCLA would have such an improved run defense with the personnel they had? It took a while but having the big, young guys up front play a lot of minutes was imperative to the Bruins’ growth. Osa Odighizuwa had the most tackles (29) among all D-linemen. He exhibited the traits that Azzinaro needs to get the advantage on the fight up front and should be the best linemen heading into next season.
True freshmen Otito Ogbonnia and Atonio Mafi made quite the impact with the line. Though they did not light up the stat sheet, you can see how their technique and execution had improved as the season progressed. With these two big men pushing their way up front, the Bruins have a scary combo setup for next season. Could they be the next Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes?
Among the linebackers, we have nothing but good things to say about KLS. Not only was he a constant pass rushing threat, but continued to excel in coverage and would not be surprised if he makes several preseason watch lists before 2019. Krys Barnes might be the most improved on this line and he had several breakout games. Not only was he second on the team in tackles (85) but also recorded at least one TFL, sack, interception, breakup, and QB hurry. Now imagine what this Bruin team would be like with a full/healthy
In summation, UCLA fans should be pleased with the direction the team is going. The youth now have experience, there is still plenty of veteran talent… there are just two things that have to improve to help the Bruins make a big jump in 2019: (1) getting healthy and (2) recruiting. And we will get into that second topic very soon.