The UCLA football team played a lot of young defenders in 2018, which means they will be returning a lot of players for 2019.
The one good thing about injuries and giving young players a lot of minutes is that they accumulate a lot of experience in a small amount of time. What is even better is when injuries heal, which means there is a lot of experience to go around. That could be the case for UCLA football’s defense.
So what could the Bruins look like in 2019? Very scary.
There was progress. That is all that anyone can ask for in this first season of Chip Kelly‘s rebuild. The good news is that UCLA improved on their run defense, which has been among the worst in the last two seasons. In 2017, the Bruins allowed 287.4 rushing yards per game. This past season, they shaved almost 100 yards off of that number, allowing only 199.4 per game.
Part of that has to do with the insertion of two true freshmen, Atonio Mafi and Otito Ogbonnia. Both were not expected to do much but made impressive strides throughout the season. This gets us excited for what they will be able to bring in 2019 and beyond. Osa Odighizuwa has been another pleasant surprise. Not only has he been tenacious on the line, but he could be among one of the leaders of this group next season.
Rick Wade and Chigozie Nnoruka did not have the seasons they hoped for, but they were both able to contribute to improving the run defense. I still expect Wade to compete for a starting job next season, but he has to evolve. As for Andrus, he continues to develop, so expect him to be heavily-rotated into the mix next year.