Further Analysis: Future of the OL

In a recent article we projected the offensive line for 2012, but looking further down the line -- at 2013 and beyond -- the future looks quite a bit brighter, especially given how 2013 OL recruiting is shaping up...

We went in-depth analyzing the state of the UCLA offensive line, projecting what it could possibly look like for this fall season (State of UCLA OL for 2012).

It was a bit sobering, we'll admit.

But let's project even further down the line, analyzing in more detail the potential future of the UCLA offensive line, and how its efforts in recruiting the OL for 2013 are looking so far.

It's, of course, tough, to project two seasons out, even just one season. But, in the case of the UCLA offensive line, you can say that UCLA Offensive Line Coach Adrian Klemm does have a great deal of youth in the program, and will at least have a good amount of players to choose from in the next few years. Really only one true impact player graduates in 2012 -- Jeff Baca. And then, only one true impact player is a junior -- Greg Capella. Everyone else who you can foresee as having a chance to impact the two-deep are sophomores and freshmen. That alone bodes well for the future of the UCLA OL.

It all begins and ends pretty much with Xavier Su'a-Filo, who returned from his two-year Mormon mission and is merely a sophomore this season. He's such a high-impact player, that really affects the make-up and talent level of the entire offensive line, you have to wonder what kind of impact he might have had on Rick Neuheisel's program if he had been in Westwood for the last two seasons. But that's something for Neuheisel to ponder; the present coaching staff, obviously, feels very fortunate to have him -- and for three more years, unless he has the opportunity to jump early to the NFL.

With Su'a-Filo in the program for the next 2 or 3 years, Klemm has a real anchor for his offensive line. And there's an easy sign whether UCLA's offensive line has really turned the corner or not in terms of OL talent: If, any time in the next 2 or 3 years, Klemm has the luxury to move Su'a-Filo to guard. Guard is where Su'a-Filo is more suited, rather than tackle, where he'll almost certainly play this fall out of necessity.

So, whether he's at tackle or guard, Su'a-Filo is the guy Klemm will build his offensive lines around.

Greg Capella, who earned a starting spot last season, is only a junior. He's a good center, but could still slide over to guard, if a younger center develops, steps up and is deemed worthy of starting.

A guy who could really help put UCLA over the hump in terms of its offensive line in the next several years is Wade Yandall. He's a talented player, who needed the light to go on a bit, and then has been slowed by successive concussions. It's just entirely unknown if he'll be able to play three more years without suffering any more concussions, and the word is that he doesn't have many more left before he might have to actually hang up his cleats.

It's great how BRO affects what happens on Spaulding Field. We predicted Tuesday morning that Torian White would inevitably get a look at right tackle and, well, it didn't take more than a few hours before it manifested itself at practice Tuesday afternoon. If you listen to Jim Mora's description of White in his post-practice comments Tuesday, you'll understand why the staff believes White has a strong future -- physically being a prototypical college tackle. He definitely is going to be a major part of the conversation at tackle for UCLA over the next four years.

The talk in the program is that Jacob Brendel, the redshirt freshman, is the center of the future. He has struggled a bit this spring so far, but in many one-on-one drills, especially the Oklahoma Drill, he has physically done very well. He's just some body development, experience and seasoning away from having a chance at being an exceptional center.

Those five right there, potentially, could be together for the next two years and, then, they'd only lose one from those ranks (Capella) potentially for three years. That's pretty encouraging.

Among the guys currently on the roster that we could see breaking into that fraternity would be JC transfer Alexandru Ceachir, who is only a sophomore. In the Oklahoma Drill, he has physically man-handled some d-linemen, but he's still very raw and learning the game. Albert Cid, who transferred in from a JC last season, is just a junior, and he has consistently put himself in the mix, currently running with the 1s in spring practice.

Ben Wysocki, the redshirt freshman, was elevated to second-string left tackle on Tuesday after White moved to the starting spot at right tackle, and the word is that the coaching staff has been pleased with his performance so far this spring. The hope is that he wouldn't have to be utilized at all this coming season, but that he'd have a long time to develop before seeing the field. He was moved to tackle in spring practice mostly because there simply aren't many on the roster, and he might be among the guys on the team with the best feet, but down the line he's almost certainly a guard.

Chris Ward, who is a junior, has sat out all of spring practice, recovering from knee surgery. He has talent, but the word is that he'll need to step up his work ethic and commitment to make it under the new coaching staff.

Redshirt junior Casey Griffiths and redshirt sophomore Kody Innes probably will have a difficult time earning playing time and a spot on the two-deep in the future, even though, out of necessity, Innes was elevated to second-string guard Tuesday.

Will Oliver, the redshirt freshman, has been out all of spring so far with a shoulder injury. He's a bit of an enigma; some thought he had a good scout team season as a freshman, but others are skeptical he has the athleticism to be able to move well enough to compete for a starting spot. He's a right tackle and only a right tackle.

Four true freshmen OLs will join the ranks in August. Simon Goines, the big tackle-type, is getting billed as the guy who would have the best chance at impacting the two-deep the earliest. We can't even project, having never seen Goines in person, but we'd be surprised if a true freshman who was billed somewhat as a project would be able to come in and immediately compete for the starting right tackle spot. All we can go on is what we're being told, so based on that we'll project Goines as a guy who will have a very good chance of being in the mix at tackle in the next several years.

It's tough to project where high school seniors, especially offensive linemen, will be in a couple of years in their development. We're pretty familiar, though, with Colby Cyburt and, while he has a ways to go in terms of his body and getting bigger and stronger, Cyburt has a chance because of his athleticism and feet. He might only be 6-4ish, but the quick feet and lack of true tackle types on the roster will get him a shot at tackle.

Carl Hulick, on the other hand, is a guy who is pretty built out already as a senior. At about 6-1 to 6-2, his body doesn't have too much upside, but he might not need it since he, right now, looks like a Russian wrestler. Given what we've seen of him and what we've heard, we believe he'll be involved in the two-deep at center within a year or two.

Lacy Westbrook is probably the biggest project among the incoming OLs. He'll need to tighten up his body, get his weight in check and strengthen up. He projects at a guard, but we believe it will probably be a couple of years before he's truly in the two-deep conversation.

Even though it's difficult to project a depth chart for the 2013 season, we can work one up based on the guys currently in the program and the ones coming in this season, to get a sense of UCLA's recruiting needs for 2013. (Many of the weights are projected, and their class is for the 2013 season. Walk-ons are in italics.)

Left Tackle
Xavier Su'a-Filo (6-4, 310, Jr.)
Colby Cyburt (6-5, 290, Fr.**)

Left Guard
Greg Capella (6-4, 310, Sr.**)
Alexandru Ceachir (6-5, 300, Jr.)
Chris Ward (6-4, 318, Sr.)
Kody Innes (6-4, 285, Jr.**)
Lacy Westbrook (6-4, 310, Fr.**)
Sam Saultz (6-2, 315, Jr.**)

Jake Brendel (6-5, 295, So.**)
Carl Hulick (6-2, 290, Fr.**)
Tre Hale (6-2, 308, Jr.**)

Right Guard
Wade Yandall (6-4, 328, Jr.**)
Alberto Cid (6-2, 323, Sr.**)
Ben Wysocki (6-4, 300, So.**)
Casey Griffiths (6-5, 292, Sr.**)

Right Tackle
Torian White (6-6, 295, So.**)
Simon Goines (6-6, 295, Fr.**)
Will Oliver (6-7, 305, So.**)
Mike Padovese (6-5, 322, So.**)

It's not difficult to project what UCLA needs in terms of 2013 OL recruits: Tackles. Especially when you take into consideration that, really, Su'a-Filo and Cyburt might be optimally suited for guard. Plus, the general mindset is that you can always move guys from tackle to guard, but it's very difficult to move a guard-type to tackle. So, it's pretty clear UCLA is in the market for 2013 offensive tackles.

It's why the commitment of Erik Bunte, the 6-7, 310-pounder from Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita, and Sean Dowling, the 6-6, 265-pounder from Fallbrook (Calif.) High, are big ones. Bunte is ranked the #23 offensive tackle in the nation, and this is a guy who legitimately is a tackle, with great size, length and feet. Dowling, ranked the #29th tackle in the country, has the frame and athleticism of a tackle, but will have to gain good weight, get bigger and stronger. But he does have his entire high school senior season to do it.

Bunte had said he was going to visit Notre Dame, but has decided not to and is very committed to UCLA.

Those are two huge commitments, in size and impact. UCLA desperately needs tackle types for 2013, and Klemm went out and got them, within four months of being on the job.

The word is that UCLA will probably take 5 offensive linemen total for 2013, which shows you just how much this staff is prioritizing the OL; with probably only 18 or so scholarships to ultimately give, it's going to dedicate almost 30% of those to OLs.

UCLA also finds itself in a fairly good situation in terms of OL recruiting competition. USC, as we all know, is limited by the number of scholarships they can take for 2013. Stanford is limited, too, having loaded up on OLs for 2012.

We keep maintaining that, if UCLA wins in 2012, UCLA's list of prospects is going to dramatically change. There will be a very good amount of highly-ranked recruits who aren't even on UCLA's radar right now that start to show serious interest. So, it's difficult to project, really, all of the other 2013 OL prospects UCLA will ultimately be involved with by Signing Day 2013. But we can easily recognize some of them at this point.

Nico Falah, the 6-4, 270-pounder from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, is the #3-ranked tackle in the nation. He's that highly rated because of his athleticism, being the closest to Su'a-Filo than just about any other UCLA prospect since. UCLA is doing well with him, with his dad having gone to UCLA. And while he's getting waves of new national recruiting attention, the word is that UCLA is where he wants to be, and where his parents want him. And the word is that he could commit sooner rather than later. Both Bunte and Dowling are working on getting him to commit to UCLA.

Alex Redmond, the 6-5, 290-pounder from Los Alamitos (Calif.) High, is an interesting recruit. He was practically unknown before blowing up this spring, being among the best couple of OL prospects at the SoCal Nike Camp last month. His recruitment has blown up, too. UCLA is probably his favorite, but the Bruins haven't offered. It's thought that if they did offer, in fact, he could commit. He visited UCLA's practice recently, and the coaches asked him to come to their linemen camp in June, but it's the same day as the USC camp and Redmond has indicated he wants to go prove himself at the USC camp. You can't blame the kid for wanting to do that. So, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out this spring. Redmond attended the practice in which Dowling committed to UCLA, and he was hanging with both Dowling and Bunte that day. Scout.com's Greg Biggins has said that Redmond might be the most ready offensive line prospect in the west, with great size, strength and athleticism.

J.D. Hinnant, the 6-5, 260-pound prospect from Fountain Valley (Calif.) High, is ranked the #35 tackle in the nation. He comes from a UCLA family, but doesn't have a UCLA offer yet. His recruitment has blown up to the point that both Oregon and Cal both offered him this week. He'll camp at UCLA, but it could be a case that it could be too late for UCLA to wait until the camp in early June. Klemm, whose recruiting area is Orange County, will almost certainly go to Fountain Valley, and Los Al for Redmond now that the Evaluation Period began Sunday, and we wouldn't be surprised if Redmond and Hinnant ended up with offers before the camp.

Scott Quessenberry, the 6-3, 265-pounder from Encinitas (Calif.) La Costa Canyon, is probably under-rated as the #39-ranked guard in the nation, and is definitely a top target for UCLA. He's fairly open at this point, and the word is that he also likes Nebraska and Wisconsin. If Stanford offers him, the Cardinal could be considered one of the favorites. He projects as a guard.

John Lopez, the 6-5, 325-pounder from Orange (Calif.) Lutheran, is ranked the #12 guard in the nation, and has long been thought to be a UCLA lean, even though he's still pretty open and entertaining just about anyone who shows interest. UCLA was the first to offer, a couple of years ago, and he's always liked UCLA because of that.

Brayden Kearsley, the 6-5, 270-pounder from Beaverton (Ore.) Aloha. Committed to BYU, but he's planning to take an unofficial visit to UCLA this spring. He committed early, as a sophomore, but is still interested in looking at the Pac-12. UCLA was early with their offer, and he reportedly likes Klemm.

If UCLA ended up with an OL recruiting class that consisted of Bunte, Dowling, Falah, Redmond and then one more among the guys listed, or another yet-unnamed elite prospect, it would be considered a huge haul, one that would probably be very critical to turning around UCLA's program.

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