Now that Eddie Vanderdoes has decided to enroll at UCLA despite likely having to sit out the 2013 year, we thought we'd take a look at what Vanderdoes brings to the table, where he might potentially slot in 2014, and how his addition would change the makeup of the team for the next several years.
First of all, as Greg Biggins has written several times, Vanderdoes may be the best defensive line prospect on the West Coast in the last decade, and certainly the best defensive line prospect that UCLA has gotten in a very long time (yes, that makes him a better prospect than either Brian Price or Ellis McCarthy). His combination of strength and explosion makes him a fearsome matchup at any spot along the line, and in UCLA's 3-4 front, he'd be more than able to play any of three positions. Right now, if he were eligible, he'd have the potential to start for UCLA this year.
If Vanderdoes were eligible this year, and with Owamagbe Odighizuwa's status for the fall still in question, the obvious spot for him would be starting at left defensive end (which is more like a defensive tackle anyway). At a little over 300 pounds, Vanderdoes is a little bigger than most of the defensive end options for UCLA, but, again, he has a unique combination of skills and physical attributes that makes him able to play from that spot. He's a gifted pass rusher as a tackle, which should translate to the end position fairly well. His strength at defensive tackle commands double teams frequently, which we'd have to assume would remain the case at defensive end.
However, it's looking likely that Vanderdoes will indeed have to sit out the year, unless Notre Dame makes an eleventh hour decision to release him from his NLI. What that means is that Vanderdoes will be unable to play in games, but will be able to practice with the team. Not to overemphasize it, but having Vanderdoes on the scout team this season will give the UCLA offense a very talented defensive line look in practice.
His versatility, and ability to command double teams, will only be enhanced with a year in the program getting stronger and more familiar with the system. Whether Odighizuwa comes back or not this year, we project that Vanderdoes will start in 2014, alongside a combination of Ellis McCarthy at nose tackle and either Owamagbe Odighizuwa or Brandon Willis at defensive end. That's an exciting defensive line for a number of reasons. First, as we've said a couple of times, we project that Ellis McCarthy has a good chance to win the starting nose tackle spot this season, and should solidify it by 2014. At 6'4, and probably 315 pounds by the beginning of the 2013 season, McCarthy is almost certainly going to command double teams on almost every snap. So, between Vanderdoes and McCarthy, you could be looking at two players that require between three and four blockers at all times. That gives the other defensive end (Odighizuwa or Willis) and the two outside linebackers matchups with single blockers, which is a pass rusher's dream.
Think about that for a second. UCLA's five man rush in 2014 is going to command between six and seven blockers as a general rule. And if offenses try to block Vanderdoes with just one guy, at over 300 pounds and with great strength, he is going to be an almost impossible cover for all but the best tackles.
We don't want to oversell things, especially because Vanderdoes will be in his first year playing, but these kinds of instant impact linemen don't come around often for UCLA. He legitimately has the chance to be a difference maker in his first season, and the ramifications extend from there. If it turns out that Odighizuwa does end up redshirting this season (which still doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility), 2014's defensive depth chart could include Vanderdoes and Odighizuwa at both end positions and McCarthy at nose tackle, with a combination of Brandon Willis, Kylie Fitts, Kenneth Clark, Eli Ankou, Brandon Tuliaupupu, Nate Iese, Jeremy Castro, and whoever UCLA gets in 2014 backing up. Again, suddenly, a position that was projected to be a weakness in 2014 becomes a strength. In fact, as with the running back position that year, you could say that the defensive line would be one of the backbones of the team.
Much has happened in the last few months to increase UCLA's upside for 2014, which is likely a longer story for another day, but the addition of Vanderdoes would be one of the biggest developments for the next two years at UCLA. It shores up one of the few weak spots on a team that projects to be in the national conversation. To a certain extent, it also changes recruiting, making it likely that UCLA only needs to take two linemen in 2014, rather than three.
The next two seasons already projected to be exciting ones for UCLA, and adding Vanderdoes would bring that excitement closer to a tangible reality.
2013 Projected Depth Chart (if Notre Dame decides to release Vanderdoes)
Left Defensive End
Eddie Vanderdoes FR, Brandon Willis RS JR, Nate Iese RS FR, Jeremy Castro FR
Ellis McCarthy SO, Seali'i Epenesa RS SR, Kenneth Clark FR, Eli Ankou RS FR
Right Defensive End
Cassius Marsh SR, Kylie Fitts FR, Sam Tai RS SO
2014 Projected Depth Chart
Left Defensive End
Eddie Vanderdoes SO, Brandon Willis RS SR, Nate Iese RS SO, Jeremy Castro RS FR
Ellis McCarthy JR, Kenneth Clark SO, Eli Ankou RS SO, 2014 Frosh
Right Defensive End
Owamagbe Odighizuwa RS SR, Kylie Fitts SO, Sam Tai RS JR, 2014 Frosh
The Vanderdoes Effect
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