Analysis: The Loss of Torian White

We take a look at what the loss of Torian White could mean for the offensive line depth chart, and whether the team will be able to sustain the loss...

With Torian White no longer on the UCLA football team, the offensive line is seemingly in a state of flux. Having lost Xavier Su'a-Filo already to the NFL, and with Simon Goines recovering from knee surgery, the loss of White puts UCLA in a position, at least through the spring, of trying to break in two new first-string players.

There is no question that White's loss is significant. Among the remaining offensive linemen on roster after Su'a-Filo's departure, he might have had the most NFL potential. During fall camp last season and then through the early going of the 2013 year, prior to his lower leg injury, he looked like he was poised to break out.

It's also significant for depth purposes, given what we saw last year. By the time the Stanford game ended, UCLA had sustained injuries to Simon Goines, Torian White, and Conor McDermott, leaving a converted guard in Caleb Benenoch at right tackle and Su'a-Filo filling in at left tackle. Taking White out of the equation would seemingly make the straits even more dire than they were last season.

Jake Brendel.
Through the first practice yesterday, the first string offensive line largely consisted of Benenoch (who started most of last year) at left tackle, Scott Quessenberry (who started much of last year) at left guard, Jake Brendel (two-year starter) at center, Alex Redmond (who started all of last year) at right guard, and Poasi Moala (who redshirted last year) at right tackle. Though four players on the line have starting experience, it is not, as presently constituted, a unit that is particularly long on experience, especially in its current iteration.

There is some reason to believe, though, that the offensive line as a whole could be deeper than last year, even with the loss of White. As we said above, the loss of White deprives UCLA of arguably its offensive lineman with the highest upside, but there is considerable talent behind him, and it's talent that you can expect will develop.

Between Moala, Redmond, Benenoch, Quessenberry, and Kenny Lacy, UCLA has five talented offensive linemen who were freshmen last year. While I don't generally put much stock in the notion that players always improve from year to year, players generally do improve from their freshmen to sophomore years simply because of the physical development. Already, through just one practice, it's clear that Benenoch, Moala, and Lacy, at least, have undergone pretty significant physical transformations. With White gone, Moala probably takes over for him as the lineman with the most upside on the team, and it could be simply a matter of time before he starts rapidly rising toward his considerably high ceiling. Lacy's physical transformation, combined with his ability to play both guard and tackle, also makes him a much more realistic option this season as a fill-in at both positions.

Setting aside the rising sophomores for a moment, UCLA will also likely add Malcolm Bunche as early as tomorrow. The graduate transfer from Miami should, at the very least, immediately give UCLA considerable depth at guard and tackle. Given the way the team is shaping up, we'd imagine his first shot will be at guard, but it could easily be tackle as well.

But if you simply count the numbers, the picture is a bit rosier than you might think with White out for good and Goines out for at least the spring. UCLA has Brendel, Quessenberry, Benenoch, Redmond, and Bunche who all have starting experience, and three of whom you can expect will have improved over the last year in Quessenberry, Redmond, and Benenoch (simply due to the growth of being in an offseason training program). The Bruins also have Conor McDermott, who is going to be limited for a bit of the early spring, but should be good to go toward the end. Like we said during last year's fall camp, there was an argument that he was the second- or third-best tackle on the team during camp. Then, with Moala and Lacy both showing signs of being contributors this year, the Bruins have at least an eight-man rotation, without counting Goines, or even a guy like Ben Wysocki, who showed some levels of competence in the USC game last year.

It's obviously not the perfect situation heading into what could be a special season for UCLA, and injuries similar to what the Bruins suffered last year would almost certainly have a similar effect on the team's chances next year. But the recruiting and player development along the offensive line over the last three years has been significant, and this could be the year where that development of depth finally pays off.

Two-Deep at Each Position on the Offensive Line

Left Tackle
Caleb Benenoch
Conor McDermott

Left Guard
Malcolm Bunche
Scott Quessenberry

Jake Brendel
Scott Quessenberry

Right Guard
Alex Redmond
Najee Toran

Right Tackle
Poasi Moala
Kenny Lacy

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