Top Performer: Conor McDermott
We've raved about McDermott to such an extent that any further conversation seems redundant, but we've never shied away from repeating ourselves. McDermott had a great spring, looking like the best offensive lineman on the team and a future NFL Draft pick. It's no stretch to say that he projects to be the best left tackle UCLA has had in quite a long time. The security blanket he'll give Josh Rosen this fall should give Rosen a great deal of comfort in the pocket. Even at 6'8 or so, he's also a good run blocker, along with being an excellent pass blocker. He really is the total package for a left tackle.
Most Improved: Jake Brendel
It might be weird to say that a fourth-year starter is the most improved player on the offensive line, but Brendel made some physical changes this offseason, adding more weight to his lower body, that have paid dividends already. Before, Kenneth Clark, more often than not, would win their one-on-one matchups, but it was a much more even battle this spring, with Brendel maybe even winning more than his share. Intelligence and knowledge were never Brendel's issues, but strength was a concern, and he appears to have addressed that this spring.
The offensive line, it's fair to say, has never been in this good of a position exiting spring practice. Last year, we were optimistic with the way Caleb Benenoch through the beginning of spring practice, but then he got nicked up toward the end of spring. This year, we'd say only two positions are perfectly set (left tackle and center), but there are enough talented options at the guard spots and the right tackle spot that we don't have major concerns about which players end up filling them.
Kolton Miller's development was also big. If we were judging it in a vacuum, and taking out all concerns about experience, Miller looked like he should be in the thick of the right tackle competition this spring. He looks sort of like McDermott did, actually, before the start of the 2013 season. He has great length, quick feet, and good lateral mobility. He needs to continue to add weight, but he's not too tremendously undersized (it's more about adding to his lower body since he's so tall). Like Goines, even if he doesn't win the right tackle job, he provides another solid option in the two-deep.
If there are some concerns, they hinge on the guard spots. Alex Redmond had probably the worst spring for the first-string offensive line, and Kenny Lacy was up and down. Redmond's progress has stagnated a bit since his impressive freshman campaign. We like Lacy, and he showed flashes of very good athleticism, but he still needs to get stronger to deal with the rigors of playing on the interior against big defensive tackles. Poasi Moala and Zach Bateman both worked extensively at guard this spring, and neither was exceptional. It might be the case that, even if Benenoch is ideally placed as the starting right tackle, he may have to man one of the guard positions simply to get the best five offensive linemen on the field (leaving Goines or Miller as the starting right tackle, and taking one of Redmond or Lacy off of the field). For the ideal situation, though, it'd be lovely to see considerable progress made by Redmond, Lacy, Moala, and Bateman this summer. We could also see one of the incoming freshman rise up to seize a spot, but our hope is that UCLA is past the need to start true freshman on the offensive line.
In any case, we're judging the guards relative to the considerable talent at tackle and center. If we instead compared them to some of the offensive guards we've seen over the last decade of UCLA football, the present options aren't bad at all. With the tackle situations both looking very good, and Brendel getting stronger this offseason, even with some uncertainty over the guard positions, UCLA is poised to have its best offensive line in quite some time this fall.
Projected Fall Two-Deep
Scott Quessenberry (assuming he's available)
Fred Ulu-Perry (if Quessenberry is not available)