2016 UCLA Offensive Line Depth Projection

Dec. 22 -- UCLA's offensive line is the most uncertain unit on the team heading into 2016, with a graduating senior and three draft-eligible juniors...

Previously in this series
Wide Receiver Depth Projection
Running Back Depth Projection
Quarterback Depth Projection

Offensive Line Projection

Jake Brendel
Simon Goines (retired)
Fred Ulu-Perry (transferred)
Caleb Benenoch (possible)
Conor McDermott (possible)
Alex Redmond (possible)

Incoming Players
Alex Akingbulu
Mike Alves

Returning Players
Caleb Benenoch (possible)
Conor McDermott (possible)
Alex Redmond (possible)
Scott Quessenberry
Josh Wariboko
Zach Bateman
Poasi Moala
Tevita Halalilo
Andre James
Kenny Lacy
Kolton Miller
John Lopez
Najee Toran (possible)

A Look at 2016

The offensive line is probably the most uncertain unit heading into 2016, with one graduating senior and three juniors who are at least toying with the idea of leaving out of the starting five. Losing Jake Brendel will be a sea change on the offensive line next year, as he was a four-year starter, but the Bruins will be able to replace him with a very experienced player in Scott Quessenberry.

The real issue is the draft eligible juniors. As of right now, we'd probably project Caleb Benenoch to stick around and Conor McDermott to leave. We've heard that, if Benenoch follows good advice, he'll come back for another season. Obviously much is up in the air still, and what we hear goes back and forth on McDermott; one week sources tell us it looks likely he leaves, the next week it's likely he stays. Given what we know, and speculating a bit, we'd have to say he most likely leaves.  Even if he doesn't project highly in the NFL Draft, he's 23 years old, he's been pretty injured in his career, and it's only going to be tougher for him in a year.  Because of his personal circumstances, as of now, we're not projecting that Alex Redmond will be back next year. Again, something could change, but that's the way it looks as of now.

So, given those projected hits, as well as Brendel's, in addition to the loss of Fred Ulu-Perry to transfer and Simon Goines to retirement, UCLA's offensive line is not going to be particularly deep next year. Depending on how the rest of this recruiting class goes, UCLA could have anywhere from 12 to 14 or so scholarship offensive linemen, which isn't a disaster, but given the way injuries have hit in the past, could make the Bruins mighty thin at points during the season.

We wouldn't be stunned to see Najee Toran move back to offense next year, actually. He didn't play much this season on defense, and if we all remember, he actually has starting experience on the offensive line. Given the pronounced lack of guard depth if Redmond leaves, we could very easily see Toran switching back to the offensive side of the ball and immediately jumping back into the two-deep.

Even with some depth issues, though, and with potentially three starters leaving, the starting lineup should be fairly talented. From left to right the Bruins should have Kolton Miller, Kenny Lacy, Scott Quessenberry, let's say Tevita Halalilo, and Caleb Benenoch, which gives UCLA four players with solid starting experience to help along the one newcomer in Halalilo. That should still be a good offensive line, and one plenty capable of protecting Josh Rosen and opening holes for the running backs.

Beyond that, though, UCLA really needs to hope for some development. From what we've heard, Andre James has looked really good this year in practice, and he can likely play either guard or tackle, so we'll go ahead and say he'll be the first player off the bench for that new-look depth chart. Then the question is what UCLA can get out of players like Zach Bateman, Poasi Moala, John Lopez or Josh Wariboko.  We've heard it's unlikely Bateman contributes; the coaches are still waiting for the light to turn on with Moala, Lopez is unlikely to be a contributor, but Wariboko has looked promising.  Perhaps Mike Alves comes in ready to contribute at guard as well.

Looking at next year, the starting unit should be pretty decent, but the experience and talent drops off from there, and it's going to be interesting to see which guys emerge from that second unit to be legitimate players.

If McDermott returns, it's a game-changer.  A huge ripple effect goes through the OL depth chart, from the starters on down to the two-deep.  With McDermott back at left tackle, that would then move Miller back to right tackle, and Benenoch inside to right guard.  Then, you essentially have four starters returning, and a former starter in Quessenberry at center, and many close to the situation believe Quessenberry, once he shakes off the rust, has more upside than Brendel.  

Will the position perform better, worse, or the same in 2016? Likely same, with a slight chance of being worse if McDermott doesn't return and/or injuries strike significantly.

Projected 2016 Two-Deep

LT: Kolton Miller, Zach Bateman
LG: Kenny Lacy, Poasi Moala, Najee Toran
C: Scott Quessenberry, Josh Wariboko
RG: Tevita Halalilo, John Lopez
RT: Caleb Benenoch, Andre James

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