With two months to go until the start of fall camp, we're going to count down our 30 most important UCLA players for the 2016 season. These are the players we think are going to have the most significant impact for UCLA this year, so don't take this to mean that these are the players we think are the best long-term prospects, or even necessarily the most talented. Every BRO staffer has ranked his top 30 UCLA players, and from that we've drawn an aggregate list.
Today we'll continue with No. 24.
24. Deon Hollins, Senior Defensive End
2015 Statistics: 18 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss
Why He's Important: There's no getting around the fact that 2015 was an underwhelming season for Deon Hollins. A year after recording nine sacks a true sophomore, he had just under a third as many as he struggled to find a way to fit into Tom Bradley's defense. Hollins started 12 of 13 games, but his impact was significantly less than it was in 2014. Playing ostensibly defensive end last year (even if he was called an outside linebacker), he struggled to deal with the strength of opposing offensive linemen, and all too often got pushed out of plays with ease. It was normal to see entire series where teams would focus their rushing attack wherever Hollins happened to line up.
All that said, there's reason to think that 2016 could be a nice bounceback season for Hollins, largely because of the defensive scheme change, as well as what appears to be a role change, judging from spring ball. First, most importantly, Hollins does not appear to be slated to start at defensive end, which, counterintuitively, is actually a good thing for him. As we've said for a long time, Hollins, at 6'2-ish and 220 pounds-ish, is not an every down player at defensive end, but as a situational pass rusher, he has a good deal of value. Going to a role where he mostly plays on passing downs would likely increase his overall production, since he wouldn't get exhausted trying to futilely hold the edge against the run. Second, the scheme change should also help somewhat, as it'll get him out on the edge a little bit more and reduce his number of responsibilities when he gets in the game.
We've always envisioned Hollins as the kind of player who could mimic the production of Keenan Graham during his senior year, when Graham was not a starter but filled in on passing downs, and we think that's very possible this year. A big key will be Hollins accepting that sort of role, and understanding how it might benefit him to play fewer, more effective snaps per game. Going from starting 12 games a year ago to likely being a situational player in 2016 could be a difficult thing to swallow. But if he can accept it, that personnel adjustments alone could go a long way toward improving UCLA's pass rush in 2016.
What's Been Said About Him:
"Deon Hollins is working that razor position also. He's really increased his strength and gotten better at his techniques, newer techniques he hasn't done." -- DL Coach Angus McClure, April 7, 2016
Most Recent Interview:
30 Most Important Bruins for 2016
|Rank||Name||Highest Rank||Lowest Rank|
|24||Deon Hollins||15 (Tracy Pierson)||Unranked (Dave Woods)|
|25||Darren Andrews||12 (Tracy Pierson)||Unranked (2-way tie)|
|26||Kenny Walker||13 (Blair Angulo)||Unranked (2-way tie)|
|27||Mike Fafaul||11 (Tracy Pierson)||Unranked (3-way tie)|
|28||Josh Woods||23 (Blair Angulo)||Unranked (2-way tie)|
|29||Keisean Lucier-South||14 (Tracy Pierson)||Unranked (3-way tie)|
|30||Nate Meadors||20 (John Evergreen)||Unranked (2-way tie)|