With under one month 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. 2.
2. Conor McDermott, RS Senior Offensive Tackle
2015 Statistics: Started 12 of 13 games, second team All-Pac-12
Why He's Important: One of the few completely positive developments from UCLA's offseason was the return of left tackle Conor McDermott. Before the 2015 season, if we had been handicapping the chances of various offensive linemen leaving the program, we probably would have said that McDermott was the most likely, followed by Caleb Benenoch and then Alex Redmond. Instead, Benenoch and Redmond left, but McDermott, after a period of rumination, elected to stay in the program and return for his senior season. It was a momentous decision for UCLA, as McDermott's decision in and of itself shored up UCLA's offensive line enough to think that the offense has a decent enough chance of succeeding this year.
McDermott is a tremendous talent who, in football years, is actually still pretty young, though it does seem like he's been in the program for ages (unless I'm missing someone, he's the last remaining Rick Neuheisel recruit in the program, having grey-shirted during Neuheisel's last season). He's only started 19 games in his UCLA career, and really didn't play a whole lot before he was thrust into the starting lineup (his lone significant action during his freshman season was the briefest of series against Stanford before he suffered a season-ending injury). So, despite being a fairly old college senior, it's still fair to say that he's not yet a finished product.
And that's a truly exciting thought, that there's still such great potential with McDermott, because as it is, he has had a very impressive two seasons. As we pointed out several times before the start of the season last year, UCLA's propensity for giving up sacks in 2014 dropped off considerably when McDermott was inserted into the starting lineup at left tackle, and last year, UCLA gave up a relatively minuscule 14 sacks over the entire season. While some of that last total was due to the quarterback change from the sack-prone Brett Hundley to the more aware Josh Rosen, you have to attribute a good portion of it to McDermott as well. His length, lateral mobility, bend, and increased strength over the last year has turned him into one of the, oh, probably top ten tackles in the nation.
Everything we wrote in the Kolton Miller stands as well. If McDermott goes down, there simply isn't much behind him. Yes, Miller is very talented and can probably fill in at left tackle, but suddenly Andre James, who's ideally still a year away from being counted on to play considerably, would suddenly be starting at right tackle. Keeping McDermott upright and healthy all year is going to be nearly as big of a priority as keeping our No. 1 player healthy. And we'll get to that tomorrow.
What's Been Said About Him:
"I think he's brought consistency to that side of the line. You know what you'll get from Conor. Great technique. He's done a great job helping us find that balance." -- OL Caleb Benenoch, September 10, 2015
Most Recent Interview:
30 Most Important Bruins for 2016
|Rank||Name||Highest Rank||Lowest Rank|
|2||Conor McDermott||2 (2-way tie)||5 (John Evergreen)|
|3||Eddie Vanderdoes||1 (Blair Angulo)||5 (Dave Woods)|
|4||Scott Quessenberry||4 (Dave Woods)||8 (John Evergreen)|
|5||Jayon Brown||2 (John Evergreen)||15 (Blair Angulo)|
|6||Takkarist McKinley||5 (Blair Angulo)||10 (John Evergreen)|
|7||Kolton Miller||3 (Dave Woods)||20 (Blair Angulo)|
|8||Soso Jamabo||7 (John Evergreen)||18 (Blair Angulo)|
|9||Fabian Moreau||4 (John Evergreen)||22 (Dave Woods)|
|10||Nate Iese||7 (Blair Angulo)||Unranked (Tracy Pierson)|
|11||Ishmael Adams||8 (Dave Woods)||22 (John Evergreen)|
|12||Eli Ankou||10 (2-way tie)||21 (Dave Woods)|
|13||Isaako Savaiinaea||11 (John Evergreen)||27 (Dave Woods)|
|14||Eldridge Massington||8 (Blair Angulo)||26 (Tracy Pierson)|
|15||J.J. Molson||9 (Blair Angulo)||21 (2-way tie)|
|16||Nate Starks||14 (Dave Woods)||22 (Blair Angulo)|
|17||Jaleel Wadood||6 (John Evergreen)||30 (Tracy Pierson)|
|18||Kenny Young||13 (Tracy Pierson)||Unranked (Blair Angulo)|
|19||Theo Howard||14 (John Evergreen)||24 (2-way tie)|
|20||Matt Dickerson||15 (John Evergreen)||29 (Tracy Pierson)|
|21||Randall Goforth||12 (John Evergreen)||29 (Blair Angulo)|
|22||Austin Kent||17 (Blair Angulo)||30 (John Evergreen)|
|23||Bolu Olorunfunmi||13 (Dave Woods)||Unranked (Blair Angulo)|
|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)|