With the commitment of Miami graduate transfer Sunny Odogwu, the outlook of UCLA's offensive line has improved for the 2017 season.
Of course, it's dependent on Odogwu being starter-level material at right tackle. Given that he started 14 games over a few seasons at Miami and that it appeared in spring practice UCLA didn't have a clear, starter-level solution at right tackle, we think Odogwu will have a very good chance of starting at the position for UCLA this fall.
Check out clips of Odogwu at Miami:
If Odogwu is the starter at right tackle, then UCLA's offensive line depth chart for the 2017 season will probably look like this:
As you can see, this has a kind of ripple effect through the offensive line depth chart.
UCLA is solid in its first three offensive linemen -- Miller, Quessenberry and James. Miller is projected to be one of the best left tackles in the Pac-12; Even though he struggled some last season, Quessenberry was named all the all-Pac-12 center and looked good this spring; and James proved he was starter-level at either guard or tackle in spring.
If Odogwu is just solid at right tackle, it first moves James inside, to left guard, which is probably his best, long-term position (even though he was probably the best at right tackle this spring).
It also probably creates a competition for the starting right guard spot between Toran, Lacy and a healthy Moala. Toran looked the best between him and Lacy in spring, and he's always been a solid run blocker, which is what UCLA will probably need emphasized with this unit for the season. Lacy is a bit unpredictable; he has talent but has been inconsistent over his UCLA career. It will be interesting to see if a competition like this gets Lacy more focused. Moala is a wildcard. He's had a series of injuries, and sat out spring recovering from hip surgery. Reports are that he's better and more mobile than ever as a result and will more than likely be ready to go by fall camp. There is some thought around the program that Moala might have a chance to win the spot under the tutelage of new offensive line coach Hank Fraley.
Instead of, really, UCLA having to find two starters among those four at guard, it would now only have to find one.
We anticipate Toran will be installed at stating right guard to begin practice, while all comers will be given a shot to supplant him.
If Odogwu isn't suited to start at right tackle, he could provide solid depth at the position, probably behind James at the spot.
It'd be interesting, too, to see if it's a case of Odogwu not being suited to start at right tackle and better at guard. Remember, there was a post-grad transfer, Malcolm Bunche (also from Miami), who was immediately plugged in to the starting right tackle role to begin the 2014 season, but it was clear he wasn't a tackle and more apt to play guard. He didn't really excel at UCLA, spent a year on the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad before moving on to the CFL and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The point: If Odogwu isn't best suited for right tackle, Fraley could be better at finding a place inside for him where he could potentially start, or at least contribute.
If Odogwu does prove to be the starting right tackle, it really does change the entire complexion of the OL for the season. Coming out of spring practice, two of the biggest concerns about the team were the right tackle position and OL depth, and Odogwu would contribute to solving both issues. Plugging him in at starting right tackle gives UCLA a respectable OL depth chart, made up of starters with experience and then backed up by younger, inexperienced players -- who would now not be just one injury away from too much and too premature of playing time. It would make for three starter-level tackles in Miller, Odogwu and James, which is much better than the OT depth of just Miller and, well, James. It bolsters depth inside, with now four guys (James, Toran, Lacy and Moala) who have started at one time, making it less likely that an inexperienced guard would be called on this season. The addition of Odogwu definitely goes a long way toward making UCLA far more injury-resistant.
It's not a stretch to say that a solid-to-good offensive line is the key to season. We said it repeatedly during spring practice -- that the rest of the units on the team are solid-to-very-good, but that the offensive line was a question mark. If you project UCLA to have, say, a good offensive line, the team could be at least one level better than anticipated.
And it, well, depends on just how good Odogwu is and the offensive line staying healthy.