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 2017 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.
We'll continue today with No. 29.
30. Breland Brandt, Redshirt Freshman OLB
2016 Statistics: Redshirted
Why He's Important: We've speculated for a long time that there's a chance Breland Brandt ends up at defensive end, simply by looking at his long body and big frame, but so far he's defied expectations, and has continued to look better in space. In fall camp a year ago, he didn't look completely comfortable when he had to stand up and cover, but this spring, he looked decidedly better and more accustomed to it. We could still see a long-term move to defensive end, with the goal of getting him more snaps in pure pass rush situations, but it doesn't look like a foregone conclusion.
This spring, the UCLA coaches had him taking a lot of first-team reps at the SAM linebacker position after Dechaun Holiday went out. It will be interesting to see if Brandt really is the second-string SAM linebacker behind Holiday, or if he's actually the third-stringer and the coaches just wanted to get him more first-team reps in spring for experience. Assuming he is the true second-stringer (and there isn't a better option that emerges in the next couple of months), he could stand to see a good deal of time, and perhaps even start depending on how Holiday's recovery goes.
If he stays at outside linebacker long-term, the big key for him will be to continue to develop his versatility as a player. Getting to the point where he can cover well enough to play in nickel situations would get him on the field the most, since UCLA spends most of its time in a nickel defense with just two linebackers on the field. He made strides there, but there's still work to do in the coming months.
What's Been Said About Him:
"Just picture him how we used Aaron Wallace, where he played off as a linebacker, but also has the ability to rush the passer. He’s a natural pass rusher, where off the ball he’s not as natural. That’s still a work in progress. We’re looking forward to him having a great career." -- LB Coach Scott White, 8/15/2016
Most Recent Interview:
Top 30 Most Important Bruins:
|Rank||Name||Highest Rank||Lowest Rank|
|30||Breland Brandt||21 (John Evergreen)||Unranked (3-way tie)|
|31||Mossi Johnson||23 (John Evergreen)||Unranked (4-way tie)|