A lot to count on up front

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Ben Bolch ben.bolch@la­times.com Twit­ter: @latb­bolch

UCLA’s im­proved de­fen­sive line depth is “pretty awe­some,” coach says.

Ev­ery time he en­ters the prac­tice field, An­gus McClure might feel like a rav­en­ous man step­ping into an all-you-can-eat gelato shop. He’ll take a lit­tle bit of this, some of that, and ooh, yeah, don’t leave out a big scoop of that choco­late ba­nana bis­cotti.

McClure, UCLA’s de­fen­sive line coach, has freely mixed and matched his play­ers in the early por­tion of train­ing camp. And why not? There are plenty of en­tic­ing op­tions.

McClure said he used nine dif­fer­ent de­fen­sive line com­bi­na­tions in prac­tice Sun­day, fully uti­liz­ing the unit that coach Jim Mora has called the deep­est on his team.

“Nine com­bi­na­tions, that’s pretty awe­some,” McClure said. “I feel like that’s pretty for­tu­nate.”

McClure said the depth has re­sulted from adding schol­ar­ships to the po­si­tion af­ter the switch be­fore last sea­son from a 3-4 de­fen­sive align­ment to a 4-3. The bulk of the play­ers are un­der­class­men, in­clud­ing two who have spent the ma­jor­ity of their time with the first string in re­cent prac­tices.

Fresh­man de­fen­sive end Jae­lan Phillips and sopho­more de­fen­sive tackle Boss Ta­ga­loa have joined se­nior de­fen­sive end Ja­cob Tui­otiMariner and se­nior de­fen­sive tackle Matt Dick­er­son in what ap­pears to be the likely start­ing lineup.

But ju­nior de­fen­sive end Rick Wade, sopho­more de­fen­sive end Keisean LucierSouth, se­nior de­fen­sive tackle Nick Terry and red­shirt fresh­man Osa Odighizuwa are among the play­ers who have also ro­tated in with the first group, and McClure men­tioned wide-bod­ied fresh­men Greg Rogers and Martin An­drus as hav­ing im­pressed coaches. Sev­eral line­men are in­ter­change­able at de­fen­sive end and tackle, adding to the depth and al­low­ing the team to tai­lor its per­son­nel to sit­u­a­tions like ob­vi­ous pass­ing downs.

“An­gus is very strict mak­ing sure we know all po­si­tions be­cause you need to look at it as a scheme in­stead of just a po­si­tion,” Wade said. “And ob­vi­ously, if some­one goes down, God for­bid, then we can all play that po­si­tion, we can all ro­tate.”

There are plenty of can­di­dates to re­place pass-rush spe­cial­ist Takkarist McKin­ley as the pri­mary play­maker af­ter McKin­ley was se­lected in the first round of the NFL draft by the At­lanta Fal­cons. Tui­oti-Mariner had three sacks and five tack­les for loss last sea­son while mak­ing nine starts, the most among the re­turn­ers on the de­fen­sive line. Dick­er­son, who had 11⁄2 tack­les for loss and 37 tack­les, made eight starts.

Among the new­com­ers, Phillips ap­pears to be the most likely to make an im­me­di­ate im­pact.

“He dom­i­nates ev­ery prac­tice,” Wade said. “He works so hard and he hus­tles to the ball. I have no bad things to say about him.” Two is enough

The Bru­ins could have used two game balls dur­ing prac­tice Monday. They would have gone to Bolu Olorun­funmi and Joshua Kelly.

With four run­ning backs ab­sent for what Mora de­scribed as “var­i­ous rea­sons,” Olorun­funmi and Kelly served as the work­horses and did it with­out com­plaint.

“They were out­stand­ing,” Mora said. “They just went and went and went and went and went. … When guys can’t prac­tice and you get that kind of ef­fort, it’s some­thing you can re­ally build on.”

Kelly is a trans­fer from UC Davis who must sit out this sea­son be­cause of NCAA rules but has shown per­se­ver­ance, not only dur­ing runs but in reach­ing UCLA. Bru­ins run­ning backs coach DeShaun Foster said Kelly called him “re­lent­lessly for at least two months” try­ing to reach him.

Foster said he’s been im­pressed with the new­comer, who will have two years of el­i­gi­bil­ity re­main­ing start­ing with the 2018 sea­son.

“He’s fast, runs hard,” Foster said. “He’s just happy to be here.” Quick hits

Mora has made a habit of sub­bing out right tackle Sunny Odogwu dur­ing the lat­ter por­tion of prac­tice, part of his ef­forts to man­age the 24-year-old grad­u­ate trans­fer, who has suf­fered mul­ti­ple in­juries in his ca­reer. “We want to make sure that he is as sharp as can be on Sun­days, Fri­days and Satur­days when we play our games,” Mora said . . . . Re­ceiver Jor­dan Lasley was dis­missed from prac­tice be­cause of ap­par­ent overzeal­ous­ness. “He has to be able to play with great emo­tion and not be­come emo­tional and some­times he trips over him­self,” Mora said, “so we’re just work­ing on rein­ing him in, but you can’t help but love Las.”

Gary Fried­man Los An­ge­les Times

DE­FEN­SIVE LINE COACH An­gus McClure has a lot of depth to work with and feels “pretty for­tu­nate.”

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