UCLA Football Position Group Analysis – Linebackers

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Go Joe Bruin continues the position group analysis of the UCLA Football team post-2016 as we now examine the linebackers heading into 2017.

The defense for the UCLA Football in 2016 had an above average year, but not great. This past season, the defense had an overall improvement, especially with the run defense, but other things limited their effectiveness.

The Bruins did have a few stumbles and with the shaky offense keeping the defense on the field more than they should have, it burned out the defense late in games and late in the season.

Though it was disappointing, there were a few things that gives hope for the future, but there are also a lot of questions left unanswered.

The State of the Linebackers

The UCLA LBs helped hold down the defense throughout the season. Unfortunately, only two players did the majority of the heavy lifting. Jayon Brown and Kenny Young lead the entire team in tackles with 119 and 90, respectively.

Brown was consistent all season and did a fantastic job in the middle of the field. Young gradually made his mark with the team and had the most sacks among all LBs (5).

The Bruins suffered a bit with the disappearance of Isaako Savaiinaea who was expected to be a major factor but only played in eight games and recorded nine tackles. Unfortunately, him, Brown and Cameron Judge are graduating, which thins out the linebacking corps.

The bigger problem is the fact that, subtracting the seniors, UCLA only has seven linebackers on the current roster. They also have no LB commitments in the 2017 recruiting class. As for Mique Juarez, who knows?

Key Losses

Cameron Judge – graduation

Jayon Brown – graduation

Isaako Savaiinaea – graduation

2017 Recruits

There are no commitments at this time.

Oct 8, 2016; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Brady White (2) is tackled by UCLA Bruins linebacker Kenny Young (42) in the fourth quarter at Sun Devil Stadium. White would leave the game with an injury on the tackle. The Sun Devils defeated the Bruins 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Potential 2017 Depth Chart

OLB: Josh Woods, Leni Toailoa

ILB: Kenny Young, Lokeni Toailoa

OLB: Breland Brandt, Krys Barnes

What’s Working?

The Kenny Young coming out party is quite possibly the best thing for UCLA. Young became a dependable LB as the season progressed and his leadership will be needed next season.

The Bruins also have several young players that have the raw talent to help elevate the linebackers next season, the only question is, “how well will they develop?”

Unfortunately, there is not much else going on. Unless the Bruins several key recruits or transfers, the LB corps will be pretty thin.

What Needs to Improve?

Consistency. On the offense and the defense. The fact that UCLA’s offense could not generate anything was a death sentence to the defense, especially late in the season. As good as the defense was collectively, it was always in trouble due to the offense.

LB Coach Scott White also has to get the current LBs developed before next season. If they also do not thicken up their depth, we could possibly see some position swapping in the off-season. That or more nickel formations next season.

The bottom line is that there are going to be a lot of question with not only the LBs, but the entire defense as Takkarist McKinley, Eddie Vanderdoes, Deon Hollins, Tahaan Goodman, Randall Goforth, Marcus Rios and Fabian Moreau all moving on.

Unless something significant happens, the defense could have a down year next season. With the Bruins still looking for an offensive coordinator, it does not look good for 2017.

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