LOS ANGELES — UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone typically starts out his weekly media session with a joke. He once pretended to hawk a juice cleanse system and this week, he acted like a politician discussing Obamacare and the government “lockout.”
Mazzone did manage to throw in one more joke — this time football-related — about the two true freshmen offensive linemen that will be starting on the right side of the line this week against Cal.
“We’re just going to run left all day,” Mazzone said.
The line has been a strength of UCLA’s all season but some shuffling must be done now. Caleb Benenoch will step in at right tackle and coupled with freshman Alex Redmond, it’s a young right side.
But before the Bruins hit the panic button and start thinking that the 14th-best rushing team in the country is about to take its foot off the gas, keep in mind that the line was just as young last season and Johnathan Franklin had no problem setting the school’s all-time single season and career rushing records.
“It’s not very often you’ve got two true freshmen on the same side, that’s unusual” Mazzone said. “I’ve got total confidence in those kids. They’re going to have their learning curve and there’s going to be some things they miss but I tell them even Brett had that. I said, ‘Brett, remember when you were like that? It wasn’t like you didn’t make a few mistakes out there.’
“But both of the kids are physically more than adequate to get the job done.”
Benenoch was expected to start coming out of camp but Redmond started in his place and he has yet to relinquish it. There is already a small sample size of how the two can play next to one another since Benenoch came in for White against Utah. The switch was not seamless, but it shouldn’t have been — the communication on the line is something almost impossible to immediately replicate but Benenoch filled in nicely.
“They’re still on the ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ book, Dr. Seuss reading,” Mazzone said.
“We need to do a better job of picking it up and communicating,” Benenoch said. “Brett has to be comfortable back there. I don’t think about it as if we’re true freshmen, I just think about it as if we’re football players.”
Changes to the defensive line will be seen this week as well. Ellis McCarthy has missed practice this week with concussion symptoms. McCarthy (nine tackles, one for loss) could be cleared by Saturday but if not, freshman Kylie Fitts will step in at left end.