Bruins recruiting for depth on the line

UCLA has three freshmen starting on the offensive line and none are guaranteed a job next season.

There has been a clear mandate for recruiting this year. The Bruins have commitments from seven offensive linemen, some ranked among the top high school players in the nation.

“We have a young offensive line and we want to continue to add depth,” Coach Jim Mora said.

The Bruins will have 14 offensive linemen returning who are on scholarship. It could create quite a logjam unless some leave.

Guards Greg Capella and Alexandru Ceachir have concussion issues, though both expect to be back in the spring. Tackle Will Oliver underwent shoulder surgery last week and will miss UCLA’s game against Baylor in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27.

“As a coach, it’s your job to improve a program by recruiting over what you have,” said sophomore guard Xavier Su’a-Filo, the only starting lineman returning who appears a lock to keep his spot.

More depth. More choices.

“I want to create competition,” offensive line coach Adrian Klemm said. “There hasn’t been competition here among the linemen in quite some time. Some guys are playing because there is no one else, not because they deserve it.”

The Bruins have not had an offensive lineman selected in the NFL draft since 1999.

“We have young men who need to develop mentally and physically,” Klemm said. “They may think they are giving all they can, but there is always more they can give and there is only so much as a coach you can get out of them. The rest has to come from creating an environment that is competitive.”

Coaches are not allowed to talk about recruits until they sign letters of intent. But the linemen who have announced their intentions to come to UCLA are impressive.

The list includes La Costa Country Canyon center Scott Quessenberry, who is ranked seventh at his position by, and Katy (Texas) Seven Lakes guard Caleb Brenenoch, who is ranked ninth.

“It just means that I have to work harder,” said freshman Simon Goines, who starts at right tackle. “I love it. I mean, I helped recruit these guys as much as the coaches.”

The Bruins survived with minimal health issues on the offensive line this season.

Senior guard Jeff Baca sat out two games while undergoing medical tests. Goines has started every game, but he has a right knee injury that forced him out of three games.

“As we stand right now, we are one deep,” Klemm said. “If we have a guy go down, it can get a little tough. That’s what separates the top-10 teams from the bunches, depth.”

Recruiting engagements

Mora parachuted into the recruiting scene last season. He and his staff overhauled the 2012 class in a little more than a month. This time around, it has been less rushed.

“It was, ‘Let’s get to know each other really fast,'” Mora said about his first recruiting go-round. “It can almost be construed as a shotgun marriage. This year it’s more of a romance.”

A year ago, Mora left the news conference announcing his hiring and was immediately handed a cellphone by on-campus recruiting coordinator Patrick Girardi.

“As I was talking to a player Pat was writing their names on the board, what positions they played and their stats,” Mora said.

Mora learned that recruiting is a 365-day a year job, 366 in leap years.

“I get to know them and their families,” Mora said. “It’s easier to connect with them. … It’s more natural.”

-Chris Foster