Football: How will replacements fare?

March, 24, 2011
3/24/11
10:40
AM PT
With Akeem Ayers and Rahim Moore headed for the NFL, UCLA football fans will have to get used to some new names.

The front-runner to fill Ayers' outside linebacker spot? Glenn Love, a redshirt senior who has plenty of special teams experience but has yet to make a defensive start. The leader to replace Moore at free safety? Dalton Hilliard, a junior who, like Love, has zero career starts to his name.

None of that should really matter, though. Love and Hilliard won't be docked for inexperience simply because there is none behind them. For example, the three players listed beneath Hilliard on UCLA's tentative depth chart -- Alex Mascarenas, Tevin McDonald and Brandon Sermons -- have three career tackles between them. So even though Hilliard (right knee surgery) will miss spring practice, the starting role doesn't figure to be determined until fall.

Love's situation appears even more favorable. He is ahead of redshirt freshman Aramide Olaniyan, true freshman Aaron Wallace and redshirt junior David Allen (two tackles on special teams last season).

"We want Glenn to have a chance to win a job," coach Rick Neuheisel said during a teleconference with reporters Wednesday. "Akeem has left and we wish him well, but Glenn being a senior, being a guy who does everything right in the program, I want him to have a chance to win that job. His body is built for a Sam linebacker. He certainly has cover ability. Now it's just about the physical portion of the job and being instinctive."

Instincts were a major reason why Ayers and Moore had the success they had. All of Ayers' memorable interceptions -- think of his defensive touchdowns against Oregon and Temple -- were a result of his reflexes. He sensed something coming and reacted immediately. It's a big reason why draft pundits believe he will have success at the next level.

Love, a former safety, didn't make the switch to outside linebacker until last season. His mental development will be key over the next four weeks.

Note: This is the second of our five questions leading up to the March 29 opener. Question 1: Will Brett Hundley threaten for starting gig?

Blair Angulo | email

Reporter, WeAreSC.com

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