Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Under the radar: UCLA
By ESPN.com staff
We're continuing with our under the radar series.
The idea is to pick out a player who is not a big name but who may be underrated. Or, at least, a guy who will need to step up and play a critical role in 2012.
We're going in reverse alphabetical order.
UCLA: OT Xavier Su'a-Filo
2011 production: Su'a-Filo didn't play last year -- or in 2010 -- because he went on a two-year Mormon mission. He was the Bruins starting left tackle as a true freshman in 2009.
Making the case for Su'a-Filo: Su'a-Filo could transform a line that has been mediocre-to-lousy since he went on his mission into at least solid. That could make all the difference for a Bruins offense that has been mediocre-to-lousy for, well, a while. A touted, prep-All-American recruit in 2009, he started all 13 games as a true freshman and earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors as well as numerous freshman All-American accolades. Simply, the 6-foot-4, 310-pound sophomore has NFL potential. Perhaps high-draft choice potential. And he's a hard-working, high-character, mature guy who has grown into a man over the past two years. If he steps back into his left tackle spot and plays well, that means the Bruins quarterback will have security on his blind side. That's big. Further, paired with senior guard Jeff Baca, the Bruins actually would have a formidable left side tandem. See where this is going? With Su'a-Filo playing to his potential, a notorious and longstanding weakness for the Bruins -- offensive line -- suddenly has the potential to be at least solid. Perhaps -- gasp -- even sneaky good, with new position coach Adrian Klemm scaring the pooh out of them on a regular basis. You give offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone solid line play, and he will give the Bruins offensive effectiveness, which they haven't had in, well, a while.