Friday, June 8, 2012
Strongest position group: UCLA
By Kevin Gemmell
Every team has a strength -- that one position group that can make a play on offense or make a big stop on defense when needed.
Based on what happened this spring, we're going to look at the strongest position group for each school. It could be on either side of the ball -- and it could be subject to change after fall camp goes into full swing.
We're going in reverse alphabetical order.
Strongest position group: Defensive line
Headliner: Datone Jones (41 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks)
Supporting cast: Cassius Marsh (22/4/2); Owamagbe Odighizuwa (21/3/0); Donovan Carter (36/3.5/0); Brandon Willis (0/0/0); Iuta Tepa (19/4.5/1); Seali'i Epenesa (7/1/0)
The skinny: The Pac-12 blog has long been a believer in Jones, but by his own admission, he hasn't lived up to the ample hype that surrounds him. This year, that's going to change with the new defensive scheme and wealth of NFL experience at the head coach and defensive coordinator positions. At 6-foot-5 and 280-pounds, Jones has the size and the tools to be one of the most disruptive defensive ends in the conference now that he's in the 3-4. Expect to see his tackles for loss and sacks go up this year.
Defensive tackle Brandon Willis is an interesting prospect. After transferring back and forth between UCLA and North Carolina, he's back and should make an immediate impact after sitting out last season because of transfer rules.
Marsh and Carter, who both bring a healthy amount of experience, should also see a significant bump in production with the scheme change. At 6-foot-2 and 313-pounds, Carter fills the nose tackle spot well and Marsh and Odighizuwa both had lots of playing time last season.
Tepa and Epenesa add solid depth to a line that new coach Jim Mora has touted as the deepest position group for the Bruins.