UCLA linebackers coach Scott White has a mantra that his gamers may tire of listening to had it not helped a handful rise to prominence: Make it so we will’t depart you off the sector.
It led to Jayon Brown turning into a starter and eventual staff captain. Now it seems to be having an analogous impression on Lokeni Toailoa, the sophomore who could be the Bruins’ new beginning center linebacker.
“Lokeni’s a man that’s type of forward of his time right here, he’s a man that everyone respects,” White stated Wednesday. “He made it exhausting for us to maintain him off the sector.”
His construct additionally doesn’t harm.
Standing 6 ft 2 and a sturdy 245 kilos, Toailoa seems to be a pure center linebacker, the place his power and sturdiness permit him to ship punishing hits on play after play.
“I sort of just like the contact,” Toailoa stated. “I like thumping guys.”
Placing Toailoa at center linebacker has allowed the Bruins to shift senior Kenny Younger to weakside linebacker, the place he is usually a blitzing menace and a grasp of pursuit. Junior Josh Woods has manned robust-aspect linebacker, a spot that calls for versatility in run and move protection.
“They only match the positions completely,” UCLA coach Jim Mora stated.
Younger had been a second group All-Pac-12 choice at center linebacker final season, however Mora stated Younger projected as a weakside linebacker within the NFL. Younger has been a serious disrupter of the offense on blitzes and Toailoa has capably plugged the center of the sector. Woods, whom White has referred to as the neatest participant on the group, has offered robust run help whereas additionally dropping into cross protection when wanted.
Toailoa bears main duty for making the defensive calls however typically depends on an help from the extra skilled Younger, whose recognition of delicate cues offered by the offense helps shift the Bruins into a positive alignment.
“That’s one space I needed to take strides in is making an attempt to concentrate on a play occurring earlier than it’s truly occurring,” stated Younger, who in contrast his mentoring of Toailoa to the counseling he acquired from Eric Kendricks, now a center linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings.
In nickel protection conditions, when an additional defensive again is required, Toailoa has been the linebacker to return off the sector.
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley stated the linebackers are studying all three positions to extend versatility and supply depth in case of accidents. Breland Brandt and Krys Barnes are among the many different linebackers who’ve generated highlights throughout coaching camp and DeChaun Vacation might contend for vital enjoying time as soon as he returns from the shoulder damage that has sidelined him since spring follow.
Mora stated he’s additionally appreciated what he’s seen from a visibly slimmer Mique Juarez, the redshirt freshman who sat out final season whereas coping with the pressures of being a extremely touted recruit. Juarez just lately delivered a jarring hit on operating again Bolu Olorunfunmi, reminding observers why the linebacker had been so extensively coveted.
“You’re beginning to see what we noticed in Mique once we recruited him,” Mora stated. “He’s trimming down, he’s getting in form, he understands the system, he’s comfortable, his self-discipline is sweet, so it’s good to see that.”
Juarez has cut up time at center and weakside linebacker, with Mora saying he projected as a weakside linebacker as soon as he absolutely rounds into form. White stated he’d like Juarez to lose seven or eight extra kilos.
UCLA’s linebackers seem to have a number of normal bearers amongst their underclassmen, with Toailoa in line to develop into maybe probably the most indispensable.
“He’s simply continued to push and he’s in the correct spots, he makes all of the requires us on the market,” White stated. “Everyone actually respects him and he’ll be a man that’s a future captain round right here for a very long time.”
Receiver Jordan Lasley returned to apply after a one-day absence, however tight finish Austin Roberts and operating backs Brandon Stephens and Nate Starks have been absent. … Operating again Soso Jamabo and receiver Audie Omotosho rode the stationary bikes often occupied by injured gamers. … Michael Alves changed Najee Toran at left guard; Toran was visibly limping alongside the sideline. … Poasi Moala performed some proper deal with, the spot often occupied by Sunny Odogwu and Kenny Lacy. … Kicker J.J. Molson made a fifty five-yard area objective. … Mora dismissed defensive again Octavius Spencer from apply for what seemed to be extreme celebration after a play.