With the UCLA football offseason coming to a close, it’s time to start looking ahead to the 2022 campaign and what awaits the Bruins in net. Before figuring out the opponents and projecting the Pac-12’s batting order, it’s best to look inside by picking how UCLA will line up on its own sides.
All of the Bruins will break down each position group over the next week, and the offensive line is next. To catch the positions already covered, take a look below:
August 24: The quarterbacks
August 25: Running back
August 26: Wide receiver
August 27: Tight ends
LT 1: Raiqwon O’Neal, redshirt
LT 2: Tyler Manoa, super senior
LT 3: Bruno Fina, redshirt sophomore
LT 4: Niki Prongos, freshman
LG 1: Antonio Mafi, super senior
LG 2: Noah Pulealii, redshirt freshman
LG 3: Siale Taupaki, little redshirt
LG 4: Redshirt freshman Yutaka Mahe
C 1: Duke Clemens, senior
C 2: Sam Marrazzo, super senior
C 3: Benjamin Roy Jr., redshirt freshman
RG 1: Jon Gaines II, redshirt senior
RG 2: Josh Carlin, redshirt junior
RG 3: Sam Yoon, freshman
RG 4: Justin Williams, redshirt sophomore
RT 1: Garrett DiGiorgio, redshirt freshman
RT 2: Jaylan Jeffers, redshirt sophomore
RT 3: Liam Douglass, senior
RT 4: Brad Whitworth, redshirt junior
For losing three starters, there is a good amount of retention on the Bruins’ offensive line.
This applies mostly to the interior, however, as the treatment points look much different than in 2021.
Sean Rhyan and Alec Anderson were mainstays at left and right tackle, respectively, in recent seasons. O’Neal is Rhyan’s replacement on the blind side, and while he’s not currently projected to be a top-100 NFL Draft pick like his predecessor, the Rutgers transfer was mentioned in the Big Ten each of the last two years.
Manoa has moved from defensive line, and after getting first-team reps at right tackle in the spring, he spent most of fall camp as O’Neal’s backup.
DiGiorgio stepped in when Anderson was injured last season, seeing the field for about two games worth of action. As a true freshman, he was shaky early, but managed to be a solid blocker in the second half of the loss at Utah.
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Jeffers transferred from Oregon after not getting a ton of playing time in Eugene, while Douglass came from USC. Douglass is currently injured, seemingly long-term, so depth at that spot could be questionable. Carlin played there in the spring before O’Neal, Jeffers, Douglass and Yoon arrived, so he could move there as well.
Speaking of Yoon, he was a problem in high school, but he may have to ease up at the position at the college level. Sure, he can play inside or outside if needed, but as the only true freshman on scholarship up front, he’s probably more of a project for the future.
Gaines will be the starting right guard, possibly locked into a position for the full season for the first time in a long time. The veteran has played at point guard, center and right tackle, but health and depth at other spots should allow Gaines to set his feet at right guard in 2022.
Mafi is technically replacing Paul Grattan Jr. like the left guard, but in the last half of the year, they were basically splitting snaps 50/50. The defensive line transplant is in better shape than he’s ever been, still maintaining solid size, and he’s proven he can pull and move well in coach Chip Kelly’s running scheme.
Clemens is back as the No. 1 center. 1, while Marrazzo is now fully healthy and can take snaps there as well. Clemens can move to guard in some combinations where Marrazzo plays center, but Marrazzo is being used as a pure center.
Roy was part of a large offensive line rookie class a year ago, and he has proven to be one of the most skilled of the group. He won’t get significant time in center with Clemens and Marrazzo at home, but with both of them out next offseason, he’ll be a key prospect to keep an eye on.
UCLA doesn’t have the same talent up front as it did last year — at least not on the outside.
O’Neal may end up among the Pac-12’s top left tackles, but he’s no Rhyan. Anderson was big and experienced, while DiGiorgio still has a lot to work on in his game.
Going from Grattan-Clemens-Gaines with Mafi to Mafi-Clemens-Gaines with Marrazzo is a wash, and maybe it could be better with another year of experience under everyone’s belt. As a result, the Bruins’ interior game could function just as well as it did in 2021, opening holes for Charbonnet and preventing tackles for loss.
The changes to the outside will affect the passing game, however, and quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson probably won’t have as clean a jersey as he did a year ago. Failure to seal the edge can make outside runs with Keegan Jones or Kazmeir Allen difficult, not to mention speed and read options.
Of course, opening the year with games against Bowling Green, Alabama State, South Alabama and Colorado gives the offensive line a generous long runway to close things out before the tough part of the schedule arrives. The pass protection and outside run blocking problems will be harder to spot against smaller competition, and by the end of it, they may have solved the bigger problems in terms of experience, game design and rotation.
UCLA will allow more sacks than last year and probably record fewer yards per carry. If O’Neal can be an all-conference player — which he has the ability to be, as he stays healthy — and DiGiorgio eases his way to a good season, those concerns may be eased a bit and the Bruins offense could be over. improving as the year progresses.
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