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    UCLA football breakdown: How the Bruins look at defensive line
    • January 12, 2024

    Newly promoted defensive coordinator Ikaika Malloe played a significant role in bringing edge rushers Laiatu Latu and Gabriel and Grayson Murphy to Westwood, helping make the defensive line a strength for UCLA over the past two seasons.

    Latu had 13 sacks for UCLA in 2023, which ranked third on the program’s all-time list for a single season, tying him with Carnell Lake (1987). Latu also recorded 49 total tackles (21.5 TFL), two forced fumbles and two interceptions in 12 games played.

    Latu has been projected as a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. The edge rusher won the Lombardi Award, recognizing college football’s most outstanding lineman, and the Ted Hendricks Award, for the sports’ top defensive end, for his performance throughout the 2023 season. He was also voted as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

    The Murphy twins decided to forgo their remaining eligibility and also declared for the draft.

    The Bruins finished as a top-10 defense this past season, allowing 301.5 yards per game. The defensive line also helped produce a solid rush defense that ranked second in the country after allowing just 80.5 yards per game.

    Carl Jones Jr. is also expected to be finished with the program after playing several defensive positions during his five years in Westwood but mostly outside linebacker in his later years. He started four of the 13 games he played this season and finished with 39 tackles (5.5 TFL), two sacks and a fumble recovery.

    There’s still some level of uncertainty on how the Bruins will manage to make up the same level of production.

    The position group will be tested going forward after it loses most of its experienced players. Defensive lineman Jay Toia is expected to return and will bring a level of consistency and serve as an anchor for the defense. He finished with 28 tackles (four TFL), one sack and forced a fumble in 12 games played in 2023.

    The Bruins announced the hiring of Tony Washington Jr. as the new defensive line and outside linebackers coach Friday.

    Here’s a full breakdown of UCLA’s offensive line entering spring ball, the fourth in a six-part series by the Southern California News Group examining the post-portal outlook for every part of the roster.


    Returning: Jr. DL Jay Toia, Sr. DL Gary Smith III, R-Jr. DL Choé Bryant-Strother, R-So. DL Keanu Williams, Fr. DL Grant Buckey

    Arriving: Sr. DL Jacob Busic (transfer, Navy), Fr. DL Collins Acheampong (transfer, Miami)

    Departing: Sr. DL Laiatu Latu (NFL draft), R-Jr. DL Gabriel Murphy (NFL draft), R-Jr. DL Grayson Murphy (NFL draft), R-Sr. DL Carl Jones Jr. (5th-year player), R-Sr. Jake Heimlicher (sixth-year player)


    Why didn’t the Bruins sign any high school defensive linemen in the 2024 recruiting class? The Bruins emphasized offense during this recruiting cycle, especially with three of 10 recruits being offensive linemen. The Bruins have started to address the need to reload the defensive line, with Acheampong and Busic, through the transfer portal.

    Busic’s arrival in Westwood reunites him with former Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo. Busic spent four years with the Midshipmen and was a captain this past season. He was denied a fifth year of eligibility at Navy, which led to his decision to enter the transfer portal.

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    Acheampong was ranked as a four-star prospect by 247sports as a member of the 2023 class coming out of Santa Margarita High before signing with the University of Miami. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound edge rusher spent just one season with the Hurricanes and didn’t see the field. Acheampong had familiarity with coach Chip Kelly and UCLA from his high school recruiting process. If Acheampong can impress the coaching staff throughout the spring and training camp, there’s potential that he could see some playing time this season as he settles in as a promising player for the future.

    ​ Orange County Register