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    UCLA football breakdown: How the Bruins look at linebacker
    • January 14, 2024

    UCLA’s linebackers return more depth than any other unit on defense for the 2024 season.

    The Bruins are set to start strong-side linebacker Kain Medrano and weak-side linebacker Oluwafemi Oladejo back for another season together.

    Medrano and Oladejo were the second- and third-leading tacklers for the Bruins in 2023.

    Medrano came into his own as a full-time starter this past season for inside linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. Medrano had his best performance against Utah with a season-high 10 tackles (2.5 TFL), two sacks and a forced fumble.

    Oladejo settled in nicely for the Bruins after transferring from Cal for the 2023 season. He was responsible for 54 tackles (2.5 TFL), an interception and two fumble recoveries in 13 games played.

    Middle linebacker Darius Muasau will be one of the bigger departures from the program. Muasau led the Bruins for a second consecutive season after recording 75 total tackles in the 2023 season. He also finished the season with 10.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks and an interception.

    Muasau had a season-high 11 tackles in his final game with UCLA and earned LA Bowl Game defensive MVP honors after a 35-22 victory over Boise State on Dec. 16. The redshirt senior will put on a UCLA helmet one more time when he competes in the East-West Shrine Bowl on Feb. 1 in Frisco, Texas.

    The trio helped produce a top-10 defense under first-year defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn, allowing 301.5 total yards per game and 25 touchdowns (only five rushing).

    UCLA’s defense had allowed more than 400 yards per game in every season of coach Chip Kelly’s tenure outside of 2021 (384.4 ypg).

    The Bruins allowed opponents to rush for an average of 80.5 yards per game and finished as the second-ranked rushing defense.

    JonJon Vaughns’ status remains unclear for the upcoming season. The St. John Bosco graduate has played four seasons with the Bruins and has the opportunity to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA for being on UCLA’s 2020 roster during the pandemic-shortened season.

    He started 11 of 13 games in in 2022 but served in a reserved role playing 12 games in 2023.

    Brandon “Ale” Kaho is unlikely to return after spending the first three years with Alabama and the past three with UCLA. Kaho appeared in 11 games in 2021 but was limited to just one game over the past two seasons due to injuries.

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


    Returning: Sr. LB Kain Medrano,  Jr. LB Oluwafemi Oladejo, R-Fr. LB Jalen Woods

    Arriving: True Fr. LB Isaiah Patterson, Sr. LB Joseph Vaughn

    Departing: R-Sr. LB Darius Muasau, R-Sr. LB Brandon “Ale” Kaho

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    Who will start at middle linebacker? Joseph Vaughn has the potential to come in and be the man in the middle for the Bruins. Vaughn spent the past five years at Yale and is coming off a breakout year in 2023. The 6-foot-3, 238-pound linebacker finished with 88 tackles (13 TFL), three interceptions, two sacks, five pass deflections and three forced fumbles in 10 games played. He’s also had a pick-six in each of the past two seasons.


    Jalen Woods. The redshirt freshman will have the opportunity to see more playing time and potentially compete for a starting role in 2024. He played in all 13 games as a reserve linebacker and special teams player this past season. The St. John Bosco grad is listed at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds.

    ​ Orange County Register