The UCLA Bruins enter 2013 looking to defend their back-to-back Pac 12 South Division titles against a division that will be hotly contested all season long. One of the biggest areas that Jim Mora has been forced to retool this offseason is along the defensive line which lost a major talent in Datone Jones to the NFL following the 2012 season. Waiting in the wings to step up as a leader, however, is Cassius Marsh who will spark the Bruins’ defensive line next fall.
Jones was a strong leader for the UCLA defensive line during his senior season, finishing No. 1 among Bruin defensive linemen with 62 tackles, including 19 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He parlayed that strong season into a first-round selection at the NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers, but leaving a serious hole in the UCLA front.
Marsh put together a strong resume in 2012 to be the next guy up for Mora and the Bruins. He finished second to Jones among defensive linemen in tackles, recording 49 takedowns, including 9.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, with a pair of forced fumbles and two blocked kicks. He has a reputation as a fiery competitor that can wreak major havoc on opposing offenses when he channels his aggression into what needs to happen on the field.
This spring, Marsh has stepped up as a leader for the defensive line and appears ready to take them through the 2013 slate. His energy can be infectious and bring everyone on the defense up another level and create an environment that the whole defense can flourish in. If he can demand the attention of offensive linemen, it will free up UCLA’s playmaking linebackers, like Anthony Barr, to make big, game-changing plays.
The road will be difficult for UCLA to make a third straight appearance in the Pac 12 Championship game, but there is the talent there to get it done. Is Cassius Marsh the leader that UCLA needs to get over the top in 2013?