The season hasn’t started yet but there’s already been some turnover on defense for the UCLA Bruins defense, which will enter fall camp with some concerns on the defensive line.
The defensive front took a hit with the news that defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa could miss the entire 2013 season recovering from hip surgery. Odighizuwa missed spring practices after having offseason surgery to repair a frayed rotator cuff on his left hip. The Los Angeles Times reported this week that he recently had surgery on the other hip and could remain on the sidelines for the entire season.
Odighizuwa was expected to fill the role of first-round draft pick Datone Jones, who will suit up with the Green Bay Packers next season. The junior finished with 44 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2012.
Losing Odighizuwa would be a big blow to the defense, but the Bruins got some positive news when defensive back Marcus Rios announced he may be available in 2013. Rios has been suffering from a fungus infection behind his eye and beneath his brain since last fall and has had six surgeries to remove it. The sophomore was initially scheduled for a seventh but according to recent reports, his current antibiotic regimen is working and further surgeries aren’t necessary.
If Rios’ health continues to improve, he could return for part of the season. Rios played in eight games in 2012 and was in line for more playing time this season before he was diagnosed with the dangerous infection.
The Bruins will also be without nose tackle Brandon Tuliaupupu in 2013. Tuliaupupu tore his left ACL during a non-contact drill in practice on April 17 and will be out for the year to recover from surgery. Ellis McCarthy, another nose tackle, missed all of spring with a minor knee surgery of his own, but UCLA hopes he’ll be ready to back up Seali’i Epenesa by the season opener.
In addition to the players out, or still coming back from, various injuries, the Bruins must also replace junior safety Tevin McDonald who transferred to Eastern Washington after being dismissed from the team this offseason.