Jim Mora enjoyed a ton of success in his first season as the head coach of the UCLA Bruins, guiding the team back to the Pac 12 title game, though they ultimately fell short for the second straight season. Mora is looking to create a dynasty in the Pac 12 South with another division title in 2013, but will have to reload on defense following Datone Jones’ selection in the NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. He will have to dig a little deeper into his roster for his replacement, however, following the season-ending injury to Owamagbe Odighizuwa.
The 6-foot-3, 270-pound defensive end was entering his senior season with UCLA looking to build on a 2012 campaign where he was a regular part of the defensive rotation. He finished No. 10 on the team with 44 tackles, including six tackles for loss, with 3.5 sacks and three pass break ups. He was in line to take over Jones’ position in the starting lineup and grow into an expanded role next fall. That plan has been scrapped, however, after news that Odighizuwa would miss the entire 2013 season following surgery on his right hip.
In his place, the Bruins will turn to some inexperienced linemen looking to make an early name for themselves. Sophomore Sam Tai, redshirt freshman Eli Ankou and early enrollee true freshman Kylie Fitts will be the likely names vying for the vacated spot during fall camp. Tai is expected to return 100 percent healthy from a knee injury he suffered last season and will likely get first crack at the job. The trio has exactly zero tackles at the major college level between them.
It’s always difficult replacing an NFL-caliber talent like UCLA was forced to do with Datone Jones this offseason. Can they overcome having to find a replacement for his replacement?