The UCLA Bruins put on an offensive clinic in their season opening 58-20 win over the Nevada Wolfpack. The offense racked up 647 total yards, the ninth-highest total in school history, quarterback Brett Hundley stayed upright for the most part and rushed for 63 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries and five different running backs broke off runs of 20 or more yards. How were they able to cut through the Nevada defense so effectively? It’s all thanks to their much-improved offensive line.
Last season, the o-line was a major liability for UCLA. Hundley was sacked more than any other quarterback in the Pac 12 as he was taken down 52 times in 2012 as he worked behind a young, inexperienced and patchworked offensive line unit. Head coach Jim Mora aggressively addressed this weakness on the recruiting trail during the offseason, and the dividends have already begun paying off. New starting running back Jordon James entered this season with a 3.3 yards per rush average before having a career night with 155 yards on just 21 carries before the fourth quarter.
Everyone who took the podium after the game to talk about the offensive explosion gave credit where credit was due: to the offensive line in front of them. The running backs talked about the gaping holes they opened up. Mora praised the unit for their pass protection. Their position coach, Adrian Klemm, was even won over after admitting he was nervous about the group for the first few series of the game.
All-American Xavier Su’a-Filo led a dominant effort from the left guard spot and set the tone for the entire line with aggressive play and big pancake blocks. He combined with center Jake Brendel to dominate the interior of the line as the anchors of the group entering this season. It was no surprise that Su’a-Filo dominated, but it was pleasantly surprising to watch the rest of the line follow suit, particularly the Bruins’ true freshman right guard Alex Redmond.
After a slow start in fall camp, Redmond picked it up late and won the starting job just last week and delivered in a major way. Klemm called it one of the best games he had ever seen from a young player and described Redmond as playing with a “violent disposition.” If he can continue to tap into that aggressive mindset, he’ll provide UCLA with a dominant interior line that will pave the way for great success in 2013 and beyond.
This Bruins offense has the ability to be one of the best in the Pac 12. With a strong offensive line unit leading the charge, they might just be one of the best offenses in all of college football. Is this group strong enough to take UCLA to the top in 2013?