UCLA’s defensive depth gets a boost from young linemen
LOS ANGELES (AP) — If not for injuries to two veteran defensive linemen, UCLA freshman Greg Rogers would still be on the scout team this week helping quarterback Josh Rosen and the Bruins’ offense prepare to play at No. 12 Washington on Saturday.
Instead of pretending to be Vita Vea or one of the Huskies’ other dominating defenders, Rogers will be preparing to make sure UCLA’s defense can pick up where it left off in a 31-14 win over Oregon, a result made possible thanks to an infusion of young talent.
UCLA played 12 first- or second-year defenders against the Ducks, including six linemen who combined for six tackles for loss with two sacks.
“Anytime you can get young guys time and they can learn and you can get a win, that’s a great thing,” UCLA head coach Jim Mora said.
For Rogers, he was only on the field because of injuries to seniors Matt Dickerson and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner. Dickerson is out indefinitely after undergoing surgery to repair a broken collarbone. Tuioti-Mariner could play against Washington after being taken to a hospital Saturday and being examined for internal injuries before being released later that night.
Those injuries, along with the absence of redshirt sophomore Rick Wade, forced Mora to drop plans to redshirt Rogers this season and give the touted Las Vegas native his collegiate debut.
“We’re just in a situation where because of injuries needed him to do that,” defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said. “The number of games, obviously, if this would have been much later in the year it might have different, but we’re at the midway point, still a lot of football to go.”
Rogers stepped in and stepped up, helping wreck a fourth-down play early in the fourth quarter by creating pressure up the middle and allowing redshirt freshman Osa Odighizuwa make a tackle for loss on Oregon quarterback Braxton Burmeister.
“I just tried to go out there and not think about everything too much,” Rogers said. “I felt like I was pretty prepared throughout the week, so just going out there and treating it like it was another football game. It’s just more people, a little bit louder and playing in the Rose Bowl.”
Rogers did not record a tackle, but Odighizuwa had three tackles for loss and redshirt freshman Marcus Moore had two tackles for loss with one sack. Freshman defensive end Jaelan Phillips had a sack in his return after missing three games with an ankle injury.
“It was great cause we’re going to be with each other for a while,” Odighizuwa said. “When you see a young guy come in and just start doing good, that gives you a good hope for the future and how you can build on what you already have.”
Now Rogers will actually get to work with the defense this week instead of being on the scout team. Bradley expects those repetitions will allow the 6-foot-3, 310-pound Rogers to develop at a faster rate, which will help against an experienced Washington offensive line.
“It’ll get better,” Bradley said. “They make mistakes like all the young guys do at different times. It’s a growing experience. You’ll go through some growing pains with it, but they like to play. They hustle.”
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