UCLA Training Camp Preview: Replacing Anthony Barr

With just over two weeks until August 4th, and the start of another UCLA football season, it is time to start looking at some of the Bruins’ training camp questions. UCLA has a huge hole to fill in 2014: replacing #9 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft Anthony Barr, a two-time All-Pac-12 linebacker who accounted for 148 total tackles over the last two seasons. Switching from a 4-3 to a 4-2-5 defensive scheme should relieve some of the pressure on the eventual replacement, but until that replacement is chosen, there will be a lot of eyes on the guys being considered. All have game experience, but obviously, with a talent like Anthony Barr on the depth chart, none of the three players in the competition have had much of an opportunity before now. Lets take a look at the three players fighting to replace Anthony Barr in the 2014 season.

Replacing Anthony Barr, The Three Favorites:

3. Aaron Wallace (Sophomore)

Aaron Wallace has finally rejoined the team after missing the spring due to an academic issue, and he will factor into this competition big time. He saw time in all 13 games last season and was credited with 4.5 sacks in very limited playing time. Wallace may have the most raw talent of the three players in contention, but he will be far behind after missing the whole spring. If he stayed in shape and can learn the playbook quickly, he has a legitimate shot at becoming the starting LB at some point this season.

2. Deon Hollins (Sophomore)

Deon Hollins saw action in 11 games in 2013 and was credited with 7 tackles and 1 tackle for loss. He saw very little time in each game, but still showed some flashes of being around the ball and being able to play. Hollins was a top prospect coming out of high school, where he was also an All-American, so the kid can play. If he has a great training camp he may be able to earn that #1 spot on the depth chart, but he should see a lot more playing time than he did last year either way.

1. Kenny Orjioke (Junior)

Kenny Orjioke is the favorite to start the season as the #1 LB on the depth chart. He saw action in all 13 games in 2013 and was credited with 13 tackles and 2 sacks despite seeing little time in each of those games. Orjioke was voted the most improved player on special teams at last year’s team banquet, and the team hopes that will give him greater confidence on the defensive side of the ball this season. It is worth noting that Orjioke missed the spring game for undisclosed reasons, but as long as this is nothing serious, UCLA fans should expect a nice season in 2014.

No coach, fan, or player should expect any one of these three players to come in this season and perform as well as Anthony Barr did the last two years. However, all three of these players have a stronger linebacker pedigree than Anthony Barr did when he started playing the position, so fans and coaches should be excited about what Jim Mora and his staff can do with this group of guys.

 

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