The Bruins are more than a week away from playing in a real game, but they have already lost their lead defensive signal caller for the year.
UCLA football coach Chip Kelly informed the media Sunday morning that senior linebacker Josh Woods suffered a knee injury in practice Thursday that will sideline him for the entire 2018 season.
Sophomore linebacker Rahyme Johnson said Woods sustained the injury when he attempted to recover a fumble and a teammate landed on his leg.
“I saw the whole play,” Johnson said. “I was on the other side and as soon as it happened, the only thing I thought was, ‘Man get up, (No.) 2, get up, get up.’”
Woods, who was slated to take over on-field play calling duties for UCLA this season, missed the last six games of the 2017 season with a shoulder injury, as well as spring practice in March.
Last week, Woods expressed how excited he was to be back on the field practicing with his teammates, making the injury that much harder for the team to swallow.
“It’s kind of hard to explain the feeling,” said redshirt sophomore linebacker Leni Toailoa. “It hurts because you’ve seen how hard he worked all offseason and everybody was thinking this was going to be his year.”
Junior linebacker Krys Barnes is expected to step into Woods’ role as the lead middle linebacker, but Kelly said the Bruins have their work cut out for them in figuring out what to do about the second middle linebacker position.
“(Woods is) everything you want in a football player and that will be a big hole for us to try to replace because we don’t have a lot of depth at that position to begin with,” Kelly said.
Candidates to step into the now-open role include Toailoa, redshirt junior Tyree Thompson and freshman Bo Calvert. However, Kelly said he and his coaching staff will continue to explore every possible option.
“We’re just trying to take a look at what we have from a depth standpoint there,” Kelly said. “I feel like we have a few guys at outside linebacker right now and we will take a look at a couple guys at inside linebacker to see how to handle the loss of (Woods).”
Despite the absence of Woods on the field, Johnson said he believes in the other team leaders’ ability to keep the team on the right track moving forward.
“We’ve got some great leaders,” Johnson said. “As long as those guys keep leading and keep playing ball, I feel like we’ll be good.”