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2022 UCLA Football Position Preview: Offensive line

UCLA football offensive linemen line up over the ball. The Bruins lost three starters on the offensive front from a season ago. (Kanishka Mehra/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Sam Settleman

Aug. 22, 2022 11:38 a.m.

With the 2022 UCLA football season on the horizon, Daily Bruin Sports will preview the Bruins’ outlook at each position group as the countdown to football begins. Next up, Sports editor Sam Settleman breaks down the offensive line.

Personnel

The offensive line may be the position group with the most question marks for the Bruins.

That’s not because UCLA lacks quality offensive linemen but because there are plenty of permutations of the starting five that could see the field in 2022.

Three of the Bruins’ top five linemen from 2021 won’t be back in the blue and gold this year. Starting tackles Sean Rhyan and Alec Anderson both made the leap to the NFL, while Paul Grattan Jr. exhausted his final year of eligibility last season.

Despite multiple spots being up for grabs, senior Jon Gaines II can most likely be penciled in at one of the guard spots for most of the year. Redshirt senior Sam Marrazzo and senior Duke Clemens should both see a lot of time at center, with the pair touting significant experience at the position.

Redshirt senior Atonio Mafi – a converted defensive lineman – should also get regular work on the interior after playing in all 12 games in 2021 and making three starts at guard. Mafi has earned praise this offseason after dropping 70 pounds since he got to Westwood.

Where the picture becomes less clear, however, is on the outside. Both tackle spots are currently up in the air, and there are several players who can fill those holes.

Redshirt junior Raiqwon O’Neal – a transfer from Rutgers – could be Rhyan’s replacement after starting 21 games over three seasons at left tackle with the Scarlet Knights. On the right side, redshirt freshman Garrett DiGiorgio could get some looks as could another converted defensive lineman in redshirt senior Tyler Manoa.

With plenty of depth at offensive line, UCLA has even more players who could see starting action this year. That being said, the Bruins won’t settle for just five, as coach Chip Kelly has said his goal is an eight-man rotation along the offensive front.

Predictions

It’s true that the Bruins have depth and versatility along the offensive line.

But it’s also true that they lost two tackles that have been rock solid on the outside for the better part of two years, and replacing three starters will be a process that will certainly have its obstacles.

Communication, chemistry and continuity on the offensive line are incredibly important. While the majority of the linemen set to see action this season have game experience in UCLA’s system, they don’t have much experience playing together, and it might take some time for the group to gel before it starts clicking.

That being said, behind Kelly’s run scheme, the Bruins have been able to get the ball going on the ground with relative ease. Some of the deficiencies of UCLA’s offensive line in the early stages of the 2022 season could be masked by the fact that the blue and gold has one of the top running backs in the country in senior Zach Charbonnet and a quarterback that can scramble in senior Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

Don’t expect this offensive line to immediately look as good as last year’s, but don’t expect it to be the Bruins’ downfall either.

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Sam Settleman | Sports editor
Settleman was the 2022-2023 Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and gymnastics beats. He was previously an assistant editor on the gymnastics, women's soccer, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
Settleman was the 2022-2023 Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and gymnastics beats. He was previously an assistant editor on the gymnastics, women's soccer, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
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