April 21, 2024
UCLA linebacker Joquarri Price, right, tackles Washington's Giles Jackson during a game in October 2021.

UCLA linebacker Joquarri Price, right, tackles Washington’s Giles Jackson during a game in October 2021.

(Steph Chambers / Getty Images)

UCLA’s defense could be living on the edge without Laiatu Latu and twins Grayson and Gabriel Murphy.

Those three edge rushers combined for 26 sacks last season while making things considerably easier for every player around them.

Their departures mean that new defensive coordinator Ikaika Malloe must find some production out of far less heralded players. Candidates to provide the necessary quarterback pressure include Choe Bryant-Strother, Joquarri Price and a host of newcomers.

The interior defensive line should be a strength with starters Jay Toia and Keanu Williams back. The linebacking corps is deep and experienced with Kain Medrano, Oluwafemi Oladejo, JonJon Vaughns and possibly Ale Kaho all returning.

There’s some serious turnover in the secondary, where cornerback Jaylin Davies is the only full-time starter returning. Cornerback Devin Kirkwood will be seeking more consistency after an up-and-down season that resulted in a demotion to a reserve role.

The starting safety spots are up for grabs, with Notre Dame transfer Ramon Henderson and Oregon transfer Bryan Addison both strong candidates to take those roles provided that Addison is granted a rare seventh season of eligibility.

Georgia Tech transfer K.J. Wallace and redshirt junior D.J. Justice will likely be the top nickel backs.

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