May 19, 2024

Bruno Fina was on the move even before he entered the transfer portal Tuesday.

In a switch that might have foreshadowed a diminished role, UCLA’s starting left tackle from last season was playing right guard last week at a time when the Bruins were on the verge of bringing in another veteran tackle and guard.

The team has received commitments from Reuben Unije, who started 11 games last season at right tackle for Houston, and Alani Makihele, a former starting guard at Nevada Las Vegas, as part of its efforts to reinforce an offensive line that was a weakness last season. It’s possible that both newcomers could start next season, leaving Fina’s status in doubt.

Fina started all 13 games last season for an offensive line that helped the Bruins rush for a Pac-12-best 197.9 yards per game while struggling in pass protection. UCLA gave up 42 sacks, ranking No. 113 out of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

While three Bruins — defensive tackle Jay Toia, running back Keegan Jones and guard Spencer Holstege — remained with the team after entering the transfer portal, coach DeShaun Foster suggested that Fina probably was headed elsewhere after entering the portal during the final day of the spring window.

“Good player, I support him,” said Foster, who appears to have lost another lineman after reserve Benjamin Roy Jr. entered the transfer portal Monday.

Jaylan Jeffers was working at left tackle Tuesday in Fina’s absence, accompanied by guards Holstege and Tavake Tuikolovatu, center Josh Carlin and right tackle Garrett DiGiorgio. That lineup could look vastly different by the time UCLA opens its season at Hawaii on Aug. 31.

Another addition

With UCLA down to just a couple of scholarship tight ends after Hudson Habermehl’s season-ending knee injury, the team picked up a much-needed addition at the position with the commitment of Bryce Pierre.

A native of Rancho Cucamonga, the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Pierre made 17 catches for 139 yards last season at Arizona State after previous stops at Liberty and Mt. San Antonio College. He has one more season of eligibility.

Back to the future

Safety Bryan Addison can lay claim to an unusual distinction.

He was part of coach Chip Kelly’s first UCLA recruiting class in 2018 … as well as successor in Foster’s first transfer class six years later.

“Honestly, it’s so surreal,” said Addison, who confirmed he’s been granted a rare seventh year of eligibility after spending the previous six seasons at Oregon. “I’ve had dreams of playing for UCLA since I was a kid. To finally be here and be on campus and actually be admitted into the school is actually a blessing.”

Addison was set to play for UCLA during Kelly’s first season after starring at Gardena Serra High before uncertainty regarding an issue with a standardized test score prompted the Bruins to release him from his scholarship. He headed to Oregon, making the transition from wide receiver to defensive back in 2020 before becoming a regular part of the Ducks’ rotation.

After playing in only four games last season, Addison said, he spoke with Oregon coach Dan Lanning about his future.

“He didn’t really see me having a future at University of Oregon like I saw myself,” Addison said, “so I just thought it was best for myself to step away from the team during that time, you know, and try getting another year back in football.”

UCLA coach DeShaun Foster talks with defensive back DJ Justice (19), K.J. Wallace II (7) and Bryan Addison (4).

UCLA coach DeShaun Foster talks with defensive back DJ Justice (19), K.J. Wallace II (7) and Bryan Addison (4) during the spring showcase at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.

(Meg Oliphant / Los Angeles Times)

Addison said a slew of schools courted him but didn’t stand much of a chance given that his original preference held up.

“I felt like I wanted to go where the heart was,” Addison said. “Like, home was where UCLA was at, so that’s where I wanted to be at.”

Unless the Bruins bring in additional transfers, Addison projects as a starter alongside fellow safety Ramon Henderson.

Etc.

Foster said he would not hold the final spring practice as scheduled Thursday, instead opting for a team bonding experience. It might have helped that the Bruins were ahead of schedule in their installation of new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s West Coast offense. “Coach Bieniemy was in love with how well these kids were grasping the offense,” Foster said. “So he was able to keep going and install more.” Of course, that didn’t mean it was perfect. When the receivers were not lined up properly Tuesday, Bieniemy bellowed about getting players out there who knew what they were doing. … Foster mentioned wide receiver Kwazi Gilmer and cornerback Jamir Benjamin as pleasant surprises among the freshmen.

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