UCLA’s defense must adjust after being hit by another transfer

18 Apr 2022 | 08:04

LOS ANGELES – Last week, UCLA head coach Chip Kelly was asked during his first media session about his views on the transfer portal – and he couldn’t be more supportive of the Players choose where they want to play.

“I love it,” Kelly said. “Children should have choices. Be where you want to be. Some kids don’t know where they want to be. They are moving around. You have kids who go twice, three times, four times. I hope the kids will find one and end up where they really want to, and it suits them and that’s a positive thing. “

The transfer portal has been active against Kelly and UCLA this week, with two-year starting supporter Caleb Johnson stepping in the gate and dealing another blow to a defensive unit that has fallen five starts from last season. .

“Thank you UCLA for the opportunity,” Johnson said on Twitter Thursday. “Thanks to my teammates, coaches and all the fans!”

Johnson, a Murrieta native who moved to UCLA after a season at Texas and earned an immediate start, will pack his bags for a second time. The super senior has led UCLA with 5.5 tackles and 44 tackles in 2020, but has had no sackings last season in 10 starts at a domestic defender. He had 45 tackles last season, 28 of which were solo.

Safety Stephan Blaylock said Johnson’s transfer was “a small shock.”

“Because of the relationship you have with your teammates – whatever’s going on around the facility, you just have to think, ‘Okay, brothers can come together and try to keep the family. together,’ Blaylock said. “But things happen. Everyone has to leave and separate. At the end of the day, he will still be our brother.”

Johnson was in spring training through Thursday. Darius Muasau, a transfer central defender from Hawai’i who had seven sieges, five forced fumbles and 108 tackles last season, is an option to take his place. Johnson and represented Johnson at spring practice.

The sudden departure of one of the team’s most hardworking defenders highlights the ups and downs of the transfer portal. UCLA has been a beneficiary of ready-to-play transfers from the portal, including a rerun of Zach Charbonnet from Michigan last season.

This year, Kelly added a number of defensive transfers who turned heads in the springtime game, including full-backs Azizi Hearn from Wyoming and Grayson and Gabriel Murphy, the wingers from North Texas.

But UCLA has also lost a number of defensive starters to the portal, including quarterback Mitchell Agude, full-back Jay Shaw and now Johnson.