UCLA's X-Man has returned after some trying experiences
LOS ANGELES--Ask Xavier Su'a-Filo--the best offensive line prospect to enter the UCLA program in over a decade--how hard it was for him to have been on the other side of the country serving an LDS mission, while his Bruins teammates went 4-8 and 6-8 and the 21-year-old crinkles his nose and takes a deep breath.
Su'a-Filo, who was sent to Tallahassee, Fla. to do his mission work after a freshman season where he started all 13 games at left tackle for the Bruins in 2009 and earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 status, explains that though the weekly emails from his dad he was learning what was going on with his old team. After all, it had been a tumultuous two years around Westwood. The coaches who had recruited him from Utah out to UCLA would eventually get fired towards the end of the 2011 season.
Su'a-Filo always planned on coming back to UCLA--even through the coaching change after Rick Neuheisel was fired. "I was only going to transfer if UCLA didn't want me back," he said.
The new Bruin staff is thrilled to have him. He figures to anchor what has been a very shaky O-line. In 2011, UCLA was 88th in scoring offense. Su'a-Filo stepped back into his familiar left tackle spot Tuesday afternoon as the team adjusts to a new scheme that will use a more up-tempo, no-huddle approach with completely different terminology. Getting his conditioning back is going to take some time, Su'a-Filo realizes. He did get to play a little basketball, but not much else. His weight, while on the mission, fluctuated between 285 and 320.
"He looked really good, especially for Day One," new Bruin offensive line coach Adrian Klemm said after UCLA's first spring practice Tuesday night. "He is just so gifted an athlete for someone his size. He has great feet and balance and can really bend. There was some rust there, but it was the rust you'd expect someone to have from not playing from the end of the last season to spring ball, not the type of rust you'd from two years."
Almost as happy as UCLA is to get its left tackle back.
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