The transition from offense to defense has been easy for UCLA defensive lineman Najee Toran.
“I have always been aggressive my whole career,” Toran said. “Everything has been natural.”
Toran came to UCLA as an offensive lineman last season. He appeared against Virginia in the 2014 opener out of necessity. Jake Brendel was out with a knee injury, forcing Scott Quessenberry to move from guard to center.
Toran started at guard, and didn’t play again the rest of the season. During the off-season he received a call from Coach Jim Mora.
“He asked me if I wanted to go to defense,” Toran said. “I said, ‘Yeah.’ ”
The move has been good so far. Toran has not played on defense since his freshman year at Houston North Shore High, but that seems to be an advantage.
“It’s kind of nice to coach a guy who hasn’t played the defensive line before because he doesn’t have any bad habits,” defensive line coach Angus McClure said. “He has probably had the most improvement we’ve had in the four days so far.”
The move puts Toran in a much less crowded field. The Bruins are deep in offensive linemen. They are looking to build numbers on a defensive front that lost linemen Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Ellis McCarthy.
“There was more opportunity on the defense,” Toran said.
So far, Toran seems to be making the most of that opportunity.
“He’s a ‘ready, aim, fire’ guy,” McClure said. “He’s going to be a tremendous player.”