Caleb Johnson becomes 10th member of UCLA’s defense to enter transfer portal

Bruins linebacker Caleb Johnson returns a pass he intercepted against Louisiana State in September.
Bruins linebacker Caleb Johnson, who has decided to transfer, returns a pass he intercepted against Louisiana State in September.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The transfer portal has been so generous to UCLA, continually providing stars at positions of need, that sometimes it’s difficult to remember there is a flip side.

The Bruins received a harsh reminder Thursday evening when Caleb Johnson, one of their hardest-hitting inside linebackers, announced on Twitter that he had entered the transfer portal

“Thank you UCLA for the opportunity,” tweeted Johnson, who has one season of eligibility remaining. “Thank you to my teammates and coaches and all the fans!”


Johnson’s departure comes after spending a handful of spring practice alongside Darius Muasau, a transfer linebacker from Hawaii who was a candidate to take over as the starter at Johnson’s position.

Johnson had started 17 of 18 games over the last two seasons since his arrival from Fullerton College, leading the team in 2020 with 44 tackles and 5½ sacks while becoming a second-team All-Pac-12 selection by the Associated Press. Last season, Johnson logged 45 tackles and intercepted a pass but did not have any sacks.

With Lincoln Riley taking over at USC, all eyes and interest will be on the Trojans whether or not UCLA coach Chip Kelly and the Bruins can keep up.

April 5, 2022

His departure is another blow to a defense that had already lost five starters: defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia, edge rusher Mitchell Agude, safety Quentin Lake, striker Qwuantrezz Knight and cornerback Jay Shaw.

Johnson becomes the 10th member of the team’s defense to enter the transfer portal, joining Agude; Shaw and fellow defensive backs DJ Warnell and Shamar Martin; linebackers Myles Johnson and AJ Campbell; and defensive linemen Tiaoalii Savea, Tyler Kiehne and John Ward.

The Bruins fortified their defensive depth with the arrival of several transfers, including Muasau, cornerbacks Jaylin Davies (Oregon) and Azizi Hearn (Wyoming), defensive linemen Gary Smith (Duke) and Jacob Sykes (Harvard) and edge rushers Laiatu Latu (Washington) and Grayson and Gabriel Murphy (North Texas).