Help wanted sign goes up at edge rusher for UCLA after Choe Bryant-Strother leaves

Navy Midshipmen defensive end Jacob Busic runs forward during a NCAA game against Tulsa
Former Navy defensive end Jacob Busic has been one of UCLA's first-team edge rushers during spring football practices. (Daniel Kucin Jr. / Associated Press)

UCLA’s defense could be living on the edge unless it finds a few good ones.

Edge rusher might be the team’s thinnest position after coach DeShaun Foster confirmed Tuesday that Choe Bryant-Strother had entered the transfer portal, becoming the latest edge rusher to depart.

Laiatu Latu and twins Gabriel and Grayson Murphy have declared for the NFL draft. Carl Jones Jr. and Jake Heimlicher have exhausted their eligibility. Bryant-Strother was the last remaining edge rusher on the roster who had played for the Bruins, logging 38 tackles, four tackles for loss and one sack over four seasons at a variety of positions.

As a graduate transfer, Bryant-Strother does not need to wait for the official opening of the transfer portal on April 15. His departure will prompt Foster to search the portal for reinforcements.

Read more: UCLA opens spring football practice with an emphasis on welcoming fans

“That’s most definitely a portal position,” Foster said, “but we’ve still got to develop the guys that we have and I’m excited to see what they can do this spring.’

In recent practices, converted defensive tackle Devin Aupiu and Navy transfer Jacob Busic have been the first-team edge rushers. Aupiu appeared in two games last season, making one tackle. Busic was an honorable mention selection in the American Athletic Conference in 2022 before being limited to four games last season by a torn biceps.

The primary backups at the position have been freshman Grant Buckey and redshirt junior Joquarri Price. Collectively, the edge rushers struggled to pressure the quarterbacks Tuesday, with linebacker Kain Medrano the only defender consistently reaching the backfield.

Help is on the way. The Bruins have brought in Miami transfer Collins Acheampong, who is expected to return from an unspecified injury by the fall, if not sooner. A former top-100 prospect out of Santa Margarita High, Acheampong did not play in his only season with the Hurricanes and has four years of remaining eligibility.

Read more: Collin Schlee's departure could put UCLA on the clock for another quarterback

Another edge rusher will arrive over the summer. Luke Schuermann, who is trying to make the jump from Division III at Johns Hopkins to the big time in the Big Ten, could compete for a significant role in preseason training camp.

Last year, UCLA’s edge rush was among the best in the nation, helping the team pile up 43 sacks and 105 tackles for loss while alleviating considerable pressure on the rest of the defense.

Now it might be the biggest question on the team.

Parting ways

Ryan Wilkins, a long snapper from Elon who committed to UCLA in January, wrote on the social media platform X that he was back in the transfer portal after the Bruins told him he would not have a spot on the roster.

“Heading into spring ball, I was the 1 on the depth chart at UCLA,” Wilkins wrote. “I received a phone call a few days later informing me that due to a coaching change, I would no longer be on the team.”

Said Foster: “As the head coach, I have the right to go in a different direction in certain situations and that was one of them.”

Foster said that as of now every other committed transfer was expected to join the team.

Fun foods

UCLA’s lavish food spreads that started under coach Chip Kelly have continued under his successor, with one addition.

“He’s kind of allowed us to eat some, I’d say, more tastier foods,” right guard Josh Carlin said of Foster, “because we’re working hard every day and we’re grinding and we’re young, so we kind of burn off those type of foods."

Does that mean the In-N-Out truck pulls up?

“Not that tasty,” Carlin said with a smile. “Just kind of mixing in some carbs and stuff. We had fried mac and cheese balls the other week, which were pretty good. That was new."


The Bruins completed an abbreviated practice Tuesday in warm weather after a lengthy session Saturday prompted Foster to curtail several players’ workload. … Freshman defensive back Kanye Clark has been awarded a scholarship after impressing the coaching staff. “The way he played all last season as a freshman, the way he’s come into camp, the way he worked all during winter,” Foster said. “He has a hard-hat mentality, blue-collar guy. I just appreciate how he went about things and I just wanted to reward him.” … Foster said linebacker Ale Kaho was “getting closer” in his return from the injuries that have sidelined him for most of the last two seasons but did not have a firm timetable.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.