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UCLA football spring practice on Tuesday, April 2, 2024.  
(Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)
UCLA football spring practice on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)
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LOS ANGELES — New UCLA football coach DeShaun Foster has his first opportunity to explore the transfer portal as the spring transfer window officially opened on Tuesday.

The Bruins had already acquired talent from the transfer portal this offseason, such as receiver Rico Flores Jr. and defensive end Jacob Busic, during the early period.

Foster remains transparent about his plans to be active during the 15-day window with specific needs he’ll pursue to help bolster the roster.

“I’m looking for bigs on both sides of the ball. O-lineman. D-lineman. Tight end or maybe a running back. A couple of DBs. Maybe a quarterback,” Foster said on Saturday. “It just depends. I have six positions I want to address and then best available after that.”

Arkansas transfer Andrew Chamblee will visit the Bruins on Wednesday, according to his agent Darren Wilson. Chamblee shared on social media that he received an offer from UCLA on Tuesday morning. The offensive tackle started eight of 12 games for the Razorbacks in 2023.

Two of the other positions Foster mentioned were further impacted last week after he confirmed with reporters on Tuesday morning that tight end Hudson Habermehl and running back Troy Leigber suffered torn ACLs. Both injuries occurred during Saturday’s practice. Linebacker Donavyn Pellot also suffered the same injury early last week.

The longtime running backs coach only lost three notable players to the portal since he was hired as the program’s coach in February but the roster needs to be replenished. Several players left earlier in the offseason due to the NFL draft, graduation and the transfer portal under previous head coach Chip Kelly.

Safeties Bryan Addison, K.J. Wallace II and Ramon Henderson transferred in earlier this offseason and have already seen first and second-team reps during the first two weeks of spring camp.

A cornerback is still needed after losing John Humphrey, along with safety Kamari Ramsey, to USC along with former Bruins defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn in late December.

Humphrey started 11 of 12 games and recorded interceptions against Coastal Carolina and Oregon State.

Foster had an immediate success rate with all of the players he inherited on the roster and did not exercise the exclusive 30-day transfer window made available by the NCAA following Kelly’s departure on February 9.

Wide receiver Kyle Ford was the first to transfer after announcing his decision to enter the portal on March 15 in a post on social media.

Edge rusher/linebacker Choé Bryant-Strother and backup quarterback Collin Schlee left the program earlier this month.

Bryant-Strother was the only returning player listed on the spring roster who had played edge rusher in a UCLA uniform.

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

Laiatu Latu, Gabriel and Grayson Murphy helped the Bruins finish the 2023 season as a top 10 defense, allowing 301.5 yards per game. The defensive line helped anchored a defense that ranked second in the nation against the run, allowing just 80.5 yards per game.

Their decision to declare for the 2024 NFL draft left a sizable void at the position. Carl Jones Jr. and Jake Heimlicher had exhausted all of their college eligibility, providing an additional blow to the Bruins’ depth.

“We lost five guys on the outside edge,” defensive coordinator Ikaika Malloe said. “In terms of replacing them, I won’t. I can’t. So we have to manufacture different ways of getting pressure differently, so we are working on that.”

It will be up to Foster and the staff to limit the number of current players from deciding to test the portal and explore their options while UCLA’s director of player personnel Stacey Ford and the recruiting staff see what’s available for them to bring in.

There were no significant absences throughout last week’s spring practices. Foster said he isn’t expecting to lose many players but continues to encourage them to stop by his office to have a discussion before making any decisions on their future.

Stacey Ford has quickly served as the face of the Bruins’ overhauled recruiting effort after being hired from Washington State in March. The feedback on the recruiting efforts has been positive by making an early impression on the families of local high school area recruits who have visited the campus this spring.

The Bruins secured two of their four commits for the 2025 class last week.

“I love everything that the recruiting staff is doing,” Foster said. “That’s (the staff) getting a lot of these kids out here – multiple times. We’re having kids come back every weekend, three weeks in a row. So we’re charting all of this stuff.

“I appreciate what they’re doing for us, and I’m just excited that we’re able to put a product out here that people want to come see and be a part of.”

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