Skip to main content

After weeks of little to no outgoing movement, a key young member of the Bruins’ front seven has entered the transfer portal.

Freshman defensive lineman Tiaoalii Savea entered the transfer portal Thursday night after only one season with UCLA football, as first reported by On3 Sports. The Desert Pines High School (NV) product has three years of eligibility remaining.

The Bruins have now had 12 players enter the portal, and Savea is the ninth who is from out of state. Quarterback Parker McQuarrie is from New Hampshire, edge rusher Myles Jackson in from Georgia, defensive lineman AJ Campbell is from Ohio, punter Luke Akers is from Tennessee, safety DJ Warnell is from Texas, defensive lineman Tyler Kiehne is from New Meixco, offensive lineman Beau Taylor is from Nevada and receiver Keontez Lewis is from Illinois. Cornerback Shamar Martin, quarterback Kajiya Hollawayne and defensive lineman John Ward are all from California.

Savea was never listed on the team’s official two-deep depth chart for any of the 10 games he played in, but he was able to rack up seven tackles, two quarterback hurries and one pass breakup on the season. In the final game of the year versus Cal, the 6-foot-4 defensive tackle was able to accumulate a season-high three solo tackles.

As a recruit, UCLA battled mainly with Nebraska and USC for the highly-touted Nevada prospect's commitment. Ranked as a four-star recruit by the 247Sports Composite, ESPN and Rivals, Savea was one of the gems of the Bruins’ 2021 class.

ESPN had Savea listed as the No. 1 player overall in Nevada, while the 247Sports Composite and Rivals had him listed at No. 3 and No. 4 in the state, respectively. The highest overall ranking Savea earned in the 2021 recruiting class was No. 126 by ESPN.

In the Bruins’ 18-player 2021 recruiting class, Savea was both the No. 1 player and No. 1 defensive lineman to join the program, with Quintin Somerville coming in just behind at No. 2 for both categories. Jay Toia joined the fray late as a transfer as well, rounding out a headlining class for position coach Johnny Nansen.

Nansen was the defensive line coach at UCLA before taking the defensive coordinator job at Arizona earlier this offseason. His departure could have had some sway over Savea reconsidering his options for the future.

The Bruins hired former UNLV and USC defensive line coach Chad Kauha’aha’a as their new defensive line coach on Dec. 24, and he will immediately have to oversee a big transition year at his position.

Otito Ogbonnia is leaving UCLA’s defensive line in favor of the NFL Draft and Datona Jackson is out of eligibility. That leaves Odua Isibor, Tyler Manoa and Martin Andrus Jr. as the remaining veterans, with Toia and Somerville also returning. There are no incoming freshmen on the defensive line.

Savea joins Jackson, Campbell, Kiehne and Ward as front seven players who have entered the transfer portal so far this offseason. Campbell and Kiehne have already found their new destinations in Kent State and New Mexico, respectively, and Jackson is in the midst of his campus visits.

Since UCLA only officially started its offseason this week, there is still the possibility that more players enter the transfer portal or that players return to the program as well.

The technical rules in terms of scholarships and transfers are complicated enough in a normal year, but with super seniors still a thing and COVID-19 eligibility extensions being granted across the country, it gets even more messy. Essentially, schools are allowed to add up to 25 new scholarship players each cycle, but that number goes up for every outgoing transfer.

That figure maxes out at 32, however, and with 12 players in the transfer portal, the Bruins are far past the point where they cannot replace additional departures should any more players declare their intentions to leave the program.

Catch up on all the transfer market news related to UCLA at All Bruins' transfer portal tracker.

Follow Royer on Twitter at @thebenroyer
Follow All Bruins on Twitter at @SI_AllBruins
Like All Bruins on Facebook at @SI.AllBruins
Subscribe to All Bruins on YouTube

Read more UCLA stories: UCLA Bruins on Sports Illustrated
Read more UCLA football stories: UCLA Football on Sports Illustrated