4. DE Rick Wade, RS Junior, 6’6” 275
2017 Season Statistics: 11 Games (5 Starts), 33 Tackles, 5 TFLs, 1 Sack
Aside from LB Keisean Lucier South (25 games played), Wade is the most experienced pass rusher on UCLA’s roster with 23 games played and 5 starts, including the final 3 games of the 2017 season. He improved from 3 TFLs in 2016 to 5 TFLs in 2017. Wade flashed potential early in the season with 4 of his 5 TFLs coming in the first 5 games. However, after suffering a knee injury against Arizona, he missed the following two games against Oregon and Washington respectively. With just one TFL in the final 5 games of the season, it is plausible that his knee injury against Arizona hindered his progress. Had he been injury free and continued his pace, Wade would have ended the season with 10.5 TFLs which would have led the team. I believe Wade will continue to trend up, seeing players similar to his size thrive in Chip Kelly’s defense at Oregon. An example of such a player is former Oregon standout and current 49ers DE Deforest Buckner, who was 6’7” and 290 pounds compared to a lighter 6’6” and 275 pounds in Wade. After having a combined 6 TFLs in his first 2 years at Oregon, Buckner exploded onto the scene with a combined 30 TFLs in his final 2 seasons. While it may seem improbable that Wade has the same dramatic increase in production as Buckner, it is completely feasible we see an uptick in production due to his experience, size, and Chip Kelly’s defensive scheme.