UCLA’s Laiatu Latu is back and looking to sack

Less than three years removed from medical retirement, Laiatu Latu has his sights set on being an impact player and helping anchor an experienced UCLA defense.
The edge rusher returns for his second season as a Bruin with lofty goals and the potential to raise his NFL draft stock.
“Last year went great and I had a good time playing,” Latu said. “I had the best time of my life and I want to do it again. I have a lot left to prove.”
Latu transferred to UCLA from Washington in late 2021, after missing two seasons and having to medically retire due to a neck injury.
“His work ethic is the one thing that sets him apart,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said. “He could’ve just accepted what he had and said he couldn’t play, but he worked so hard and he is such a determined guy with all he did while waiting to get the final clearance from the doctors.”
At 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, Latu recorded 10½ sacks last season to finish second in the Pac-12 and eighth in the nation while playing against some of college football’s top quarterbacks, including Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams from USC and passing leader Michael Penix Jr. of Washington.
Latu shared the honor of college football’s comeback player of the year with Penix and Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim.
The UCLA senior won’t be under the radar or hidden on the depth chart this year, having been named to the all-conference preseason first-team defense.
“I want to become a first-team All-American and lead the nation in sacks,” Latu said. “That’s what drives me.”
Latu is striving for 15 or more sacks this season in order to become the sack leader. For what it’s worth, Dave Ball holds the Bruins record with 16½ sacks in 2003.
“I’m just really happy for him,” Kelly said. “He’s an unbelievable competitor that kind of popped out last year, but we’re expecting him to be even more explosive this year because he has a year under his belt. He’s been one of our true leaders on the defensive side.”
Latu was listed as one of CBS NFL draft analyst Chris Trapasso’s 10 best defensive prospects entering the upcoming season.
Quarterback Chase Griffin has been named to the 2023 Wuerffel Trophy watch list. The award is given annually to the player who combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.
Some of Griffin’s previous accolades include being named the NIL Summit’s first NIL Male Athlete of the Year in 2021 and a Wuerffel Trophy nominee and Allstate AFCA Good Works Team nominee in 2022.
Griffin has mastered the ability to be a leader on and off the field during his time at UCLA. He continues to navigate the Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) world with more than 30 deals and appearances on various panels and conferences.
“He’s a really good resource,” Bruins wide receiver Kam Brown said. “If you go to him with a question, he’s going to have an answer for you and tell you how to navigate through that field, which is incredible coming from a player.”
He’s also one of the Bruins’ most well-respected players as a fifth-year senior.
“Our players pick our squad leaders by position. And at the quarterback spot, Chase Griffin got every vote other than his own,” Kelly told SiriusXM Pac-12 Radio. “It says a lot about that group.
“I don’t think Chase is going to be the starter, but they understand that you don’t have to be the starter to be a great leader.”
Griffin’s ability to communicate and network in different fields has earned him the nickname “President” among his teammates.

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