UCLA ranked at #10 may be a bit of a stretch, but I like them here for a couple of reasons. One reason is the return and commitment of Jim Mora. Mora is an experienced NFL coach that works well at the college level. He is a fantastic recruiter, seems to be tireless and enthusiastic. He reminds a little bit of old cross town rival coach, Pete Carroll.
It may take another year or even more to get this program back to where they want to be, but I believe he will get it done. UCLA played a record 17 true freshmen a year ago and all of those guys are back with a little maturity and experience under their belts.
Another reason I like the Bruins here, is the return of Junior to be QB Brett Hundley (6-3,225)
Hundley is another QB along the lines of Marcus Mariota, Nick Marshall, Trevor Knight and others who are equally strong at passing and running.
Hundley passed for over 3000 yards last season and 24 TDs and ran for 748 more yards and 11 more TDs. In other words, he is really good. Like Mariota, he surprised some by returning to college football for another year. I would like to thank them both for their contribution to this great game.
The nation’s #1 dual threat QB in the 2013 class recruiting signed with UCLA, Asiantii Woulward (6-3,205) from Winter Park, Florida. Woulward redshirted last season, but should be Hundley’s main back up this season.He looks very similar to a young Brett Hundley, so UCLA should not miss a beat next season.
Sophomore Jerry Neuheisal (6-1,190) obviously the son of Rick the former Bruin and long time college coach, was the main back up at QB in 2013. Jerry saw limited action a year ago and threw for 124 yards.
Other options at QB could be fellow sophomore Mike Fafaul (6-1,200) who was a perfect 4 for 4 in passing a year ago for 47 yards.
3 star recruit out of Houston, Texas, Aaron Sharp (6-3,190) will probably need a redshirt year to develop, plus Woulward is available now.
Offensive line last season was a disaster for the Bruins in 2013. RT Torian White (6-5,290) went down with a broken ankle and the other tackle, Simon Goines (6-6,325) went down with a broken leg. LG Xavier Su’a-filo (6-3,305) moved over to LT. Malcolm Bunche (6-7,325) is a graduate transfer from Miami that could challenge for either tackle spot.
True freshman Scott Quessenberry (6-3,290) took over LG. True freshman Caleb Benonech (6-5,320) took the RT position. Yet another true freshman, Alex Redmond (6-5,305) was already in the lineup at RG. So, by year’s end, the Bruins were starting 3 true freshmen in the OL. That’s not usually the best situation even if these guys are sensational which they do appear to be. Ben Wysocki (6-4,280) played OG, but was forced to play RT against USC when Benonech was ejected.
Center Jake Brendel (6-4,285) is a sophomore from Plano, Texas. By year’s end, UCLA had a Junior, and a sophomore and 3 true freshmen playing in their offensive line.
Impressed? I am. How do you go 10-3 with 3 true freshmen playing in your offensive line?
In 2014, they will have all those guys back, plus Torian White and Simon Goines were sophomores and they should be back from injury. The future is very bright for the Bruins offensive line.
I like what Jim Mora is doing with this program and a good example of that is in recruiting. They are in the thick of things in talent rich Southern California and battling USC for the top guys there. Plus, they are hitting the entire nation for other quality players. They are hitting Texas and Louisiana really hard and all over the South.
Mora has yet to win anything at the college level, but I feel he will be soon.
It’s not usually a good thing when your QB is your leading rusher like Hundley was a year ago for UCLA. But, like the OL, the RBs were hit hard by the injury bug in 2013.
Jordan James (5-9,195) rushed for 534 yards last season and returns for his senior year.
Paul Perkins (5-10,195) was a freshman a year ago and is fast and shifty. He rushed for 573 yards and 6 TDs. Myles Jack (6-1,225) played both ways last year and was the offensive and defensive Freshman of the year. He was the Bruin short yardage specialist and rushed for 267 yards and 7 TDs. He is really good at LB and I tend to believe the coaches will want him to concentrate on that side of the ball this season.
Steven Manfro (5-9,190) should be back in the mix after rushing for over 100 yards.
Nathan Starks (5-11,200) is a 4 star recruit out of Colorado that could jump right into the middle of things right away.
Right now, the Bruins have no super stars at RB unless Starks is that guy. Somebody will need to step up and be that guy this season to take some pressure off of Hundley.
At WR, UCLA loses big play guy, Shaquelle Evans. But, they do return the next best thing with Devin Fuller (5-11,195) and his 43 catches for 471 yards and 4 TDs. They also return Jordan Payton (6-1,215) with his 38 receptions and Devin Lucien (6-0,185) who led the entire team in yards per catch with 17.8.
Thomas Duarte (6-3,220), Darren Andrews (5-10,180), Logan Sweet (6-0,190) and Jalen Ortiz (5-7,170) were all freshmen that saw playing time a year ago. Eldridge Massington (6-1,205) was a heralded recruit out of Texas last season and redshirted.
Austin Roberts (6-2,215) is their top incoming recruit and he could possibly play right away. Plus, 3 star recruit Alex Van Dyke (6-4,200) is not rated that highly but he has that size that makes him a good target.
UCLA defense took huge hits with the loss of super man LB Anthony Barr, DE Cassius Marsh, and LB Jordan Zumwalt.
They do return, however, their entire secondary and Pac 12 freshman of the year Myles Jack at LB and leading tackler Eric Kendricks and DE Ellis McCarthy (6-4,330).
Looks like McCarthy at one end and sophomore coming off of an outstanding freshman year, Eddie Vanderdoes (6-4,305)
Probably Ken Clark (6-2,305) at the nose. UCLA has some talented recruits coming in such as Ainuu Taua (6-0,295) and Matt Dickerson (6-5,275).
Myles Jack and Eric Kendricks (6-0,230) take up 2 LB spots, Jack at OLB and Kendricks at ILB.
Ryan Hofmeister (6-0,225) should take the other ILB position while Kenny Orijioke (6-4,240) from Marietta, Georgia should claim the other OLB spot.
Depth is a problem in the front 7. But, look for incoming freshmen Dwight Williams (6-0,200) and Zach Whitley Jr (6-2,220) Kenny Young (6-1,210) and Cameron Griffin (6-3,210) to all be ready to play.
The entire defensive backfield returns and is ready to take it to another level.
CBs Fabian Moreau ( 6-0,190) and Ishmael Adams (5-8,190)
Safeties Anthony Jefferson (6-1,185) and Randall Goforth (5-10,190). All of them were in the top 10 of the team’s tacklers and Adams had 4 INTs.
To make things better, the Bruins landed top CB prospect, Adarius Pickett (6-0,185).
UCLA might be ranked a couple of spots too high for this season. Their offense is going to be pretty good because of Hundley and a now seasoned offensive line.
Defense is a little more questionable after losing some big stars.
They will be challenged early by a Texas with new coach Charlie Strong in Arlington, Texas. Arizona State early in Tempe is another tough challenge. Plus, Oregon, USC and Stanford looming large. Could either be a tough season for the Bruins or they could come through with flying colors.