2014 UCLA Preview: What You Need To Know
UCLA LB Myles Jack
Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About UCLA (Getty Images)
2014 UCLA Preview
What You Need To Know...
2014 Depth Chart & Unit Rankings To Come This Summer
What You Need To Know About The Offense: Coordinator Noel Mazzone continues to do an outstanding job with the Bruins, but he's looking for more. More pop. And more consistency, especially when facing the better teams on the schedule. Remember, when the 2013 season took a turn for the worse last October, the offense scored just 24 points in back-to-back losses to Stanford and Oregon. The good news for Mazzone is that Heisman contender Brett Hundley is back to engineer the offense from quarterback. The concern? Hundley is surrounded by plenty of good players, but no slam-dunk All-Pac-12 performers. Yeah, there's a lot of depth at running back and wide receiver, but is there a true No. 1? Jordan James and Devin Fuller, respectively, are among the Bruins vying for the honor. In the trenches, UCLA must do a better job of protecting Hundley. The O-line is chock full of budding blockers, all of whom are looking to mesh into a cohesive unit before the opener at Virginia.
What You Need To Know About The Defense: Lou Spanos left for a job with the Tennessee Titans, creating an opportunity for Jeff Ulbrich to be promoted. Ulbrich inherits a very talented defensive unit, but one that won't be without its issues. The biggest concern in Westwood will be retooling a pass rush that's going to miss linemen Cassius Marsh and Keenan Graham and All-American OLB Anthony Barr. It's the latter graduations that make oft-injured DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa and up-and-coming OLB Kenny Orjioke so instrumental to the unit's success in 2014. The balance of the front seven ought to be dynamite, led by linebackers Myles Jack and Eric Kendricks and rising, full-sized linemen Eddie Vanderdoes and Ellis McCarthy. Keep an eye on the secondary, in particular, which brings back all of last year's starters. The corner tandem of Fabian Moreau and Ishmael Adams, anonymous today, will drive quarterbacks nuts in the fall. The Bruins have recruited extremely well in recent years, and it'll be reflected in Ulbrich's first D.
Players You Need To Know
1. QB Brett Hundley, Jr.
After taking a step in the right direction as a sophomore, Hundley is hoping to leap forward in 2013. He had a solid all-around season as the face of the program, earning honorable mention All-Pac-12. Through the air, he completed 248-of-371 passes for 3,071 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine picks. And in true dual-threat fashion, the 6-3, 227-pounder lowered his shoulders for a team-high 748 yards and 11 scores on the ground. Still, he struggled in the Bruins' three losses to Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State by throwing more picks than touchdowns in those games. To be the best, Hundley will need to beat the best in 2014.
2. LB Myles Jack, Soph.
And to think, he's just getting started in his development. Jack authored one of the best debuts ever for a Bruin, going from coveted recruit to household name faster than anyone expected. In an incredible testament to his versatility, maturity and athleticism, he became the league's first player ever named Freshman of the Year on both offense and defense. The 6-1, 230-pound Jack is a linebacker by trade, finishing fifth on the team with 75 tackles, seven stops for loss, two picks, 11 pass breakups and a pair of fumble recoveries. However, he also answered the call when UCLA got thin in the backfield, rushing 38 times for 267 yards and seven touchdowns.
3. LB Eric Kendricks, Sr.
Kendricks' quest for a level of credit that matches his production will continue in 2014. The senior is one of the more underrated linebackers in the country, which will likely be the case again since he's now living in Myles Jack's shadow. Despite making 256 tackles from inside linebacker over the past two seasons, he's yet to elevate above honorable mention All-Pac-12. The 6-0, 230-pound Kendricks attacks opposing ballcarriers like a guided missile, using his closing speed, keen instincts and intensity to make stops from sideline-to-sideline. Accolades or not, he'll again be a cornerstone of the UCLA D.
4. C Jake Brendel, Jr.
On a line that's been marked by youth, inconsistency and instability lately, Brendel has been a rock at the pivot the past two seasons. The 6-4, 285-pound Texan has started all 27 games of his career, while earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 as a freshman and a sophomore. Brendel is perfectly suited to be the quarterback of the front wall; he's smart, stable and respected enough by the program to be named a team captain in just his second season. While there's stiff competition, he's bucking to become the Pac-12's premier center this fall.
5. CB Fabian Moreau, Jr.
Head coach Jim Mora has been around a lot of gifted defensive backs in his time. He thinks Moreau has the potential to rank among the best he's ever coached. The 6-0, 200-pound Floridian is fielding praise from all directions, an unlikely transformation for a player who came to UCLA as an offensive skill position player. Moreau has all of the necessary tools to become a legit lockdown corner, from his long arms and thick frame to the ball skills he honed while playing offense. Best of all, he's continuously building on 2013, when he turned 51 tackles and four pass breakups into All-Pac-12 honorable mention.
6. WR Devin Fuller, Jr.
With Shaq Evans gone, Fuller is ready for his chance to be the Bruins' top receiver this season. He's not a true No. 1, and he'll certainly be sharing touches with the likes of Jordan Payton and Devin Lucien. But Fuller is an emerging star out of the slot, no longer the wide-eyed athlete who arrived as a quarterback. The honorable mention All-Pac-12 pick doubled his rookie production by making 43 catches for 471 yards and four touchdowns. Now, the staff wants to put the 6-0, 198-pounder in more situations that showcase his wheels and his ability to gobble up yards after the catch.
7. DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Sr.
While Odighizuwa may not be the best UCLA defender this season, he certainly is one of the most important. The Bruins need their senior to not only be impactful in the pass rush, but healthy as well. The former five-star recruit sat out all of last season to recover from multiple hip surgeries, derailing what was supposed to be a breakout year. When healthy, Odighizuwa is an explosive and technically-sound 6-3, 270-pounder, who performed in the spring as if he's ready to go on a salary run finale in Westwood.
8. CB Ishmael Adams, Jr.
Adams' dynamic athletic skills began to impact the Bruin defense and special teams a year ago. At his core, he's a playmaker, with the agility, aggression and track speed to compensate for a modest 5-8 and 185-pound frame. As the starting corner in all 13 games, Adams produced 61 tackles, four pass breakups and a team-high four interceptions. He also averaged 35 yards on 10 kickoffs, and burned Arizona State for 234 total return yards last Nov. 23.
9. DE Eddie Vanderdoes, Soph.
Now that Vanderdoes has put down a foundation, he plans to build on it in 2014. The 6-3, 310-pound can't-miss recruit started seven games as a rookie, earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 with 39 stops, 4.5 of which were for minus yards. Quick, powerful and relentless at the point of contact, Vanderdoes has an extremely high ceiling at this level. It's now up to him to smooth out the wrinkles and make last year's 11-tackle effort versus Stanford a more common occurrence this season.
10. S Randall Goforth, Jr.
Goforth has reached the halfway point of his Bruin career as one of the emotional and physical leaders on defense. He's a hard-hitting 5-10, 180-pounder, who helps bring energy and an attitude to the last line of defense. In his first season as a full-timer, Goforth ranked fourth on the team with 78 tackles, while forcing three fumbles and picking off three passes. His 19 stops against Stanford last Oct. 19 were the most by a Bruin in six years.
11. DE Ellis McCarthy, Jr.
The fact that McCarthy might not start for the Bruins speaks to the program's depth and talent in the front seven. He stated eight games in 2013, earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 and the team's Most Improved Defensive Player. The five-star gem from the 2012 class began to hint at his potential with 31 tackles, four stops for loss and a sack. At 6-5 and 330 pounds, McCarthy is an agile run-stuffing brick wall, whose size and strength allow him to contribute on the interior as well.
12. RB Jordon James, Sr.
What might have been? James rushed for more than 100 yards in each of last year's first three games, looking like an able successor to Johnathan Franklin. But an Oct. 3 ankle injury changed the trajectory of his season. James missed most of the year, and rushed for 71 more yards. The Bruins are banking on seeing a reprisal of the 5-9, 196-pounder, who ran with so much purpose and determination last September. Regardless, UCLA could employ a committee that includes sophomore Paul Perkins and junior Steven Manfro.
13. OG Alex Redmond, Soph.
Redmond is one of the central pieces of a youth movement along the O-line that includes up-and-coming tackles Caleb Benenoch and Poasi Moala. Redmond stated all 13 games as a rookie out of Los Alamitos (Calif.) High School to pick up honorable mention All-Pac-12. The 6-5, 300-pound former wrestling champ is a real brawler, with the toughness and physicality that the Bruins want in their blockers. He's in the embryonic stages of a career brimming with possibilities and a chance to perennially earn accolades and widespread attention.
14. S Anthony Jefferson, Sr.
Jefferson has battled back from injuries earlier in his career to become a productive Bruin, who could keep playing on Sundays. His perseverance has been inspirational to his teammates, especially the younger Bruins. In Jefferson's first season as a starter, he was named honorable mention All-Pac-12 for his 89 tackles and pair of picks. At 6-1 and 190 pounds, he has the length to match up well with big receivers, while seeing the entire field from the defensive backfield.
15. TE Thomas Duarte, Soph.
Duarte is set to start at "Y" receiver, UCLA's version of a tight end. At 6-3 and 225 pounds, he's technically an H-back, with the athleticism to explode through the seam of a defense. As a comparison, Duarte is trying to model his game after former North Carolina TE Eric Ebron. The second-year Bruin caught 16 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns to earn honorable mention All-Pac-12. Duarte is on the verge of a breakout year, as he prepares to become one of Brett Hundley's favorite targets.
- 2014 UCLA Preview