UCLA Football: Top 5 Returning Players
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There are few constants in the game of football. Levels of surprise and atypical patterns often can characterize not only a game, but even a season for some football teams.
In terms of the UCLA Bruins football team, they should be able to rely on solid play from at least five of their best athletes.
Let's take a look at the five "constants" for the football team this upcoming season...
TE Joe Fauria
TE Joe Fauria
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Tight end Joe Fauria will be the biggest receiving threat on the roster this upcoming season.
At 6'7", he's a walking mismatch for any defender. One would surmise that a man that size might "lumber" down the field.
While not conjuring up ideas of a graceful ballerina, Fauria does have very good athleticism for his stature.
Perhaps the most impressive facet of Fauria's game is his body control. He does an outstanding job at "boxing out" defenders for a jump ball like a power forward would for a rebound.
He uses his massive hands to pluck the ball out of the air, and he'll be an obvious candidate for fades and jump balls during time in the red zone.
The big tight end is also the leading returning receiver for the Bruins, totaling 39 catches for 481 yards and six touchdowns this past season.
It it imperative that Fauria will be utilized by the UCLA quarterback (whomever that may be). His overall potential is sky high, and his ability to streak down the heart of the field should be exploited often against slower linebackers and smaller safeties.
The Notre Dame transfer is projected as the top tight end in the 2013 NFL draft class.
RB Johnathan Franklin
The Dorsey High School product Franklin.
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Without a doubt, Johnathan Franklin will be the focal point for the offense this upcoming season.
If there's such thing as a "sure thing" in the Bruin offense, Franklin is it. The Dorsey High School product has led the Bruins in rushing the past two seasons.
Last year, he accrued 976 yards and ran for a career-best 5.9 yards per carry. Now being a senior, he hopes to parlay his past success into some major accolades in the upcoming year.
The value Franklin holds stretches past the on-the-field realm; he's a true leader, in every sense of the word.
Franklin demonstrates an unabated drive to succeed on a daily basis. Not only is Franklin a humble athlete, but he's also very positive. His perpetual display of leadership qualities will go a long way in helping this relatively young roster.
If Franklin can curtail a fumbling problem, he should be in line for a big senior season, statistically speaking.
MLB Eric Kendricks
Courtesy of Scout.com
During his first year of football on the collegiate level, Eric Kendricks was second on the team in both tackles (76) and sacks (2.0).
The astonishing thing is that he accomplished those feats in a reserve role.
Kendricks is truly reminiscent of a heat-seeking missile on the field. He seemingly always plays with great enthusiasm and effort.
Linebackers coach and former NFL player Jeff Ulbrich has very high hopes for Kendricks and his possible future.
One would think that the tutelage of a long-time NFL player will go a long way in the development of Kendricks. He truly does have the potential to be a standout on the next level.
As a first-time starter this upcoming season, he'll look to build upon his stellar freshman campaign and fortify himself as a force in the Pac-12.
Kendricks comes from great bloodlines when it comes to football. His father, Marvin, was a standout running back at UCLA, leading the Bruins in rushing twice during his career (1970-71).
FS Tevin McDonald
The Fresno native McDonald intercepting a pass.
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Bruin fans better pay attention, because free safety Tevin McDonald is a budding star.
McDonald was inserted into the starting lineup last season due to an injury to then-starter Tony Dye, and he never looked back.
Against Cal, McDonald tied a school record with three interceptions in the contest. He displayed wonderful instincts, with the ability to comprehend the opposition's offense and make the appropriate adjustments when the ball was in the air.
McDonald was recognized for his brilliance when he was named a freshman All-American first-team selection by both Yahoo! Sports and cbssports.com
Much like Kendricks, McDonald also comes from great bloodlines.
Tevin's father, Tim, was a star at crosstown rival USC before becoming an All-Pro safety with the San Francisco 49ers. His brother, T.J., is a very highly regarded safety prospect currently playing at USC.
Fortunately for Bruin fans, Tevin McDonald chose to forge his own path, leading him to Westwood.
McDonald has also gotten very high praise from head coach Jim L. Mora (starting at the 3:00 minute mark).
CB Sheldon Price
CB Sheldon Price
Senior cornerback Sheldon Price resembles a praying mantis out on the field with his extremely long arms and legs.
At 6'2", he utilizes his long arms to break up passes with regularity, and his long strides allow him to stay with receivers running deep patterns.
Price is the rare four-year starter, manning the cornerback position since he was a true freshman. Though having a slight frame, he more than makes up for it with his competitiveness and savvy.
The Bruins expect Price to provide leadership to a young and depleted secondary.
DE Datone Jones- Courtesy of Scout.com
Here are five players with the potential to be big contributors this upcoming season...
OL Jeff Baca
If one were to look up the word "versatile" in the dictionary, a picture of Baca would instantly pop up.
Baca can literally play every position on the offensive line. He's a true "swingman" for the Bruins. He's most likely suited as a guard on the next level, but his versatility allows for him to play tackle in a pinch.
Currently, Baca is slotted at right tackle until Torian White is seasoned enough to take over the position. When that happens, expect Baca to slide back to guard.
The All-American punter has arguably been UCLA's best player the past few seasons. His booming left leg often provides the opposition with poor field position, and his value to the Bruins is undeniable.
WR Devin Lucien
Lucien has a real shot to make some noise as a potential playmaker in the new spread offense under offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone.
The Crespi High School product has shown a maturity and work ethic beyond his years. In addition, he's noted as a good route-runner coupled with the ability to stretch the field.
According to the wideout, wide receivers coach Eric Yarber called Lucien "one of the best freshman [Yarber] has ever coached."
DE Datone Jones
The senior defensive end from Compton led the Bruins in both sacks and tackles for loss. However, he only tallied 3.0 sacks and 6.5 TFL.
That doesn't exactly scream production.
Jones returns as perhaps UCLA's best defensive lineman. Last season, he was more effective when employed as an undersized defensive tackle. This upcoming season, he'll be a starting end in the new 3-4 scheme.
If UCLA is to have a good season, Jones has to cash in on his potential and display more productivity.
Based on pure talent, Su'a-Filo is a top-five player on the current roster.
The aspect precluding him from being on the list is the fact that he's been away from football for the past two seasons due to serving a Mormon Mission.
It will take some time for the left tackle to shake off the rust. Nevertheless, he'll instantly become a solidifying force on the left side of line.
Most importantly, he'll be a bookend protecting the quarterback's blindside—something absent from the team in recent memory.