UCLA Football: Biggest Red Flags for the Bruins
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If the UCLA Bruins are to be competitive in conference play, some areas definitely need to be improved.
Consistency at major positions is certainly needed at a higher rate than in years' past. In addition, the incorporation of little-used players will need to be established.
Let's take a look at some potential red flags for the Bruins...
Depth in the Secondary
Budding star Tevin McDonald
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Price is a four-year starter with true lockdown skills. Hester and Abbott are returning seniors chock full of experience and savvy.
Perhaps the most naturally talented of the bunch is McDonald. As a redshirt freshman last year, he displayed superlative instincts and a football acumen far greater than his age indicates.
After that, things get a bit dicey for the secondary.
There just isn't ample depth as of now. Reserve cornerbacks Anthony Jefferson and Brandon Sermons have been riddled with injuries throughout their careers in Westwood.
Projected contributor Alex Mascarenas has been dealing with a concussion problem that may preclude him from participating this season.
In addition, former high profile prospect Dietrich Riley is recuperating from a severe neck injury.
When playing in the pass-happy Pac-12 conference, one can expect to see the opposition fling the ball around the field with great frequency.
With injuries always a concern, the reserve unit needs to get healthy—and quick.
Due to these depth issues, it's quite conceivable to surmise that UCLA will need incoming freshman Ishmael Adams and Marcus Rios to contribute early.
The Quarterback Position
QB Richard Brehaut is vying for the starting job
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The play at the quarterback position has got to be better this upcoming season.
Consistency, or lack thereof, has been the biggest problem for the Bruin signal callers in the past decade.
The lack of even satisfactory play at the position has truly kept the team hovering in a mediocre state.
Currently, a starter has not yet been named by offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. At this point, the competition points to a duel between experienced senior Richard Brehaut and highly regarded redshirt freshman Brett Hundley.
A positive for the Bruins is that the spread offense is relatively simplistic in nature. There's not a dense playbook to digest, and the throws are often not extremely difficult to make.
Regardless, the level of execution needs to be leaps and bounds ahead of where it's been.
Last season, UCLA ranked second-to-last in the conference in passing yards. In addition, they were also second-to-last in pass attempts per game.
This trend cannot continue if UCLA wants to be considered a contender in the Pac-12 South Division.
The Lack of Proven Playmakers
Devin Lucien highlights from high school
It's not that the collection of skill players on the roster don't have talent, it's just that they've never been given the chance to truly demonstrate their talent on the field.
The pistol offense undeniably was a considerable factor. It severely limited the chances in the pass game. Over the course of the last four seasons, there were minimal attempts to execute a pass exceeding 10 yards.
As a result, it made the offense dull and extremely predictable—especially in long yardage situations where the opponent could sit back and expect UCLA to throw after running the ball on the first two downs.
With the spread offense implemented by the new staff, expect the pass catchers to see the ball a whole lot more than under the previous regime.
The top two returning receivers are Shaq Evans and Joe Fauria. Evans is expected to be a big target on deep passes and crossing routes, while Fauria will be utilized on jump balls and on patterns exploiting the heart of the field.
One receiver to watch out for is Devin Lucien.
The former Crespi High School product is slated to be in the running for a starting spot after a solid spring camp. While not a burner, he has great route-running ability and can separate from defenders down the field.
Others expected to provide depth include Ricky Marvray, Jerry Johnson, Jordon James and incoming freshman Jordan Payton.
The Offensive Line
Paving the way for Johnathan Franklin
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The offensive line is a huge question mark heading into the summer for the Bruins.
Along with the quarterback position, the play from this unit has been abysmal for multiple seasons. Pass protection has been incredibly weak, and the overall level of talent for a BCS program has been shockingly low.
The line did get a big boost when Xavier Su'a-Filo returned from a Mormon Mission. He instantly becomes the most talented and physically gifted lineman of the group.
Center/guard Greg Capella has been a solid player for the past couple seasons, and senior Jeff Baca is a jack-of-all-trades—having the ability to play every single position on the line.
After those three, there's a considerable drop in talent and consistency.
The unit recently took a big blow when projected starter Wade Yandall had to retire due to multiple concussions.
Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm hopes that young players such as Jake Brendel and Torian White can snag starting jobs. Both have to get physically stronger, but they have the potential to be productive players one day.
The play of the offensive line cannot be stressed enough. This unit isn't deep nor extremely talented. However, a level of adequacy has to be accomplished if the Bruins are to be a productive football team.
With the line in dire straits, Klemm expects JuCo transfer Alexandru Ceachir and incoming freshman Simon Goines to play early.