UCLA Football: Projecting the Bruins' 2013 2-Deep Depth Chart
With the deadline to declare for the NFL draft squarely in the past, college football rosters for the 2013 season are really starting to take shape. National signing day is still three weeks away, so news from the recruiting world could definitely shake things up, but depth charts across the country are settling down.
For UCLA, the first year of the Jim Mora era was a massive step in the right direction, but the Bruins will need to take another big step if they hope to contend for a Pac-12 title again in 2013.
A few key players are set to graduate, including do-everything RB Johnathan Franklin, DE Datone Jones and touchdown-magnet Y Joseph Fauria, but there are a number of important returners as well.
All-American LB Anthony Barr, All-Pac-12 OL Xavier Su'a-Filo and emerging superstar QB Brett Hundley will all suit up in the True Blue again next season. As a result, the expectations in Westwood are greatly elevated, and the hype machine in Los Angeles is already getting warmed up.
But before we can begin to predict the Bruins' fate in 2013, it's important to take a look at the personnel that Mora and Co. will have to work with. Read on for a complete projection of UCLA's two-deep depth chart for the 2013 season.
Note: These projections will only include current UCLA players and commits, though potential recruiting targets could ultimately factor in as well. Further, each player's year in school is listed for the upcoming season, not 2012. Lastly, all recruiting information is based on the 247Sports Composite Rankings unless otherwise noted.
Starter: No. 17—Brett Hundley, 6'3", 233 lbs, RS SO
Backup: No. 2—Devin Fuller, 6'0", 195 lbs, SO
One of the few certainties for UCLA on offense is under center, where rising sophomore Brett Hundley has cemented himself as the Bruins' starting QB of the future.
As a freshman in 2012, Hundley notched 3,470 yards passing with 29 TDs and only 11 interceptions. He also flashed his dual-threat potential throughout the year, finishing with nine rushing scores to his credit. In his second season as a starter, Hundley should be even better with a year of experience under his belt and more time in OC Noel Mazzone's system.
Next in line behind Hundley will be one of two elite 2012 recruits in Devin Fuller or T.J. Millweard. Fuller saw action this season as a slot receiver, which could be his position for at least another year. He has the athleticism to be a good fit at QB in UCLA's spread offense, but Hundley won't be stepping down anytime soon.
Millweard took a redshirt this season because of the logjam in front of him, but he could compete for the backup role in 2013. Despite his billing as a pure pocket-passer, Millweard has shown a tuck-and-run ability that nicely compliments his strong arm.
Starter: No. 25—Damien Thigpen, 5'8", 178 lbs, RS SR
Backup: No. 6—Jordan James, 5'8", 193 lbs, RS JR
Running back Johnathan Franklin left a legacy at UCLA that will be hard to replace, as the senior captain ended his career as the all-time leader in rushing and all-purpose yardage.
Franklin rumbled for 1,734 yards and 13 TDs with a yards-per-carry average of 6.1. He also proved his worth as a receiver out of the backfield, catching 33 passes for 323 yards and two scores. Suffice it to say, whoever takes the reins of the Bruins' backfield in 2013 will have to put up some serious production in Franklin's stead.
In terms of experience, the obvious first look is redshirt senior Damien Thigpen, a shifty scatback that served a primary reserve role in 2012. Before going down with an ACL injury versus Southern Cal, Thigpen had accumulated 849 all-purpose yards and four TDs. If Thigpen is able to return to the lineup healthy by fall camp, he figures to get the starting nod by default.
Just behind Thigpen on the list of experienced UCLA backs is rising RS junior Jordan James, another key reserve in the Bruins' offense last year. "Joystick" James didn't have an incredibly productive season, but his raw talent and ability to make defenders miss should propel him into the two-deep.
Other names to watch for in the running back battle are Paul Perkins and Craig Lee. Perkins took a redshirt in 2012, and Lee is an incoming freshman, but both have big bodies capable of bruising between the tackles.
Starters: No. 1—Shaq Evans, 6'1", 201 lbs, RS SR
No. 15—Devin Lucien, 6'0", 200 lbs, RS SO
No. 10—Jordan Payton, 6'2", 205 lbs, SO
Backups: No. 21—Kenneth Walker, 5'9", 175 lbs, SO
No. 88—Jerry Rice Jr., 5'11", 186 lbs, RS SR
No. 00—Eldridge Massington, 6'3", 203 lbs, FR
The Bruins will enter 2013 with a talented crop of wide receivers after losing only redshirt senior Jerry Johnson to graduation.
Returning starter and UCLA leading receiver Shaq Evans will definitely top the depth chart in spring, but the other two wideout spots will be up for grabs.
Rising RS sophomore Devin Lucien will attempt to reclaim a starting role after suffering a collarbone injury midway through the 2012 season. Prior to the injury, Lucien had hauled in 10 balls for 188 yards receiving, showcasing his big-play potential along the way. Assuming he is full-speed in spring practice, Lucien should work his way into the starting rotation.
The third starting WR job will likely go to one of two rising sophomores in Jordan Payton or Kenneth Walker. Payton seems to have the inside track due to his work as a backup last season, but Walker has the talent to contend as well.
Others to look out for in the two-deep are early enrollee Eldridge Massington and Jerry Rice Jr., a redshirt senior with the best bloodlines on the team. Massington is a former USC commit that flipped to the Bruins in December, while Rice has been a contributing backup for two seasons. Both have the potential to earn some serious field time for UCLA next year.
Y (Slot Receiver/Tight End)
Starter: No. 3—Darius Bell, 5'10", 205 lbs, RS SR
Backup: No. 00—Thomas Duarte, 6'4", 225 lbs, FR
One of the biggest losses for UCLA this offseason is at the Y position, where senior Joseph Fauria has exhausted his NCAA eligibility.
At 6'7", Fauria was literally one of the biggest Bruins last year, but his consistent production looms even larger as he prepares for the NFL draft. Lining up tight and in the slot, Fauria hauled in 46 receptions for 637 yards and 12 TDs. Without Fauria, Hundley will be forced to find another go-to option in the receiving corps.
At the Y, there are a few viable options to replace Fauria, including redshirt senior Darius Bell. Despite battling injury throughout the season, Bell finished the year with 143 yards receiving and one TD. If Bell returns healthy in 2013, he should top the depth chart simply because of his experience.
Behind Bell in the two-deep will likely be incoming recruit Thomas Duarte. Measuring in at 6'4" and 225 pounds, the 4-star TE has a distinct size advantage over Bell that could end up earning him the starting spot. Duarte will need to add some bulk to his frame to bolster his blocking efforts, but he has the potential to be a breakout freshman next year.
Starter: No. 56—Xavier Su'a-Filo, 6'4", 295 lbs, JR
Backup: No. 77—Torian White, 6'5", 285 lbs, RS SO
Rising junior Xavier Su'a-Filo has one of the best stories out of the UCLA football program in recent years. After starting 13 games at left tackle as a true freshman in 2009, Su'a-Filo elected to leave school for two years for an LDS mission.
Upon returning to UCLA in 2012, Su'a-Filo was thrust into an immediate leadership role, serving as an offensive team captain as a sophomore. The title came with increased responsibility, as Su'a-Filo had to slide inside to left guard, where he started throughout the season. His stellar performance earned him All-Conference first-team honors from the Pac-12.
Su'a-Filo will start again for the Bruins in 2013, but he may find himself at the left tackle position by the start of fall camp. Defending Hundley's blind side is a top-priority for the offensive line, and who better than Su'a-Filo to bolster the edge.
If Su'a-Filo makes the switch back to LT, former starter Torian White would take the No. 2 spot on the depth chart. Despite battling injuries all year, White was a solid starting option at tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2012. If Su'a-Filo stays inside to play guard, White would likely start outside.
Starter: No. 76—Alexandru Ceachir, 6'5", 305 lbs, JR
Backup: No. 00—Alex Redmond, 6'5", 290 lbs, FR
As the previous slide alluded to, the left guard spot in UCLA's offensive line will be wide open in 2013 if Xavier Su'a-Filo makes the move to tackle.
Assuming that happens, the Bruins will have a laundry list of names to choose from, but none of them have significant experience at the college level.
One of the leading options returning to the team next season is rising junior Alexandru Ceachir. The 6'5", 305-pound JC transfer is from the Republic of Moldova and only began playing football a few years ago. If Ceachir can continue to develop and learn the intricacies of the sport, he could be in the mix for the starting spot in 2013.
Another possibility at left guard is Alex Redmond, a highly-touted recruit committed to play for the Bruins next year. The former Oregon commitment is an elite run-stopper with a frame that still has room to fill out. After working with the UCLA training staff, Redmond has the potential to push for early playing time as a true freshman.
Starter: No. 54—Jake Brendel, 6'4", 295 lbs, RS SO
Backup: No. 00—Scott Quessenberry, 6'4", 265 lbs, FR
Assuming Jake Brendel can rehab from an injury suffered in the Holiday Bowl, the rising RS sophomore will reclaim the starting center spot in 2013.
Brendel was phenomenal starting as a freshman last year, exhibiting a high level of discipline and knowledge of the game. His efforts earned him an All-Pac-12 honorable mention, which is probably the first honor of many for the 6'4", 295-pound workhorse.
But as solid as Brendel will be for UCLA next season, the lack of depth behind him is worrisome. Redshirt junior Kody Innes could push for snaps as the backup, but incoming 4-star recruit Scott Quessenberry might wind up at No. 2 when September rolls around.
At 6'4" and 265 pounds, Quessenberry has the body to compete immediately, so don't be surprised if his name shoots up the depth chart this fall.
Starter: No. 00—Caleb Benenoch, 6'5", 321, FR
Backup: No. 72—Alberto Cid, 6'3", 310, RS SR
The graduation of right guard Jeff Baca leaves a major hole in the Bruins' O-line, as the veteran starter earned All-Pac-12 first-team distinction for his work in 2012.
A possible leading candidate for the guard vacancy is incoming freshman Caleb Benenoch, a 4-star prospect out of Katy, Texas. Measuring in at 6'5" and 321 pounds, Benenoch has a monster frame to go with his abundance of talent.
If Benenoch can adjust to the speed and physicality of the college game quickly, he should be a factor in the starting competition at right guard.
In terms of returning personnel, redshirt senior Alberto Cid will contend for a larger workload after serving as a reserve in 2012. Cid transferred from junior college in 2011 and started six games for former coach Rick Neuheisel but took a back seat to younger talent last year. Look for Cid to emerge as a solid contributor in the two-deep next season.
Starter: No. 70—Simon Goines, 6'7", 324 lbs, SO
Backup: No. 00—Christian Morris, 6'6", 285 lbs, FR
Starting as a true freshman in 2012, OT Simon Goines established himself as the future of the UCLA O-line, locking down the right tackle spot all year.
Aside from a few games where Goines was forced to sit with an injury, the 6'7", 324-pound bruiser dominated the competition with good leverage and elite footwork. If Goines is good to go in 2013, he will undoubtedly continue starting at right tackle.
Behind Goines, there aren't too many other options returning to fill in at tackle, so the door is open for incoming recruit Christian Morris to stake his claim early.
Morris, a 4-star talent with a college-ready body, committed to UCLA back in July and hasn't wavered since. He has taken visits to Tennessee and Oklahoma since his last trip to Westwood, so his recruitment won't be a sure thing until national signing day.
But if Morris remains true to the Bruins, he has the chance to secure a spot in the two-deep at offensive tackle next season.
Starters: No. 94—Owamagbe Odighizuwa, 6'3", 270 lbs, SR
No. 99—Cassius Marsh, 6'3", 275 lbs, SR
Backups: No. 93—Ellis McCarthy, 6'5", 330 lbs, SO
No. 92—Brandon Willis, 6'2", 280 lbs, JR
At defensive end, UCLA loses senior stalwart Datone Jones, a 6'4", 275-pound monster that locked down the Bruins' D-line for the past few seasons. The likely candidate to replace Jones in 2013 is rising senior Owamagbe Odighizuwa. Owa has served a reserve role for most of his UCLA career, but his sheer power should allow him to make the move to starter.
On the other side of the line, starting DE Cassius Marsh is set to return for his senior season after racking up 45 tackles and seven sacks in 2012. Marsh is a hard-hitter with a knack for making plays, and he should be ready to make a statement in his final year of NCAA eligibility.
There will be a number of players vying for the slots behind Odighizuwa and Marsh on the depth chart, but Ellis McCarthy and Brandon Willis seem to have the early edge.
McCarthy came to UCLA last season with a 5-star rating from Rivals and a ton of hype. Many thought he could make an immediate impact, but an injury early in the season slowed his progress. Now, with the graduation of Jones, McCarthy has a chance to assert himself as the next great Bruin D-lineman.
Willis transferred from North Carolina in 2011 and should contend for the other backup end spot next season. The 6'2", 280-pound junior has a strong work ethic and will definitely crank up the competition behind the starting pair.
Starter: No. 98—Seali'i Epenesa, 6'1", 310 lbs, SR
Backup: No. 95—Brandon Tuliaupupu, 6'1", 315 lbs, RS SO
In UCLA's 3-4 defense, there is only one defensive tackle spot on the depth chart. Senior NT Seali'i Epenesa started throughout 2012, anchoring the Bruins' defensive line as a formidable force in the middle. Epenesa will return to Westwood next year, and there's no indication that he will forfeit his starting job.
After Epenesa, there is only one other player returning to UCLA at the nose tackle position. Rising RS sophomore Brandon Tuliaupupu worked as a reserve last season, finishing the year with three tackles to his name. With another offseason of physical development and a larger role in the defense, Tuliaupupu could establish himself as the heir apparent to replace Epenesa in 2014.
Starters: No. 11—Anthony Barr, 6'4", 235 lbs, SR
No. 40—Keenan Graham, 6'4", 247 lbs, RS SR
Backups: No. 23—Kenny Orjioke, 6'4", 222 lbs, SO
No. 12—Aaron Wallace, 6'3", 230 lbs, RS SO
Because UCLA runs a 3-4 defense, there are generally four linebackers on the field at any given time, two inside and two outside.
At the outside linebacker position, the Bruins return a sure-fire NFL first-rounder in Anthony Barr, but lose senior captain Damien Holmes on the other side.
Barr burst onto the national stage in 2012, finishing the year with 73 tackles and 13.5 sacks despite it being his first season on the defensive side of the ball. He is a lock to start again in 2013, and he should be playing for a high pick in next year's draft.
As for the other starting OLB, redshirt senior Keenan Graham figures to get the first look to replace Holmes. Graham has been a career backup for the Bruins with a sprinkling of starts over the past few years, but he could be atop the depth chart by the start of fall camp.
Behind Barr and Graham, there are a number of young prospects looking to work their way into the rotation. Rising sophomores Kenny Orjioke and Aaron Wallace have the best shot to crash the two-deep based solely on their time within the program. But don't count out incoming freshman Myles Jack, an ultra-talented LB prospect who may end up in Westwood come national signing day.
Starters: No. 6—Eric Kendricks, 6'0", 230 lbs, RS JR
No. 35—Jordan Zumwalt, 6'3", 235 lbs, SR
Backups: No. 25—Isaiah Bowens, 6'1", 211 lbs, RS SR
No. 30—Aaron Porter, 6'1", 230 lbs, RS FR
UCLA is fortunate enough to return both starting inside linebackers from the 2012 squad, as rising seniors Eric Kendricks and Jordan Zumwalt will be back in 2013.
Kendricks has a high motor and always finds himself in the middle of the action, while Zumwalt is a hard-hitting run-stopper who isn't afraid to mix it up in the trenches.
Kendricks ended his junior season with 137 tackles, two sacks, an interception and four pass break-ups, highlighting his versatility from the ILB spot. Zumwalt wasn't quite as productive, finishing with 66 tackles and two sacks, but he should be improved after another offseason of training.
The leading candidates to fill out the depth chart at inside 'backer are redshirt senior Isaiah Bowens and highly-touted 2012 recruit Aaron Porter.
Bowens was sidelined with a knee injury last spring, preventing him from taking the field last season, while Porter took a redshirt to preserve his eligibility. Bowens has been primarily a special teams contributor with UCLA, but he should grace the two-deep at ILB assuming he is healthy. Porter, on the other hand, was buried in the depth chart but should be able to emerge from the masses next year.
Starters: No. 24—Ishmael Adams, 5'8", 186 lbs, SO
No. 9—Marcus Rios, 6'0", 185 lbs, SO
Backups: No. 31—Fabian Moreau, 6'0", 180 lbs, SO
No. 8—Anthony Jefferson, 6'1", 184 lbs, RS JR
UCLA took the biggest hit at the cornerback position with the graduation of multi-year starters Sheldon Price and Aaron Hester. The loss of two seasoned veterans in the defensive backfield could be catastrophic, but there is enough talent on the Bruins' roster to soften the blow.
Rising sophomores Ishmael Adams and Marcus Rios appear to be the penciled-in favorites for CB in 2013, as the talented duo came to Westwood with a ton of hype last year. After seeing very limited action behind Price and Hester, Adams and Rios should be able to boost the talent level on defense next year. Adams suffered a season-ending shoulder injury after just two games in 2012, so he might enter this offseason with four years of eligibility.
After Adams and Rios, the depth at cornerback will be shallow and untested, as rising sophomore Fabian Moreau and backup Anthony Jefferson figure to round out the two-deep.
Moreau got plenty of time on special teams in 2012, but he will need to step it up next year if he hopes to compete for snaps at CB. Jefferson's time at UCLA has been marred by injury and inconsistency, but 2013 could be the beginning of a nice career if he can stay healthy.
Starter: No. 3—Randall Goforth, 5'10", 173 lbs, SO
Backup: No. 28—Taylor Lagace, 6'1", 200 lbs, RS FR
Defensive captain Andrew Abbott is set to graduate this year, leaving the Bruins with a glaring hole at the strong safety position. As a redshirt senior, Abbott compiled 53 tackles, four interceptions and three pass break-ups for UCLA, making him the most productive defensive back in 2012.
The good news for Mora and Co. is that there's plenty of young talent ready to step up to the challenge, headlined by rising sophomore Randall Goforth.
Goforth served as Abbott's backup for most of the season and showcased great quickness and skill in pass coverage. If Goforth can bulk up this offseason and polish his run-stopping abilities, he will get the first look to start at SS next season.
After Goforth, rising redshirt freshman Taylor Lagace looks to have the best chance to secure a backup role in the secondary. The former Washington commit took a redshirt with UCLA in 2012, using the time to learn the defense and develop physically.
Lagace should have no trouble cranking up the intensity behind the starting DBs this offseason, and he will likely end up in the two-deep at strong safety.
Starter: No. 7—Tevin McDonald, 5'11", 185 lbs, RS JR
Backup: No. 4—Stan McKay, 6'1", 205 lbs, RS SR
As the only returning starter in UCLA's secondary, rising junior Tevin McDonald will be counted on to lead an extremely talented group of youngsters.
McDonald had a breakout campaign at free safety in 2011 but regressed slightly as a sophomore, ending the year on a sour note with a suspension from the Holiday Bowl. If McDonald can bounce back with a successful offseason, he's a lock to reclaim the starting spot in center field for the defense.
Behind McDonald is redshirt senior Stan McKay, a multi-year backup who will continue to provide quality, experienced depth at the safety position. McKay will likely end up splitting time between free safety and nickelback, a defensive back position reserved for certain pass-protection formations.
Others to keep an eye on in the secondary are Tahaan Goodman and Priest Willis, two highly sought-after recruits that UCLA could end up landing in the 2013 class. If either Goodman or Willis chooses Westwood, they're talented enough to put pressure on McDonald and McKay.
Starter: No. 00—Sean Covington, 6'2", 195 lbs, FR
Backup: No. 15—Ka'imi Fairbairn, 6'0", 171 lbs, SO
The graduation of senior punter Jeff Locke will be tough to overcome, as the All-Pac-12 first-team selection has handled the field position battle for UCLA since 2009. Locke was the only punter listed on the Bruins' roster in 2012, so his replacement is expected to come out of the 2013 recruiting class.
Sean Covington, a 2-star prospect who committed to UCLA in October, will likely start fall camp atop the depth chart. Covington handled punting and placekicking duties in high school, nabbing a spot in the Under Armour All-American Game for his on-field performance.
At this point, Covington is the most talented option at punter, and should secure the starting spot. He could also factor in as the kickoff specialist in Locke's absence.
There is no clear backup for Covington, so starting kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn could end up serving as the reserve punter. Ideally, Fairbairn will be able to focus solely on his placekicking in 2013, but if necessary he could fill in behind Covington.
Starter: No. 15—Ka'imi Fairbairn, 6'0", 171 lbs, SO
Backup: No. 00—Sean Covington, 6'2", 195 lbs, FR
The two-deep for starting kicker is basically an inversion of the punting depth chart. Returning starter Ka'imi Fairbairn figures to maintain the No. 1 spot, especially considering his steady progress throughout the season as a true freshman in 2012.
Fairbairn finished the year 16-of-22 on field goal attempts, including a 2-for-2 mark in the Bruins' loss to Baylor in the Holiday Bowl. If Fairbairn can continue to progress as a sophomore next season, he shouldn't have to worry about competing for the job.
Behind Fairbairn is Covington, the projected starting punter in 2013. Covington covered all of the kicking duties at his high school, so he should be a viable option to relieve Fairbairn if necessary.