UCLA Football: 5 Young Players That Must Step Up for the Bruins in 2013
The UCLA Bruins have a great batch of young talent that needs to step up heading into 2013.
After surprising the nation in 2012 with a 9-5 record—thanks in large part to the coaching of Jim Mora Jr. and the emergence of Brett Hundley under center—the defending Pac-12 South champions still appear to be trending upwards.
While there is plenty of experience on both sides of the ball, the Bruins do lose some key players such as Datone Jones, Jonathan Franklin, Jerry Johnson and Joseph Fauria.
With these departures, UCLA will need some of its younger, more inexperienced players to contribute effectively.
Luckily, there have been plenty of high-profile recruits trickling into Los Angeles over the last several seasons, so that should not be too much of a problem.
This is a list of five players at key positions that must step up in 2013 in order for the Bruins to continue their success.
Devin Fuller: Sophomore WR
Devin Fuller came to UCLA as a highly-touted dual-threat quarterback recruit with hopes of becoming the next Michael Vick.
However, the emergence of stud redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley forced Fuller to receiver, where he found quite a bit of success towards the end of his true freshman season.
Though his 20 catches may not seem too impressive, 10 of them came in the last two games of the season, indicating an encouraging trend.
The sophomore-to-be has great size for a slot receiver at 5'11" and 194 pounds, and he has some great speed and quickness to go along with it.
The Bruins have a good amount of talent in the receiving corps with fellow sophomore Jordan Payton and Shaq Evans, but they do lose Jerry Johnson and tight end Joseph Fauria. Therefore, Fuller's development will add a key element to UCLA's offense.
The young, versatile receiver is capable of dominating defenders in space, so Jim Mora must find a way to utilize him as much as he did in the final two games of last season.
Ishmael Adams: Sophomore CB
Another highly-touted recruit heading into the 2012 season, Adams ended up redshirting his first year in Los Angeles due to injury.
Because UCLA loses its two starting cornerbacks from a season ago in Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price, Adams may be the most important name on this list, as he is certain to step into a starting role.
His presence became even more valuable when fellow corner Marcus Rios, who was penciled in to start across from Adams, was diagnosed with a serious infection and will likely have to miss the 2013 season.
Adams, though a bit undersized at 5'8", has shown enormous amounts of talent and potential. In fact, he was quite impressive in limited playing time last year in the first two games before his injury.
Because of the personnel makeover in the secondary, it may be considered a weakness of the team heading into the season.
However, this is more because it lacks experience rather than talent or potential. If Adams is able to step up and perform well in his new starting role, UCLA should be fine, even against the Pac-12's most potent offenses.
Dietrich Riley: Junior S
Another member of the secondary, Dietrich Riley was thoroughly impressive over the first two years of his career, until he suffered a serious neck injury in a collision with Cal running back Isi Sofele.
After redshirting during the 2012 season, Riley was cleared to take part in spring practice and should be dying to get back on the field.
The junior was a 4-star recruit coming out of high school. His return to the field will be even more important after the dismissal of veteran safety Tevin McDonald from the squad due to a violation of team rules.
Riley is an extremely hard hitter. In fact, according to Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times, head coach Jim Mora Jr. had referred to him as a "missile" at the safety position.
The former 4-star recruit should significantly upgrade the Bruins' secondary, arguably the weakest area on the UCLA depth chart, should he prove to be back at full health.
Owamagbe Odighizuwa: Senior DL
Alright, so a senior does not quite count as a young player. However, the Bruins are relying on Odighizuwa to step up in 2013 as much as anyone.
The former 5-star recruit will need to improve on his 2012 season to fill in for the production of first-round NFL pick Datone Jones.
Luckily for the Bruins, Odighizuwa has all of the physical tools necessary to become an elite pass rusher. The Oregon native is a physical monster at 6'3" and 265 pounds while running a 40-yard dash in the 4.6 range.
Odighizuwa showed flashes of dominance over the past couple of seasons. In that span, he has totaled nine tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. However, he'll need to keep that production up on a more consistent basis as he is sure to slide into a full-time starting role in 2013.
Keep an eye on Odighizuwa as the season goes on. He has the potential to emerge as a high-profile NFL prospect should he live up to his potential for the Bruins in 2013.
Simon Goines: Sophomore OT
Simon Goines was forced into a starting role at right tackle as a true freshman in 2012, and he was actually quite impressive.
The sheer size of Goines alone makes him an extremely tough person to move. At 6'6" and 320 pounds, he is an absolute monster that must continue his success this season, especially due to the fact that the front wall takes a hit with the loss of Jeff Baca to the NFL.
Goines will need to improve on his lateral quickness. His power and strength give him plenty of upside, but he was unable to keep up with edge pass rushers last season.
With the probable move to left tackle, Goines will likely be the Bruins' most important lineman in 2013, considering the fact that he will be protecting Brett Hundley's blind side.
Only Washington State allowed more sacks than UCLA in 2012 (52), so the development of Goines will be a priority this season, though he certainly does not lack the potential.