UCLA Football: 5 Freshmen Who Will Make a Huge Impact in Fall Camp
With fall camp rapidly approaching, there are a myriad of questions pertaining to the UCLA Bruins in 2013.
The Bruins have some holes on the roster that are expected to be filled by incoming freshmen. In particular, the secondary immensely needs an influx of both talent and tangible bodies.
Additionally, the running back position needs some juice in order to fill the void left by Johnathan Franklin. Although redundant, the offensive line seemingly is always in need of bodies as well.
Here are five incoming freshmen that could make a big impact in fall camp.
It's not often that a punter would make such a list. However, Sean Covington out of St. Petersburg, Fla. is projected to start right away for the Bruins.
The Under Armour All-American will be the only scholarship punter on the Bruins' roster this upcoming season. His signing was significant from multiple standpoints.
Not only is Covington a very highly regarded kicker, but he'll essentially replace All Pac-12 performer Jeff Locke. Locke was arguably UCLA's most consistent player over the course of the past four seasons. In other words, Covington has a pretty big pair of cleats to fill.
Should rising sophomore kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn falter, Covington is fully capable of filling in as a place kicker in addition to his punting duties.
Heading into this offseason, the Bruins will have to replace all four starters in the secondary from a year ago.
With that said, it wasn't a surprise to see UCLA target multiple defensive backs in the 2013 recruiting cycle. Priest Willis, Johnny Johnson, Tyler Foreman, Tahaan Goodman and Jayon Brown all signed with the Bruins in February.
Of the five, Goodman might have the best chance to contribute right away.
He's a very fluid football player in space. In terms of an intelligence on the field, Goodman is more than satisfactory. He's able to diagnose a play without losing any closing speed or aggressiveness.
With the secondary wide open at this point, it's anyone's guess as to who will start week one against Nevada. However, the safety from Rancho Cucamonga has all the ability to lock down a starting spot—should he perform admirably in fall camp.
Myles Jack is an absolute animal on the football field.
He possesses an amalgam of power and raw athleticism not seen often at the linebacker position. At 6'3", 235-pounds, Jack's already big enough to see the field as a true freshman. His speed and quickness also lends itself to play time as a first year player.
Damien Holmes was the only member of the linebackers' corps to graduate this past season. The vacant position on the outside is completely up for grabs at this point.
Jack should have every opportunity to seize the open spot.
Let's be real, it's highly unlikely that UCLA will replace the 1,734 yards and 13 touchdowns that Johnathan Franklin rushed for in 2012.
The running back rotation will most likely resemble a committee as opposed to relying solely upon one back. Regardless, there are some questions.
For one, there's no telling as to how Damien Thigpen will respond from his injury. Thigpen suffered a torn ACL last season against Southern Cal. Unless he conjures up images of Adrian Peterson post-surgery, it's probably a good bet that Thigpen won't be same electrifying player he was pre-injury.
In addition, other options such as Jordon James, Paul Perkins and Malcolm Jones have been plagued by inconsistency and a lack of overall experience.
Incoming back Craig Lee will likely enter as the most innately talented member of the bunch. The Redlands, Calif. native is a well-rounded back. He's able to run effectively between-the-tackles, but he's also able to flash great speed and out-sprint defenders to the end zone.
It's truly a wide-open competition. As previously mentioned, it seems as if offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone will utilize multiple guys at the position.
Lee's overall ability and upside makes him a very attractive option.
Caleb Benenoch/Alex Redmond
Both Alex Redmond and Caleb Benenoch should see the field as true freshmen. In all actuality, both could start right away at the guard positions.
It's no secret that Xavier Su'a-Filo is the top offensive lineman on the team. With that in mind, he could be asked to play as the left tackle, and protect quarterback Brett Hundley's blind side. Should that happen, it would mean that the left guard position is open.
According to Edward Lewis of Bruin Sport Report, offensive linemen Kody Innes and Will Oliver have recently left the team. In addition, both Alberto Cid and Alexandru Ceachir were forced to medically retire within the past few months.
Depth is pretty thin along the offensive line—even with offensive line coach Adrian Klemm bringing in seven offensive linemen from the high school ranks this past year.
Of the seven, Redmond and Benenoch are likely the most ready to play right away. Both guard spots are vacant as it's currently constituted. With strong fall camps, both could be denoted as starters.
It wouldn't be a complete surprise either, considering Klemm's propensity to rely heavily upon underclassmen. Last year, the Bruins started three freshmen (Jake Brendel, Simon Goines, Torian White) along the offensive line.