UCLA Football: Freshmen to Watch in Fall Camp
With the UCLA Football fall camp slated to begin on Wednesday, a period of major acclimatization will begin for the incoming freshmen.
The Bruins do have a squad on the younger side for the most part. It'd be ideal to redshirt a majority of the recruiting class, allowing the incoming freshmen to get bigger and more mature physically.
However, out of necessity, there will be multiple freshmen forced into prominent roles early.
Let's take a look at some of those freshmen to watch during fall camp.
*The entire fall camp schedule is here.
Of the pass-catching options signed by UCLA in 2013, Thomas Duarte should be the only receiver to play a significant role early.
The departure of Joe Fauria leaves a huge hole (literally and figuratively) at the Y position in UCLA's offense. Noel Mazzone doesn't utilize a tight end in the traditional sense, and Duarte will be no different.
The Mater Dei High School product is more in the mold of an H-back. At 6'3", 221 pounds, Duarte can present lots of mismatches on the field. He's big enough to give safeties and corners problems and can run well enough to gain separation from linebackers.
UCLA doesn't have a ton of depth at the position. Currently, Darius Bell is the starter at the position. However, Duarte's upside is far greater. With a solid fall camp, he could theoretically unseat Bell from the starting spot.
Even if he doesn't, Duarte will at worst be Bell's backup. Quarterbacks coach Taylor Mazzone is, in particular, extremely excited at the prospect of seeing Duarte this summer.
According to Mazzone, via Los Angeles Daily News, Duarte is a "tremendous athlete." He also mentioned that "you'll hear his name a couple of times in the Rose Bowl."
The Secondary Quartet
The secondary battle may be the most intriguing position battle during fall camp.
UCLA has to replace all four starters in the secondary from a year ago. There's going to be a major lack of experience across the board, and, undoubtedly, there will be a learning curve.
Fortunately for the Bruins, Mora and defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin were able to sign four very talented defensive backs in 2013.
Priest Willis and Johnny Johnson will enter as cornerbacks. Tyler Foreman and Tahaan Goodman will both come in as safeties.
Johnson is a stout, compact corner with good cover skills. Willis is versatile enough to play anywhere in the secondary. He could very well end up at safety when it's all said and done.
Foreman is a physical player. He's perhaps best at playing up towards the line of scrimmage. Goodman is a rangy athlete with good instincts. The skills of Foreman and Goodman truly complement each other quite well.
Martin mentioned, via Los Angeles Daily News, that Goodman is "a guy you look for when you carve out a true, middle-of-the-field safety. He's got great ball skills and will knock your face off."
All four figure to play as true freshmen. The fall camp will go a long way in determining the rotation for this upcoming season. It's truly an open competition right now.
Myles Jack has the potential to make an impact on both sides of the ball this upcoming season.
Mora said that Jack will start off as an outside linebacker but could see time at running back as well. In high school, Jack excelled at both positions. He's very physical, and at 6'1", 225 pounds, he's got the requisite size to contribute right away.
Jack's athleticism makes him potentially a special player. He's got great closing speed and is very adept at diagnosing plays. Instinctually, he's seemingly advanced for such a young player.
The outside 'backer spot next to Eric Kendricks is currently vacated. Returning players such as Kenny Orjioke and Aaron Wallace will heavily figure into the mix for the open spot. Jack will have every opportunity to snag a starting spot with a strong fall camp.
Just recently, running back Craig Lee was able to gain admittance to UCLA.
Getting Lee enrolled was huge for the Bruins. At this point, there's not one tailback that will replace the production of Johnathan Franklin from a year ago.
Jordon James will likely get the first crack at replacing Franklin, but he's far from a sure thing. Paul Perkins, Malcolm Jones, Steven Manfro and Damien Thigpen (when healthy) will all contribute.
Lee is the wild card in this scenario.
From a pure talent standpoint, he could be the most gifted tailback on the roster. Lee's got very good speed and elusiveness. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that he's good at running between the tackles. While not overly big, Lee runs with power.
The camp will give Mora a good indication on how ready Lee will be this season. Should Lee prove to not figure into the plans this season, he'll likely redshirt.
The Redlands, Calif. native does have a grand opportunity to prove himself in the next two weeks. He could give UCLA some major explosiveness in the backfield.
Eddie Vanderdoes is the most ballyhooed recruit coming to Westwood in 2013.
A man of his size should not possess the quickness, agility and raw power that he has. Vanderdoes plays with tremendous leverage and uses his hands exceptionally well. Additionally, his first-step quickness is absolutely ridiculous.
Vanderdoes has a real shot at garnering a starting position during fall camp. The biggest question mark actually has to do with his teammate, Owamagbe Odighizuwa. "Owa" was projected to be a starter at defensive end this season. With injury concerns, it's conceivable that Odighizuwa could redshirt this year.
If that's the case, Vanderdoes could be considered to be the odds-on favorite to start as a true freshman. If anything, it'll be exciting to see how he performs against grizzled veteran and All-American Xavier Su'a-Filo.
The 2013 recruiting class was absolutely loaded. Scout.com ranked the Bruins' class as the third best in the nation for 2013.
Mora and his staff did a great job at addressing literally every single position on the football team. Going down the list, there are elite players that will draw immense interest during the camp in San Bernardino.
Of the players not previously mentioned, the one with perhaps the most intrigue is quarterback Asiantii Woulard. The Bruins, as Mora said, via the Los Angeles Daily News, "got lucky that [Woulard] was out there and available when he was."
Woulard was the MVP of the prestigious Elite 11 camp. The quarterback next in line behind Brett Hundley isn't known up to this point. With a solid camp, Woulard could be the top reserve to Hundley.
Up front, UCLA signed seven offensive linemen during the 2013 cycle. Of the group, guards Caleb Benenoch and Alex Redmond, center Scott Quessenberry and tackle Christian Morris could see action as true freshmen. Benenoch and Redmond, in particular, might have the best shot at starting.
On the defensive line, the Bruins were able to sign both Kylie Fitts and Kenneth Clark. Fitts looks like someone that will provide depth instantly. Clark might be the most underrated member of the recruiting class. He's got a very high ceiling, and it wouldn't be a shock to see him make an early impact.
Ironically enough, the only freshman that's guaranteed to start at this point is punter Sean Covington. He'll replace former All-American punter Jeff Locke. Like Locke, Covington is a lefty with a booming leg. It'll be interesting to see his progression throughout the camp.