Freshman cornerback John Johnson, a big part of the UCLA Bruins' highly touted group of incoming defensive backs, has a tear in his right shoulder that may require surgery and force him to miss the 2013 season.
Per Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times:
Johnson was the No. 151 recruit on 247 Sports' composite, a consensus 4-star player and the 16th-rated cornerback in the nation. Together with Priest Willis, Tahaan Goodman and Tyler Foreman (Nos. 39, 66 and 221 on the composite, respectively), he was supposed to give UCLA perhaps the best class of freshman DBs in the nation.
Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News reports the injury as a separated shoulder:
Freshman cornerback Johnny Johnson, who separated his shoulder last week, likely will undergo surgery and redshirt the upcoming season.
Head coach Jim Mora compared the injury to the one suffered by now-redshirt freshman Ishmael Adams, who played in the first two games of 2012 before sitting out.
Wang's story starts by calling the Bruins secondary "a major question mark" that returns "no starters and little experience"—all of which makes this injury more disconcerting. Johnson wasn't being counted on as a "shutdown" corner, but with such a clear path ahead of him, he was being counted on as a player who would drastically improve and quickly reach his very high ceiling.
Nothing is confirmed for sure, but if the surgery does take place and Johnson's season ends, the UCLA Bruins might need to rely even more on the contributions of their fellow freshmen. Priest Willis, the highest-rated of the bunch, has already been playing cornerback over safety, so his role now becomes even more paramount.
The Bruins run defense was considerably better than its pass defense last season, finishing 40th in Football Outsiders' S+P Ratings (as opposed to the pass defense's 58th). That chasm might grow even wider in 2013, as the defense returns five starters on the front seven and adds No. 6 recruit Eddie Vanderdoes to the defensive line.
Quarterbacks might choose to attack the Bruins through the air this season, more so now after a valuable piece of their secondary depth has been lost. But with two run-first (though very good) quarterbacks, Nevada's Cody Fajardo and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez, in their first two games, the Bruins might be able to compensate during nonconference play.
How they fare against the Pac-12 remains to be seen.