UCLA Football: Meet the Bruins 11 New Starters for 2013
The UCLA Bruins have the tall task of replacing multiple important cogs from the team last year. It's not known up to this point if the Bruins can replace the likes of Datone Jones and Johnathan Franklin, among others.
New starters enter the mix in the form of inexperienced players and true freshmen for the most part. It's imperative that these athletes can get acclimated as quickly as possible. Mistakes will surely take place during the early part of the season. However, it's key that these mistakes aren't made at a high clip.
Here's a look at the new starters for the 2013 UCLA Bruins football team.
Cornerback: Ishmael Adams
Player replacing: Aaron Hester
Ishmael Adams was a much ballyhooed recruit coming out of Oaks Christian High School in 2012. According to Scout.com, the 4-star corner chose to attend UCLA over offers from Cal, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Washington and others.
Slated to be the team's starting nickelback a season ago, Adams suffered a season-ending injury to his shoulder. He's now fully healthy and ready to start opposite fellow new corner Fabian Moreau.
Adams is a tenacious player with toughness. He relies on quickness and physicality when bodying receivers on the perimeter. His height (5'8") could be a problem against bigger receivers.
UCLA's secondary play a season ago was porous. Opposing teams completed passes at a 63.3 percent clip in 2012 against the Bruins' defensive backs. Adams should offer an improvement over the corners from a season ago.
Offensive Guard: Caleb Benenoch
Position: Left offensive guard
Player replacing: Jeff Baca
Caleb Benenoch is an absolute mountain of a man. At 6'5", 320 pounds, he enters college as a true freshman ready from a physical standpoint. He'll have the task of replacing stalwart Jeff Baca.
It's hard to envision Benenoch being an upgrade over Baca. Baca was a longtime starter, and he had the versatility to play literally any position on the offensive line. The maturity and experience aspect also heavily favors the departed guard.
Benenoch is a lot bigger than Baca was. He should thrive in the run game with his powerful base and strong hands. It helps that the rest of the offensive line is somewhat experienced. Benenoch will be able to lean on guys such as Xavier Su'a-Filo and Jake Brendel for help.
Benenoch was very highly regarded coming out of high school. According to Rivals.com, the 4-star prospect had offers from Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Auburn and Texas A&M, among others.
Tight End/Y: Darius Bell
Player replacing: Joe Fauria
Fast-forward three seasons and Bell is now the starting Y receiver in Noel Mazzone's offense. Bell isn't overly big, nor fast. His physical tools are a far cry from former starter Joe Fauria.
However, Bell knows how to separate from defenders. He's adept at exploiting small pockets of space over the middle of the field. He uses his body very well and has a great set of hands.
Last year, Bell had seven catches for 143 yards and a touchdown. Expect those numbers to climb considerably.
Punter: Sean Covington
Player replacing: Jeff Locke
Sean Covington has pretty big shoes to fill. Departing punter Jeff Locke was considered to be one of the best punters in UCLA football history. The lefty put up great numbers throughout his career. He was incredibly consistent in flipping field position.
Kohl's Kicking Camps rated Covington as the top high school punter in the nation. He was also an Under Armour All-American.
Like Locke, Covington is a lefty. Covington also has a monster leg that should result in quite a few booming punts. It's not feasible to believe Covington will have the same levels of success initially that Locke had.
However, he certainly does have the potential to do that one day.
Safety: Randall Goforth
Position: Strong safety
Player replacing: Tevin McDonald
UCLA's secondary has next to no experience as a whole. Although he's a true sophomore, Randall Goforth will have to step into a leadership role pretty quickly. He is the most experienced member of the secondary from an actual play time standpoint.
Goforth hails from the famed Long Beach Poly High School. Scout.com reported that the 3-star prospect chose the Bruins over offers from Arizona State, Cal and Washington.
Goforth had 39 tackles and started five games in 2012. There were times that he did appear overwhelmed. For the most part, he did play pretty well.
The Bruins' front seven will go a long ways in determining the fate of the secondary in 2013. UCLA's defensive line and linebacker corps rank as two of the best units in the conference. With constant pressure up front, it should help the green secondary—led by Goforth—considerably.
Defensive End: Keenan Graham
Position: Left defensive end
Player replacing: Datone Jones
Keenan Graham was moved to the defensive end in order to compensate for the departure of Datone Jones.
Graham was a talented prospect coming out of Las Vegas. According to Rivals.com, Graham bypassed offers from Nebraska, Oregon and Southern Cal in order to come to Westwood. He made the transition from rush end into an outside linebacker once Jim Mora took over.
Now as a redshirt senior, he was moved back to his natural position of defensive end. He's had a very solid fall camp thus far. He relies on finesse and speed as opposed to raw strength and size. According to Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News, Mora mentioned that Graham "plays with really good pad level, great leverage."
Graham's smallish size makes it unlikely that he'll get the majority of the snaps at the position. His main competition for the starting job is freshman Eddie Vanderdoes.
Running Back: Jordon James
Position: Running back
Player replacing: Johnathan Franklin
Scout.com had James rated as a 4-star prospect. He collected offers from Notre Dame, Washington, Tennessee and Cal before choosing to become a Bruin.
It's not likely that James will replicate the success that Franklin had a year ago. UCLA has a deep stable of tailbacks, and all five will play in some capacity.
It's imperative that he becomes more decisive as a runner. He didn't hit the hole very hard in 2012. Living up to his "joystick" nickname, James would dance to avoid defenders rather than running upfield.
James should have a good year. He doesn't have to be spectacular performer. For UCLA, a consistent option from the spot is desired.
Safety: Anthony Jefferson
Position: Free Safety
Player replacing: Andrew Abbott
Anthony Jefferson was an elite prospect coming out of Cathedral High School in Los Angeles. A 4-star recruit by Rivals.com, Jefferson had offers from the likes of Oregon, Southern Cal, Tennessee and Oklahoma. He was naturally expected to play early as a freshman and contribute right away.
Injuries throughout his first three years slowed his progress down considerably. Now, finally healthy, he's primed for a renaissance of sorts.
Defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin mentioned, per the Los Angeles Times, that Jefferson "has the length, size, speed, all of the traits you want to see in a cornerback."
Of course, the redshirt junior was moved to safety in order to get the four best defensive backs out on the field. Jefferson staying healthy is the biggest question mark. Should he be able to play without any physical ailments, he should be in line for a solid campaign.
Cornerback: Fabian Moreau
Player replacing: Sheldon Price
Fabian Moreau came to UCLA as a running back. He had never played defense on any level before being switched over to the other side of the ball during his freshman season.
A fantastic athlete in high school, Moreau was an All-County selection by both the Miami Herald and the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Scout.com had Moreau rated as a 3-star prospect. He chose the Bruins over offers from Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Kansas State and Mississippi.
Slated to be a starting corner this season, Moreau has worked extremely hard in the offseason. Randall Goforth called Moreau the hardest worker he'd ever met.
Per Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News, Mora mentioned that "[Moreau] can find the ball quickly in the air and make a play on it." Surely, it doesn't hurt that Moreau's been an offensive player throughout his career.
Moreau has all of the physical tools to be a good corner one day. His immense lack of experience will likely result in some growing pains this season. With that said, his upside at the position is considerable.
Wide Receiver: Jordan Payton
Position: Wide receiver
Player replacing: Jerry Johnson
Jordan Payton had a whirlwind recruiting process in high school. The Oaks Christian High School product committed to Southern Cal as a junior in high school. During his senior year of high school, he decommitted in favor of Cal.
Less than a day after committing to Cal, he changed his mind and committed to Washington. A day later, he flipped to UCLA and ultimately signed with the Bruins.
Did you guys get all of that?
Payton had 18 catches for 202 yards and a touchdown last season. The sophomore is a physical receiver with a great set of hands. He's not likely to make the spectacular play down the field, nor is he a blazer.
However, Payton is a steady option who'll likely catch anything thrown his way. Expect him to have a good year, likely tripling his statistics from a season ago. He helps make up a talented wide receiver quartet featuring Shaq Evans, Devin Fuller and Devin Lucien.
Defensive End: Eddie Vanderdoes
Position: Left defensive end
Player replacing: Datone Jones
He was initially ruled ineligible for this upcoming season. After appealing the process, the NCAA deemed his story compelling enough. He has been cleared to participate this season without losing a year of eligibility.
Throughout fall camp, Vanderdoes has been battling a disc issue in his back. He recently was cleared for contact drills in the hopes of getting time before the season opener against Nevada.
Edward Lewis of Bruin Sports Report tweeted that Mora expects Vanderdoes to play 30 snaps against Nevada. As he continues to get more conditioned, expect his involvement to increase. He's battling Keenan Graham for the starting job at this point.
Outside Linebacker: Aaron Wallace
Position: Left outside linebacker
Player replacing: Damien Holmes
The redshirt sophomore from San Diego will assume a starting role after participating on special teams a season ago.
Wallace was a 3-star recruit coming out of high school. According to Rivals.com, Wallace chose the Bruins over offers from Washington and Texas A&M. It was fascinating to see Wallace choose to be a Bruin over the Aggies. Wallace's father, Aaron Sr., was a three-time All-Southwest Conference linebacker at Texas A&M.
Although Wallace had only three tackles in limited time last year, he flashed the ability to be a solid player. Anthony Barr and Cassius Marsh figure to get a lot of attention over on the left side. It's conceivable to believe opposing teams will have to devote extra protection on that side of the line. As a result, Wallace should be able to see some favorable matchups.
In terms of expectations, Wallace should be a solid contributor. His ability is superior compared last year's starter at outside 'backer, Damien Holmes.