UCLA Football: Grading Every New Starter's Week 1 Performance

Jason Fray@https://twitter.com/Jason_FrayCorrespondent ISeptember 2, 2013

UCLA Football: Grading Every New Starter's Week 1 Performance

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    An array of new starters burst onto the scene very positively in UCLA's 58-20 win against Nevada in the season opener. 

    It's somewhat difficult to say that any of the first-time starters had issues in such a blow out. Jim Mora was very liberal with his substitution patterns. Although a player may have started, the reserve at that position played an equal amount. 

    For that reason, some of the slides will contain multiple names. In essence, there were some co-starters. Many of the co-starters unsurprisingly were true freshmen. 

    Here's a look at how the first-time starters fared against the Wolf Pack.

Alex Redmond (Offensive Guard)

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    Grade: A

    Alex Redmond was a bit of a surprise starter at guard in this contest. 

    It was predicted that fellow true freshman Caleb Benenoch was to get the starting nod. Redmond had been plagued with a concussion throughout fall camp. Regardless, Redmond was a beast in the opener. 

    He played with a physicality and nastiness not seen very often in a true freshman. He absolutely obliterated Nevada's defensive linemen with his power. He also displayed great mobility when pulling out in space.

    He was part of a unit that helped the Bruins rush for 345 yards. Quarterback Brett Hundley also was not sacked in the game.

    If this trend continues, UCLA may have a force on the offensive line for the next four years. 

Jordan Payton/Devin Lucien (Wide Receivers)

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    Grade: B

    Jordan Payton and Devin Lucien are essentially co-starters from the wide receiver position.

    Although Payton technically starts, both play pretty much the same amount of snaps. In the game versus Nevada, both had solid games. Payton had two grabs for 30 yards, while Lucien also had two catches for 33 yards. 

    Both should put up bigger statistics in upcoming weeks. For one thing, UCLA pounded the ball on the ground once the lead ballooned. Hundley also spread the ball around and completed passes to 12 different receivers on the night. 

    In closer games, both should be able to garner more production.

Jordon James (Running Back)

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    Grade: A+

    Jordon James could not have had a better opening game as a first-time starter. 

    The Corona, Calif., native rushed for 155 yards on 21 carries. It was by far his best game as a Bruin. Unlike last year, he looked very decisive in planting his foot in the ground and exploding up field between the tackles.

    Once in space, he flashed his immense speed and wiggle. His ability to juke defenders was very impressive. For perhaps the first time, he lived up to his "Joystick" nickname. 

    More than anything, he may have solidified a position that had lots of question marks heading into the season. 


Grayson Mazzone/Darius Bell (Wide Receivers)

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    Grade: C

    In a somewhat shocking development, UCLA started Grayson Mazzone at the Y over Darius Bell, Thomas Duarte and Nate Iese. 

    Mazzone is a walk-on who transferred from East Carolina. He is the son of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and the brother of quarterbacks coach Taylor Mazzone. 

    For the game, he had two catches for 18 yards. Bell and Duarte registered one catch each, for 11 and seven yards, respectively. 

    It'd be a surprise to see Mazzone continue to start at the position. At 5'8", 195 pounds, he's considerably small for the position. Both Bell and Duarte also have more potential for big plays when compared to the youngest Mazzone. 

Sean Covington (Punter)

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    Grade: Incomplete

    When the punter fails to register a punt, it usually indicates a pretty successful night for the offense. 

    The true freshman out of Florida had a pretty uneventful night. Aside from partaking in some kickoffs, he did virtually nothing. 

    Per Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times, Mora asked Covington in the third quarter if he had punted yet. Covington said he hadn't, and Mora was happy about that. Covington then said, "Coach, if you never see me punting, I'm fine with that."

Keenan Graham/Eddie Vanderdoes (Defensive Ends)

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    Grade: A

    There has been some trepidation as to whom will take over for the departed Datone Jones at defensive end. After the Nevada game, those qualms have been eased in a big way.

    The combination of Keenan Graham and Eddie Vanderdoes gives UCLA a formidable one-two punch at the position. 

    Graham had two sacks on the night. He was explosive off the edge, and his quickness really gave Nevada's offensive tackles some problems.

    Vanderdoes practically was living in Nevada's backfield. The heralded freshman from Auburn, Calif., had six tackles, including two for losses. His combination of quickness and brute strength usually resulted in Nevada offensive linemen being flung backwards. 

    The scary thing for opponents is that Vanderdoes practiced sparingly throughout fall camp. Once he gets in better shape, there's no telling how good he can truly be. 

Myles Jack/Aaron Wallace (Outside Linebacker)

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    Grade: A-

    Aaron Wallace has been the starter since fall camp began. His overall experience gave him a leg up on competition for the position. 

    He didn't stand out against Nevada. There were no glaring mistakes, but there wasn't anything that made people get excited. 

    However, true freshman Myles Jack more than made up for it. To be frank, Jack is an absolute freak in every positive sense of the word. His athleticism is off the charts good. 

    There was a portion of the game in which Jack made the tackle on five consecutive plays. For the game, he was second on the team with eight tackles. He literally was everywhere on the field. 

    It's likely that Wallace will remain the starter for the future. With that said, Jack will get a lot of time on the field. He's too good not to play. 

    Jack mentioned to Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times that on the first play of his collegiate career, he was hit pretty hard with a crack-back block. It caused a headache for the remainder of the night. 

    "That was my welcome to college football," Jack said. "I don't know if I got the same receiver, but I was out there seeing if I could give them pain."

The Secondary as a Whole

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    Grade: Incomplete

    The entire secondary will be lumped together, primarily based on the fact that the unit was not tested much. 

    Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo went 19 for 32, but only for 164 yards. There wasn't much of an attempt to stretch the field vertically. 

    What Fajardo did do was run the football. It forced the secondary to come up and make tackles in space. Of the starting quartet (Fabian Moreau, Randall Goforth, Ishmael Adams, Anthony Jefferson), Goforth and Moreau looked the best at securing the ball carriers. 

    Head coach Jim Mora did tell Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times that the unit "played well."

    "They kept the ball in front of them, made plays, and didn't get out of position," Mora said.

    Mora also kept things in perspective. He mentioned that the unit "wasn't really challenged."

    "I don't know if it's a real assessment just because the ball wasn't up in the air a whole lot," he said.

    The secondary did get some much needed experience, which was positive. Another plus is, like Mora said, no big plays were allowed. 

    UCLA's secondary should expect to face a stern test in two weeks, when the squad travels to Lincoln for a game against Nebraska.