2009 UCLA Football: 10 Players to Watch
The dismal season that UCLA had last year should easily be wiped into distant memory this season. Rick Neuheisel is in his second year and, slowly but surely, starting to get quality players into his system. After the spring practices and the spring game, I have put together a list of the ten players Bruins fans should be watching for this upcoming Fall. There is much promise in these young Bruins as Neuheisel is starting to pluck away the cross-town rival's (USC's) recruits, starting to make UCLA, the cream of the crop in Los Angeles.
No. 10: Nelson Rosario
I would consider Nelson Rosario the most athletic receiver. He was a high jumper in high school so he should be a valuable red zone target with his great leaping ability. He appeared in a handful of games in '08, and made some catches. He should expect to see the field in third down situations. I believe he will become a valuable third option behind Terrence Austin and Taylor Embree.
No. 9: Xavier Su'a-Filo
I would consider Xavier Su'a-Filo the "prize recruit" for the offensive line. He has good size and strength for the guard position. However, his speed sets him apart from most guards. He can trap and block downfield and has substantial upside. I expect him to make a push for a starting position, especially because UCLA's line wasn't the best last year.
No. 8: Morrell Preseley
He de-committed from USC and enrolled early at UCLA, easily becoming the "prize" of the recruiting class. He is the top-rated tight end prospect and can be used also as a half-back and at wide out. If it weren't for almost lacking a true position, I would easily predict him as one of the best true freshman in college football. He has good size and hands and should make a major impact for the Bruins this year.
No. 7: Aaron Hester
Aaron Hester redshirted last year and impressed the coaches with his work on the scout team. He has big size for a corner standing at 6'1'' and weighing 200 lbs. I expect him to be the starter opposite the All-American candidate Alterraun Verner. The coaches love his size, speed, and ability to defend.
Np. 6: E.J. Woods
Woods has a chance to start opposite of safety Rahim Moore, if his legal issues don't make him miss any part of the season. Woods redshirted last year and some said he could've played last year if academic issues didn't force him to redshirt. He should make a solid impact, even if he doesn't start.
No. 5: Datone Jones
Datone Jones is said to be UCLA's greatest talent at defensive end since Bruce Davis. He appeared in 10 games in 2008 with two starts. He was named to the Rivals All-Freshman team. He's going to be competing for the second defensive end starting spot opposite Korey Bosworth. Datone Jones has the brightest future among UCLA's defensive ends.
No. 4: Akeem Ayers
Akeem Ayers was a reserve linebacker last year, who appeared in all 12 games. He is noted for both his pass coverage and his speed to get outside. He ended up with four sacks last year. Neuheisel and the rest of the coaching staff needs Ayers to have a big year aside Reggie Carter.
No. 3: Milton Knox
Milton Knox sat out last season because the NCAA didn't clear him until four games into the season. Milton Knox, I believe, can establish himself with Derrick Coleman as a one-two punch. It would be sort of a "mash and dash" type of thing. Knox reminds a lot of people of Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars because of his size, speed and strength. Expect great things out of Milton Knox.
No. 2: Derrick Coleman
Derrick Coleman was a reserve running back for the Bruins last year and ended up being the second leading rusher behind Kahlil Bell. He appeared in 10 games and was a big surprise, considering the talent that the Bruins have recruited. I think he and Knox can combine to make a talented one-two punch. Also, he could shift to fullback because he has the strength, size, and speed needed. This could be a dangerous weapon for the Bruins this upcoming season.
No. 1: Kevin Prince
Kevin Prince is the best person to watch this season for the Bruins because he was named the starting quarterback. Neuheisel named the Crespi Carmelite product the starter after a battle with Kevin Craft and true freshman Richard Brehaut. He's been impressing the coaching staff with his strong arm and willingness to throw downfield, which the Bruins didn't do AT ALL last year. With four years of eligibility left, all Bruins fans should expect great things from him, especially after the dismal year from the quarterback position in the past couple years.