An astounding 18 true freshmen played last season for Jim Mora and the UCLA Bruins. The impact made by the 2013 recruiting class was immense.
It would be one thing if the group of youngsters were involved in a smaller capacity. In fact, it would likely be expected. However, the vast majority of the true freshmen played very prominent roles for the Bruins in 2013.
Eight baby Bruins started at one point for the 10-win team. Of the eight, the most recognizable freshman was Myles Jack.
Simply put, Jack took Westwood by storm. The Bellevue, Wash. native starred as both a linebacker and as a running back. In fact, Jack was named as both the Pac-12 Freshman Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year.
Jack figures to be even more of a prominent figure within the squad this upcoming year. He'll be tasked with producing at a higher clip in the wake of losing Jordan Zumwalt and Anthony Barr.
Along with Brett Hundley, Jack has distinguished himself as the most recognizable member of the football team.
The offensive and defensive lines are treacherous in nature. Mass amounts of physical strength and savvy are needed to perform well. Experience is usually a prerequisite for success—which explains why many squads are comprised of veterans on the offensive and defensive fronts.
Those facts make this past year even more remarkable for the Bruins. At one point in the season, UCLA started three true freshmen on the offensive line in 2013 (Scott Quessenberry, Caleb Benenoch, Alex Redmond). UCLA also had two starting on the defensive line (Kenny Clark, Eddie Vanderdoes).
Benenoch and Redmond are expected to reprise their roles as starters this upcoming year. Both demonstrated the ability to be extremely physical in the run game. The duo were also Freshman All-American selections by 247Sports.com.
Clark came on towards the later half of the season and overtook senior Seali'i Epenesa for the starting job at nose guard. Built low to the ground, Clark's got an extremely powerful lower base. Complemented by great quickness, the defensive lineman is destined for a bright future.
Punter Sean Covington and tight end Thomas Duarte were the other two freshmen starters for the Bruins.
In limited time, Duarte displayed soft hands and an impressive knack for getting separation on routes. He appears to be the future at the position for the Bruins.
Sophomores Tahaan Goodman, Jayon Brown, Deon Hollins, Cameron Judge, Priest Willis and Isaako Savaiinaea should also continue to see their roles intensify with more experience.
For all of the aforementioned second-year players, UCLA will introduce talented redshirt freshman prospects such as Poasi Moala, Eldridge Massington, Craig Lee and potentially Asiantii Woulard in the upcoming season.
It truly is a testament to Mora's staff for integrating 18 true freshmen into the mix. Another year of conditioning under famed strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi will make this group even more lethal from a production and significance standpoint.
When looking back at the 2013 class in the future, this group could truly be special in terms of elevating the program to new heights.