UCLA Football: 5 Players Needing to Prove Themselves in Spring Practice
Jim Mora's bunch is currently in its second week of spring practice. This period offers the staff a good look at the current state of the football team.
For some of the players, this camp will provide an opportunity to impress. Younger players in particular will hope to gain valuable experience.
As for others, it could in essence be a reclamation project in terms of reestablishing value in the eyes of the coaches.
This slideshow will detail five members of the team needing to prove themselves during spring practices.
It might appear a bit peculiar to see Jordon James on this list. The Corona, Calif. native was UCLA's starting tailback in 2013.
However, James cannot rest on his laurels; he's got multiple teammates ardently fighting for his starting spot in the backfield.
An ankle injury against Utah essentially derailed his 2013 season. Both his lateral quickness and cutting ability were severely compromised due to the ailment. Now healthy, James looks to finish off his career with a solid senior season.
James will be battling the likes of Steven Manfro, Paul Perkins, Craig Lee and eventually Nate Starks for playing time. The entire crop of backs figures to be utilized in some fashion. Lee in particular could figure heavily into the mix.
According to Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News, the redshirt freshman has been impressive thus far in the spring session. David Woods of BruinReportOnline.com (subscription required) also noted Lee's explosiveness as a runner.
With Torian White officially dismissed from the program, a golden opportunity has been presented to redshirt freshman Poasi Moala.
Thus far in practice, Moala has been running with the first team as the starting right tackle. Moala has a tremendous set of physical gifts, is extremely athletic for an offensive lineman and has great feet.
UCLA needs stability at the tackle position. The interior of line should be set with Malcolm Bunche, Jake Brendel and Alex Redmond, and sophomore Caleb Benenoch appears to be the starter at left tackle.
Moala's clearly the favorite for the right tackle job at this point, and an impressive spring camp will only solidify the notion.
Owamagbe Odighizuwa's return is a significant development for the Bruins.
He'll immediately inject maturity, experience and professionalism into a young group up front on the defensive line. The former Scout.com 5-star prospect is also blessed with impressive strength and quickness.
Assuming "Owa" is fully healthy, he could make a considerable impact from an end spot. Conventional wisdom suggests he'll start at Cassius Marsh's vacant defensive end spot.
This spring will enable Odighizuwa to get back into the flow of the program, whilst also aiding in his conditioning.
Kenny Orjioke has a tremendous opportunity to stake his claim this spring as one of UCLA's premier pass-rushers.
He is likely the leading candidate to replace Anthony Barr as the hybrid outside linebacker/rush end. From a physical standpoint, Orjioke is the prototype outside linebacker. He's got great length and possesses extremely good athleticism.
This spring will be vital in terms of Orjioke's development. The process of becoming a more polished defender will only enhance Orjioke's chances at becoming an impact player this season.
A former Scout.com 5-star prospect, Priest Willis hasn't gotten off to a great start thus far in his collegiate career.
A delay in his enrollment as a freshman hindered his development. He wasn't able to participate in the summer conditioning program and was essentially forced to play catch-up throughout the year.
He played sparingly as a freshman in 2013 and, as expected, Willis struggled a bit in coverage.
Although Mora has emphatically stated Willis is a corner, safety might be his best long-term position.
With a deep defensive backs class coming in, he could get buried on the depth chart quickly without a string of strong performances. There's no doubt this period is crucial for Willis' prospects as a player for the Bruins.
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