Heisman Trophy-aspiring UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley has an enviable dilemma for the 2014 season. With an array of talented receivers on the roster, Hundley has an abundance of options to power the Bruins' uptempo offensive attack.
Yes, UCLA lost Shaquelle Evans, the team's leading receiver in each of the last two seasons. Evans caught 60 passes for 877 yards in 2012 and 47 for 709 yards in 2013. Evans also emerged as the premier scoring threat in the passing game last season, hauling in nine touchdown receptions.
His reliability is a difficult quality to replicate, but head coach Jim Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone have no shortage of candidates for the job.
From the top to the bottom of the depth chart, UCLA's 2014 wide receiving corps may prove to be the best in the Pac-12.
The Bruins' dynamic Devins—junior Devin Fuller and redshirt junior Devin Lucien—are two of the unit's more experienced players. Lucien finished 2013 with 19 receptions but did most of his work late in the season. He had multiple-reception performances in four of the Bruins' last five games.
Fuller and Lucien are picking up this spring where they left off in 2013, as Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times and Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News detailed.
Add junior Jordan Payton, and Hundley is working with as strong a receiving core three as any quarterback has in the nation.
But what separates UCLA's stable of receivers from others is the abundance of promising, new contributors.
Hundley told reporters on Monday via the Orange County Register he is establishing chemistry with second-year player Thomas Duarte, as well as freshman Mossi Johnson.
"Mossi is turning into one of my favorite targets. … He has a nasty streak. He's scrappy," Hundley said. "[Duarte] is a monster. The way he can run, he's deceptively fast."
Duarte's 6'3", 225-pound frame should make him a threat in short-yardage and red-zone situations. And Duarte told the Daily Bruin he is more prepared for a prominent role in 2014.
(I feel) a lot faster, a lot bigger, a lot stronger, to be honest, I just feel like a different player. Mentally, my game has stepped up due to the coaches, spending time in their offices, watching film, just elevating my mental game so that my physical game can match that.
The spring-practice emergence of Johnson is among the more intriguing storylines to emanate from UCLA workouts. A former 3-star recruit out of Los Angeles Crenshaw, Johnson was a grayshirt in 2013 after suffering a career-threatening knee injury.
He's made the most of his opportunity since returning to action, earning the praises of wide receivers coach Eric Yarber. Yarber told Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register Johnson shows no ill effects from his time away from the game.
You can’t even notice that he had an injury. He can put either foot in the ground and change directions. … Most people when they have an injury and they put that knee brace on, they kind of drag their leg. But he hasn’t shown any effects from that. He’s hustling all over the field.
Johnson brings toughness, Duarte provides size and, according to Yarber via the Los Angeles Times, Kenny Walker adds "pure, unadulterated speed."
Walker was a 3-star prospect in 2012, Mora's first signing class, and made seven receptions in his first year. He is returning from back surgery that held him out of competition in 2013.
Indeed, the 2014 Bruins receiving corps is covering all its bases. Combine it with a more experienced Hundley behind center, and UCLA's passing attack is a home run.