UCLA Football: 6 Players to Watch in Bruins' Spring Game
The UCLA football team will be showcasing its talents for the fans on Apr. 26 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. This game offers some of the younger players a chance to perform well in front of the coaching staff.
There are six members on the team in particular with something to gain from the contest. Three of the six aforementioned players are freshmen.
A fourth is ready to take on a bigger role from a season ago. The last two players are returning from various injuries. Both are primed for productive years.
Here's a look at six players to watch for in the Bruins spring game.
Mossi Johnson has arguably been the most surprising player of the spring.
The Crenshaw High School product was a grayshirt addition to the program—officially joining the team with the 2014 class. Johnson had been recovering from a torn ACL suffered as a senior in high school.
Regardless, he's flashed immense ability throughout practice. Wide receivers coach Eric Yarber has been especially effusive in his praise of the receiver.
He should see minutes behind Thomas Duarte this year in the slot. If the spring is any indication, Johnson will contribute this year.
Running back Craig Lee has the potential to be dynamic.
He's easily the most athletic tailback on the roster, blessed with a special combination of speed and quickness. The redshirt freshman will battle the likes of Jordon James, Steven Manfro and Paul Perkins for time on the field.
Running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu calls Lee "an aggressive runner. [He's] gaining confidence and learning the system."
He's far too talented to not see time in some capacity. Lee should be able to carve out his own niche as the fall rolls around.
With Shaq Evans headed to the NFL, UCLA is need of a receiver to step up and be the top guy.
Devin Lucien looks primed to take on the challenge and become the number one receiver on the roster. By all indications, he's looked very good throughout the spring. Yarber mentioned how Lucien is "becoming a student of the game. He's trying to be what Shaq [Evans] was last year."
Lucien is an explosive player. He's always had the potential to be a very productive target. The general knock has been his consistency, or lack thereof. With continued development in the area, he should be able to be a threat for the Bruins in '14.
The return of Owamagbe Odighizuwa to the defensive line is huge.
Odighizuwa will instantly bring experience to a very young unit. The other expected starters, Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes, are true sophomores. As a senior, "Owa" will likely take on a leadership role from within the group.
The former Scout.com 5-star prospect is blessed with very good athleticism. He will start out as a end, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him drop in coverage as an outside linebacker in certain situations.
This game will give Odighizuwa his first real taste of simulated game action since the 2012 season. He sat out last season due to hip surgery. A strong spring game could propel him forward as the team looks to their fall camp in San Bernardino.
Kenny Walker is arguably the fastest member of the football team.
When asked about Walker, Yarber said the Richmond, Calif. native "has pure, unadulterated speed. I don't have a bunch of that on this team, so he's going to give that over-the-top threat."
Walker has been plagued by back problems throughout his career. Now fully healthy, he's primed for a big year. He offers UCLA something not many on the roster can offer—which is speed.
Walker should be a player capable of stretching the field vertically for quarterback Brett Hundley. He likely will see time as a receiver on the outside but is also capable in the return game as well.
Zach Whitley is one of the jewels from UCLA's 2014 recruiting class.
The linebacker from Houston was previously committed to Alabama, before changing his mind and signing with the Bruins. Whitley graduated from early from high school in order to participate in UCLA's spring practice.
Whitley has all the tools needed to become an impact player early in his career. He'll battle Isaako Savaiinaea for the vacant middle linebacker spot next to Eric Kendricks.
Whitley's participation in the spring game will allow the fans to get a glimpse into the future at the linebacker position. A solid performance could also aid his chances at winning a starting role.