UCLA Football: Incoming Freshmen Most Likely to Contribute This Season
The UCLA football team has the luxury of adding impact players from a talented 2014 recruiting class. Multiple members of the group should be able to come in right away and contribute to a team hopeful of winning the Pac-12.
Many of the said prospects reside on the defensive side of the ball. While it's possible some could start, the likely scenario will involve the incoming recruits in a reserve role.
Although not a freshman, UCLA adds an impact transfer in the form of Malcolm Bunche. Of the players listed in this piece, the former Miami offensive lineman has the best chance to start.
Here's a look at the new roster additions most likely to contribute in 2014 for the UCLA Bruins.
Both Ainuu Taua and Matt Dickerson could potentially add depth to a strong defensive front.
It's unlikely either will usurp starting spots from Kenny Clark, Eddie Vanderdoes, Owa Odighizuwa or Ellis McCarthy.
However, after the projected starting quartet, the depth chart is up for grabs. Taua has the versatility to play inside as a nose tackle and also as a defensive end. Although somewhat undersized, Taua's motor and toughness should allow for minutes early.
Dickerson, on the other hand, is very impressive from a physical standpoint. At 6'5", 275 pounds, he's equipped with the quintessential size for a 3-4 defensive end. He'll instantly become UCLA's tallest defensive lineman from the minute he gets to Westwood.
Both could theoretically end up redshirting. At worst, expect one of the two to play as true freshmen. Don't be shocked if both are in the rotation by the start of the season.
Jim Mora and his staff signed two excellent linebacker prospects from the southern portion of the country in Zach Whitley and Kenny Young.
Both are middle 'backers, with somewhat different skill sets. Young is a thumper in the box. He loves initiating contact and is at his best running downhill and attacking ball-carriers. Young's physicality makes him an easy choice to see time early.
Similarly, Whitley is also ultra-aggressive. He can move a bit better from a lateral standpoint and thus can cover more ground when compared to Young. Depth behind expected starters Eric Kendricks and Isaako Savaiinaea isn't great. As a result, both should play right away.
At outside linebacker, Dwight Williams could factor into the mix. Depth at the position also isn't outstanding by any stretch. Williams could see time behind Kenny Orjioke in a reserve role. He also could feature on special teams.
Versatility is the name of the game for defensive back signees Adarius Pickett and Jaleel Wadood.
UCLA does return its entire starting secondary from a season ago, but Wadood and Pickett will provide cover at both safety and corner. Wadood will start off at safety but can play corner in a pinch.
Conversely, Pickett will likely begin his career at corner. He's big enough to play safety if need be.
Both are intelligent, physical, intuitive players. I'd bet on Pickett and Wadood playing integral roles on special teams from day one. It also would not be surprising to see them have reserve roles behind the projected starting secondary.
With the dismissal of Torian White and the uncertainty facing Simon Goines, the addition of Malcolm Bunche was significant.
The transfer from Miami instantly adds experience and leadership to a young unit. He also offers cover at multiple positions, as he played at both guard and tackle during his time in the ACC.
Look for Bunche to start out playing at the left guard position. He and sophomore tackle Caleb Benenoch could form a massive left side of the line for the Bruins.