UCLA Football: 5 Backups Critical to Team's Success in '14
There are five reserves in particular who are critical to the success of the UCLA football team this upcoming season.
Three of the aforementioned five reside on the defensive side of the ball. UCLA's defense will in all likelihood provide multiple looks. Although the base defense is a 3-4, one can expect to see an array of alignments and formations.
As a result, multiple "backups" could be seeing starter minutes.
The other two members of the team in this piece will look to provide UCLA's offense with some explosiveness and effectiveness from the skill positions.
Additionally, the vast majority of UCLA's opponents in '14 have the propensity to throw the ball with high frequency. This will, in some regards, dictate the defensive scheme being used.
Should the Bruins operate in the nickel, rising sophomore Tahaan Goodman will see plenty of time. He is in essence the unofficial fifth starter in the secondary.
In terms of ability, there might not be another member in the secondary as physically gifted. Goodman is big, hard-nosed and fast. Traditionally, there's a big leap from one's freshman to sophomore season.
If the axiom holds true, look for Goodman to have a big year.
Deon Hollins Jr.
Deon Hollins Jr. brings a special skill to the table: pass-rushing ability.
As a senior in high school, the Texas native had 24 sacks to go along with 44 tackles for loss. Hollins saw limited time last year as a true freshman. He isn't overly big for the outside linebacker position but makes up for his physical limitations with quickness and relentlessness.
Kenny Orjioke is likely the starter opposite Myles Jack at the vacant outside 'backer spot. Much like Hollins, Orjioke is relatively inexperienced. It could be a case in which both see equal time on the field.
Hollins' value in particular could come on third-down situations, in which he's pinning his ears back and getting after the opposing quarterback.
Head coach Jim Mora and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich have a nice problem on their hands. In theory, UCLA has four starting defensive linemen for three spots.
Sophomores Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes are undisputed starters at nose guard and right defensive end, respectively. Senior Owamagbe Odighizuwa is now healthy after sitting out last season due to a hip injury. He likely will resume his role as a starter.
However, Ellis McCarthy is the lynchpin of the line. He's versatile enough to play any of the three positions up front. The former Scout.com 5-star prospect is also immensely talented. At 6'5", 330 pounds, he's got NFL scouts drooling over his upside.
Should UCLA play in the nickel, McCarthy will start inside. If an injury should occur to Odighizuwa or Vanderdoes, McCarthy will be plugged in at end.
He's the ultimate security blanket for the Bruins.
Redshirt senior Jordon James will begin the season as the starter at tailback.
However, redshirt sophomore Paul Perkins will play an integral role this year in UCLA's backfield. The Queen Creek, Arizona, native was second on the team last year with 573 rushing yards.
Perkins also has value catching passes out of the backfield. He caught 24 passes for 296 yards and was a threat in third-down situations.
Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone likes to operate with a fast tempo. He utilizes numerous options on the offensive side of the ball. Add in the fact that UCLA doesn't necessarily have an every-down back, and Perkins should garner a good chunk of play time.
Kenneth Walker brings tremendous speed to the wide receiver corps for the Bruins.
The Richmond, California, native is arguably the fastest player on the entire roster. He was a track star in high school—participating as a state finalist in the hurdles.
Walker missed all of last season due to a back injury. Now fully healthy, he should provide UCLA with a much-needed deep threat behind Devin Lucien on the perimeter.
As wide receivers coach Eric Yarber told Los Angeles Times writer Chris Foster, Walker "has pure, unadulterated speed. I don't have a whole bunch of that on this team, so he's going to give that over-the-top threat."