UCLA Football: Ranking Bruins' Top 10 Players Heading into the Season
Jim Mora and his staff have done a wonderful job of building up the UCLA football team over the past few years. The depth on this team has not been seen in quite a long time.
There's considerable star power at the top, not to mention an impressive collection of talent littered throughout the defense.
This piece will detail the top 10 players on the roster heading into this season. The piece will gradually narrow down to the best football player on the team.
Honorable mentions: Ishmael Adams, Devin Lucien, Devin Fuller, Jordan Payton, Randall Goforth, Alex Redmond.
10. Thomas Duarte
However, he did display the potential to be UCLA's most dependable receiver. In his limited time on the field, Duarte demonstrated terrific hands and above-average route-running skills. He's incredibly smooth for a player 6'3", 225 pounds.
Now a sophomore, expect Duarte to take the next step as a player and become quarterback Brett Hundley's safety valve.
9. Caleb Benenoch
Caleb Benenoch had a fantastic freshman campaign in 2013.
The Texas native was named a second-team Freshman All-American by 247Sports.com. He also received the John Boncheff, Jr. Award, denoting the Offensive Rookie of the Year at the end of the season banquet.
Benenoch is versatile enough to play any position on the offensive line, save for center. This year, the 6'5", 310-pound athlete is slated to start at right tackle for the Bruins.
Not only is he a mauler out on the edge, but he's got very good feet for a man his size. He will be one of the vital cogs on UCLA's offensive line this upcoming season.
8. Eddie Vanderdoes
A much ballyhooed recruit out of Northern California, Eddie Vanderdoes had a decent freshman campaign.
The sophomore battled a minor back injury throughout the year. In the spring, he suffered a foot injury—robbing him of valuable practice time.
Now fully healthy, we should see a more explosive and consistent football player. Vanderdoes' upside is truly undeniable. He's extremely quick for a 6'4", 310-pound lineman. He's also violent at the point of attack, using his hands to dislodge the blocks from offensive linemen.
Along with Kenny Clark, Ellis McCarthy and Owa Odighizuwa, he helps make up one of the best defensive lines in the conference.
7. Malcolm Bunche
Malcolm Bunche was the most important addition to the team this past offseason.
The fifth-year transfer from Miami fills a gaping hole left by the dismissal of former starting tackle Torian White. Bunche brings toughness, maturity and experience to a relatively young unit.
During fall camp, offensive line coach Adrian Klemm was particularly effusive in his praise of the veteran. At this point, it appears as if Bunche has sewn up the starting left tackle spot.
6. Owamagbe Odighizuwa
Senior defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa is an absolute physical specimen. Taking one look at him physically, it isn't a surprise when people mistake him for a statue made out of granite.
The fifth-year senior sat out all of last year with a hip injury. He's fully healthy and ready to live up to the hype he came in with as a Scout.com 5-star recruit in 2010. "Owa" is slated to start at the vacant defensive end spot left by Cassius Marsh.
Vanderdoes' thoughts on his teammate says it all, via the Los Angeles Daily News:
There are people, and then there is Owa. You have humans, and then you have Owa. You look at him, and he's a physical specimen. He's 275 pounds of solid muscle. He runs like a defensive back. He's just a monster. He's the typical NFL defensive end. I'm really excited to play next to Owa. That's going to help a bunch playing next to him.
5. Fabian Moreau
Fabian Moreau came out of nowhere to become one of UCLA's most talented athletes.
A former Scout.com 3-star running back from Florida, Moreau made the switch over to the defensive backfield and hasn't looked back.
Moreau is equipped with every tool when designing the ideal defensive back. He's got long arms, good overall length and exceptional recovery speed. Not to rev up the hype machine too much, but Mora believes Moreau will be a first-round pick when it's all said and done.
At the very worst, expect Moreau to be one of the better corners in the conference this season.
4. Kenny Clark
Sophomore nose guard Kenny Clark could be the most unheralded and underrated player in the entire conference heading into 2014.
The Rialto, California, native supplanted a multiyear starter (Seali'i Epenesa) last year as a true freshman. As the year progressed, Clark became more disruptive.
Against Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl, Clark was named the Most Valuable Lineman. His quickness and brute strength caused problems for the Hokies all afternoon.
It would be a shock to see Clark not contend for all-conference honors by the time this year ends.
3. Eric Kendricks
Eric Kendricks is an absolute tackling machine for the Bruins.
Kendricks is extremely intuitive as a football player. He's seemingly always around the ball, and more often than not, he makes the play. As a senior in 2014, he will assume the role as the leader of the defense. Paired with Myles Jack, the duo could be the most lethal linebacker combination in the entire nation.
2. Myles Jack
Per Tracy Pierson of BruinReportOnline.com, defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich praised the improvement in Myles Jack's game: "He has grown in everything. His size, his strength, his speed, his understanding, his awareness. His understanding of the defense. He's a guy that's just scratching the surface. He's another guy committed to being great."
This admission is a scary proposition for the teams on UCLA's schedule this year. Jack is easily one of the most dynamic players in the nation. It will be fascinating to see what his role will be as a running back this year. Should it become expanded, the Bruins offense will be that much more explosive and dangerous.
Only a sophomore, Jack has the ability to truly become an elite player from a national perspective.
1. Brett Hundley
OK, did anyone expect Brett Hundley not to top this list?
The signal-caller from Arizona will likely go down as the best quarterback to ever play at UCLA. As a redshirt sophomore a season ago, he broke three school records.
Barring anything unforeseen, this will be Hundley's last year in Westwood. It's time for him to cement his legacy even further and continue to take this program to new heights.
Plus, he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated recently.