Today, we'll take a look at our premature projected depth chart on offense, slotting in the true freshmen we think UCLA has a reasonable chance of getting and analyzing whether or not players like Xavier Su'a-Filo or Brett Hundley will return for another year. Obviously, this depth chart is very early, and there's still so much unknown about UCLA's 2014 recruiting class. As it stands, though, the accumulation of talent on both sides of the ball could be greater than any UCLA team in the current millennium.
After a 2012 season where UCLA generally escaped injury on the offensive line, in 2013, UCLA's offensive line was not just bitten, but swallowed whole by a Rodan-sized injury bug. Each of UCLA's three best offensive tackles suffered season-ending injuries, forcing UCLA into complete triage mode, with the Bruins moving Xavier Su'a-Filo to left tackle and slotting true freshman Scott Quessenberry at left guard midseason. Quessenberry, Alex Redmond, and Caleb Benenoch getting so much experience, though, will likely serve the Bruins very well in 2014. Based off everything we've seen from the offensive line this year, and the players we've watched in practice, we'd have to say that the offensive
*We're going to go out on a limb and project that Su'a-Filo returns in 2014. This year, he spent much of his time playing out of position at left tackle, and it might be the case that NFL teams want to see him get more work at his more natural pro position before spending a high pick on him. Also, on his end, particularly if he is projected to go outside of the first round, he may decide that there is a certain amount of value in not only trying to raise his stock with a dominant senior season at left guard with an even more improved body, but also in finishing up his degree. We also know that UCLA's staff has been effective in pitching players on returning when draft eligible (see: Barr, Anthony), so we absolutely don't see his departure as a done deal. And, hey, it's more fun to project a team with him than without him.
*It's also kind of key that he stays. Looking at the depth chart, as you'll see below, losing Su'a-Filo takes the entire two deep down a peg. Without him, there's probably at least one guy in the two deep who probably isn't good enough to step in in case of an injury.
*We're projecting White as a starter next year, but obviously, it'll depend on legal proceedings. We heard rumblings a short while ago that some close to the situation didn't expect him to be charged, but we haven't heard anything since.
*With the question of Simon Goines vs. Caleb Benenoch at right tackle, there's going to be an interesting battle. You have to remember: we still haven't really seen a healthy Goines, in all his time at UCLA. He came in with a bad knee, suffered escalating injuries throughout his freshman year, and then had a series of other lower leg injuries in 2013. For 2014, there's an argument to be made that, considering he still has a redshirt year to burn, it might be smart for him and his future to take the year off to rest his legs and his knees, putting him in better position to play at his top potential in his final two seasons. Of course, he could get completely healthy in the offseason, which may make him ready for next year. Even if he is ready, though, he will be pushed by Benenoch, who might have a better overall body, and showed similar strength and tenacity throughout the year.
*We're projecting that Scott Quessenberry becomes a bit of a super-backup, likely being the primary interior backup next year after a year in the weight room. He supplanted Carl Hulick as the backup center prior to switching to the starting role at left guard, so we'd anticipate he will resume that role next year. Then, on the interior, you'd have to guess that he'll be there as the starting left guard if Su'a-Filo does end up leaving, or the primary backup at at least two of the interior positions if he does stay.
*As of now, we can project Najee Toran coming in next year, and we'll say that UCLA gets Kammy Delp as well. We can't realistically project anyone else specifically right now, but we'd have to guess that the Bruins pick up at least one tackle-type player as well. In terms of Damien Mama, even if he were to come in, we don't know how big of an impact he would have prior to leaving for his Mormon mission following his freshman season.
*We don't project Kevin McReynolds still being on the team next year, due to some injuries suffered throughout the season.
*For long term depth, the development of Lacy and John Lopez could actually be fairly key, and if Su'a-Filo does leave, their development will become all the more important.
*It's a nutty thing, but UCLA graduates zero seniors on the offensive line this year. If you wanted a picture of how offensive line recruiting went under Rick Neuheisel, coupled with the number of career-ending injuries UCLA has suffered, there you go.
Torian White (6'5, 290) RS JR
Poasi Moala (6'4, 265) RS FR
Conor McDermott (6'8, 277) RS SO
Jake Brendel (6'4, 285) RS JR
Scott Quessenberry (6'3, 288) SO
Carl Hulick (6'2, 278) RS SO
Najee Toran (6'3, 258) FR
Alex Redmond (6'5, 305) SO
Kenny Lacy (6'4, 290)
Ben Wysocki (6'4, 280) RS JR
John Lopez (6'5, 325) RS FR
Simon Goines (6'6, 325)JR OR
Caleb Benenoch (6'5, 320) SO
Conor McDermott (6'8, 277) RS SO
It's an interesting offseason for UCLA at the quarterback position. If you go by draft projections from various talking heads, Brett Hundley is potentially a first round pick in the NFL Draft if he were to opt for that. We can't imagine that's true, based off what we've seen from Hundley this year and where we see him currently in his development arc, but there's always a chance that the noise from those draft boards becomes pervasive. At the end of the day, though, we don't see Hundley opting for the NFL this offseason. Ultimately, we think it'll come down to the feedback he gets from NFL scouts and
Hundley's return, obviously, is key, and we're all for him playing up the drama of it over the next month or so, since it really is the key to next season. Whatever you want to say about Hundley's 2013 season, you have to project that he's going to improve next year, and with just a bit of improvement in terms of his ability to make reads and his decision-making, he could be a vastly better player next year. With him staying, UCLA is a potential playoff team. Without him, it'd be very hard for UCLA to have that level of success. Again, if Hundley returns, it's easy to say that UCLA should be vastly improved at the quarterback position, with Hundley learning from some of the difficulties he had this year. Other notes:
*With apologies to Jerry Neuheisel, who was actually pretty heady in the snaps he received this year, we are going to project Asiantii Woulard as the primary backup. He flashed a rocket arm throughout fall camp, and there's nothing we saw from the season that would dissuade us from making him the primary backup.
*The depth chart is very thin, and while UCLA doesn't yet have a quarterback commitment in 2014, we have to imagine that'll be a priority over the next two months. Maybe the commitment will be Brad Kaaya, the Chaminade quarterback, or it could be a currently unknown quantity, like Cal-committed quarterback Luke Rubenzer. Whatever the case, with the preseason transfer of T.J. Millweard, UCLA is in desperate need of another body in the depth chart.
Brett Hundley (6'3, 222) RS JR
Asiantii Woulard (6'3, 205) RS FR
Jerry Neuheisel (6'1, 192) RS SO
Mike Fafaul (6'1, 201) RS SO
If there was a position that was hit more by injuries than the offensive line, it was running back. Against Arizona State, in the second-to-last game of the regular season, UCLA was down to just one scholarship running back in Paul Perkins. UCLA will lose Malcolm Jones and Damien Thigpen before next season, both of whom are losses, but probably, given what they contributed this year, replaceable. Next season, with a healthy, likely-improved Jordon James, Craig Lee, Paul Perkins, and the big-time recruit we're
*Yes, we're predicting that Joe Mixon opts to join Adarius Pickett in Westwood. Mixon, from what Greg Biggins has reported, is down to a final four/five that includes Cal, Wisconsin, UCLA, and Oklahoma, with USC hovering on the outside. From what we've heard, UCLA feels good about its chances of landing him. If the Bruins do, it would be quite a coup. Mixon is the type of talent who could come in and start from day one at running back—yes, even over a redshirt senior in Jordon James. His addition would take the running back depth chart from decent to elite in a heartbeat. Adding him to the depth chart is fun for this projection, too, which is a bonus for us.
*We're also projecting that UCLA ends up with either Tre Watson, the running back who is currently committed to California, or Marlon Mack, the currently committed running back from Florida, but not both. Neither is probably the immediate impact player that Mixon is, but either could make his way into the rotation.
*We can't imagine UCLA will move Myles Jack to running back permanently, given the lack of depth at linebacker (which we'll get to tomorrow). We do anticipate that the Bruins would opt to use him on offense in certain situations, much the same way they did this year. Honestly, they'd be silly not to.
*In many ways, there are situational uses for many of UCLA's running backs, to the point where you could project many of them playing. Perkins, for example, is probably the best player UCLA has at catching swing passes out of the backfield and generating yards after the catch. Manfro is also pretty good at that aspect of the game. Lee, from what we've seen, could provide a speed element that even Mixon doesn't have. So, there could easily be a committee approach next season.
Jordon James (5'9, 194) RS SR OR
Joe Mixon (6'2, 190) FR
Paul Perkins (5'10, 196) RS SO
Craig Lee (6'0, 188) RS FR
Tre Watson/Marlon Mack FR
Steven Manfro (5'9, 189)
Eric Yarber has been much-maligned on the message board at times over the last two years, but you have to give him credit: just based off the early look at the depth chart at receiver in 2014, he
In short, the amount of talent on the team and potentially coming in should make UCLA's receiving corps one of the best and deepest in the Pac-12. As with the quarterback position, the offensive line, and the running back position, we have to guess that UCLA's receiving corps will be much improved from last year. Some notes:
*We're putting Payton and Lucien in as the starters on the outside, but both could be pushed by UCLA's incoming freshmen as well as a now-healthy Eldridge Massington.
*Even though he's a big guy, we're projecting Austin Roberts as an outside receiver, with the speed and play making ability to provide UCLA a real threat there. He could also have the versatility to play inside at the Y.
*Alex Van Dyke is an enormous talent, but may need some time to add some weight. Between now and the start of 2014, though, he could get stronger and be another player to compete for immediate playing time.
*We're going to go ahead and project that UCLA picks up Michiah Quick and Bryce Dixon. Quick, as we've said, could come in and compete with Fuller, who is arguably UCLA's best receiver, for the starting job, while Dixon has the talent to immediately break into the rotation at Y with Thomas Duarte and Nate Iese. Speaking of Iese, just speculating, but we could see him move back to defensive end, which we'll get to when we go over the defense.
*Mossi Johnson (remember him?) is still coming in this January and from what we've heard, the goal is still to put him at receiver. With UCLA's lack of depth at safety, though, (which we'll get to) we could see the coaching staff approaching him about playing defense, so we'll probably slot him on the defensive side of the ball, since we're in the business of projecting.
Jordan Payton (6'1, 212) JR
Austin Roberts (6'2, 221) FR
Alex Van Dyke (6'4, 210) FR
Tyler Scott (6'2, 212) RS JR
Thomas Duarte (6'3, 221) SO
Nate Iese (6'3, 243) RS SO OR
Bryce Dixon FR
Devin Fuller (5'11, 195) JR
Michiah Quick FR
Kenneth Walker (5'9, 171) RS SO OR
Jalen Ortiz (5'9, 176) SO
Ahmaad Harris (5'4, 165) RS SO
Devin Lucien (6'0, 195) RS JR
Eldridge Massington (6'1, 205) RS FR
Darren Andrews (5'10, 180) SO OR
Jordan Lasley (6'2, 180) FR
Logan Sweet (6'0, 188) RS JR
Long story short, with the amount of talent that UCLA has coming in, and the amount of talent UCLA has coming back, we have to anticipate that UCLA's offense will be the best it has been in a very, very long time, with the ability to execute anything Noel Mazzone asks of it.
Tomorrow, we'll break down the defensive depth chart.