Evaluating the 2013 Freshman Class

After a full season of watching this past year's freshman class, we take another stab at ranking them in order of their potential impact at UCLA...

After the first week of camp this past August, we did something foolhardy, ranking the freshmen class form top to bottom after seeing them for a week. Looking back on it, it was a pretty fair look at the class as it stood at that time, but now, with a full season of watching that very talented class develop, we think we have a much better feel for how it could develop over the next three to four years.

Below, we've decided to re-rank the class based on how much of an impact we see them making over the remainder of their careers at UCLA. We've tried, as much as possible, to give extra emphasis to the position each player plays (so, a quarterback is generally going to get weighted higher). We've included in parenthesis the previous rank we gave the player in our initial rankings in August. Those who were unranked in the August rankings were ones who were not in the top 16.

So, here we go.

1. Myles Jack, Linebacker, 6'1, 225. (2)
First, we'd like to apologize to Myles for having him ranked so low in the initial rankings, but we're glad that it fueled him for the entire season. There's an argument that Jack was UCLA's most valuable defensive player for much of his first year, allowing UCLA to operate much more out of its base defense thanks to his versatility in pass coverage. It's easy to project that he'll be the anchor of the defense for the next two to three years. When you factor in that he would likely be the best running back on the team if he devoted himself to it full time, his potential value for the next two to three years exceeds anyone else's on the team.

2. Asiantii Woulard, Quarterback, 6'3, 205. (1)
As we wrote in the Scout team report, Woulard made strides throughout the season, and has elite tools at quarterback. Depending on how 2015 quarterback recruiting shapes up, Woulard could be a three year starter at UCLA, and with two years of development behind Brett Hundley, we could see him being a very good player from the minute he takes his first snap as a starter. As a quarterback, he impacts virtually every play on offense, making him more valuable to the team than anyone not named Myles Jack.

Eddie Vanderdoes.
3. Eddie Vanderdoes, Defensive Line, 6'4, 305. (7)
When we ranked Vanderdoes in August, we hadn't actually seen him play much at all, as he was nursing a back injury at the time. After seeing him fully healthy for the entire year, it's fair to say that Vanderdoes projects as a potential early entrée into the NFL Draft. He displayed elite power, which was impressive for a true freshmen, and moves really well for his size. After starting for a good portion of his freshman year, we have to imagine that Vanderdoes will be entrenched as a starter for the next two years at least. His versatility is also a plus for him, as he has the ability to play both defensive end and nose tackle in this system.

4. Poasi Moala, Offensive Tackle, 6'4, 265. (4)
We ranked Moala 4th in our preseason rankings and everything we saw from his development this season only reinforced our opinion. He's packed on weight while retaining his quickness and mobility. If anything, his agility has improved. He plays well against power rushers and speed rushers alike, and looked very good in matchups with Deon Hollins throughout the year, moving his feet well to stay in front of him. He could very easily compete for a starting job this year, and we would actually be a little surprised if he hasn't won a starting tackle job by his third year in the program.

5. Kenneth Clark, Nose Tackle, 6'2, 305. (11)
I was a little late on the Clark bandwagon, but it's clear that he has elite level skills, particularly with his ability to bend and play with great leverage. He won the starting nose tackle job in his first year over an incumbent senior starter (Seali'i Epenesa) who didn't even play that poorly. Clark was simply better. As he continues to refine his technique, he should develop as a pass rusher from that spot as well, which would add another facet to his already significant abilities. He should start every year he's at UCLA.

6. Caleb Benenoch, Offensive Tackle, 6'5, 320. (5)
Benenoch started for much of his freshmen year at right tackle, albeit out of necessity, and played well. He doesn't have the physical upside of a guy like Moala, but projects as a potential four-year starter, either at guard or tackle. As he continues to get leaner and stronger, his production should continue to improve.

7. Alex Redmond, Offensive Guard, 6'5, 305. (UR)
We had Redmond unranked in the initial version of this, which was probably our biggest omission. At the time, he hadn't worked with the first team, and he was recovering from a variety of ailments, including a concussion. By the time the team came back to UCLA from San Bernardino, though, he had become ensconced in the starting lineup. Physically, he's well put together right now, and there's a question how much upside his body has. That said, he's probably the meanest linemen on the team, and should be a starter for the remainder of his time at UCLA.

8. Thomas Duarte, Receiver, 6'3, 221. (10)
We're big fans of Duarte, and, based off the way he looked in practice and in games, we think he probably could have seen a little more time this year than he did. He's a very natural pass catcher, with good body control and excellent hands. For his size, he also runs well. He should be the starting Y for the foreseeable future.

Isaac Savaiinaea.
9. Isaac Savaiinaea, Linebacker, 6'2, 230. (9)
Savaiinaea spent most of the year as the second string Mike linebacker, behind Eric Kendricks, and actually started a couple games. He actually did a nice job of calling the defense when he was asked to, but hadn't quite hit that instinctual point where he could fly around and make tackles the way Kendricks can. He's still working his body back into excellent shape after ballooning up to 260 pounds his senior year of school, and if he gets stronger and continue to lean out, he should be a competitor for Jordan Zumwalt's vacated spot this year and one of the favorites for Kendricks' spot when he graduates next year.

10. Scott Quessenberry, Center, 6-3, 288. (UR)
Quessenberry was the unexpected freshman starter on the offensive line, and certainly had his struggles. He's listed at 288, but he's not that big, and really had trouble with some of the more violent defensive linemen. That said, he has an advanced feel for playing any of the interior line positions after playing center for most of his life. The intention, from what we've heard, is to redshirt Quessenberry this year, but if he shows that he can play, and has built himself up physically, we could see him competing at the vacant guard spot as well.

11. Tahaan Goodman, Safety, 6'2, 190. (15)
Goodman has the best body among the freshman defensive backs, long and lean with nice fluidity. By the end of the season, he seemed to be playing with more awareness, as you might expect from a freshman defensive back. While we can't see him immediately beating out Randall Goforth or Anthony Jefferson heading into next year, he should be the third safety off the bench, and one of the favorites to take over Jefferson's spot in 2015.

12. Eldridge Massington, 6'3, 205. (14)
As we wrote about in the Scout team review, Massington, by the end of the year, looked as if he was returning to the form that won him many accolades during his high school career. He still had a knee brace on toward the end of the year, but without that hampering him in spring, we should finally see the Massington that we heard about prior to his arrival. His speed seemed to be coming back by that point, but what was impressive was his body control and ability to get open against the first string defense in practice.

13. Craig Lee, Running Back, 5'11, 188. (7)
We think it could be a tall order for Lee to compete for the two deep in his first year of playing time, but we like his running style and the speed he brings to the table. The question is whether he can pick up the blocking and get stronger. We think he has the upside to start for his last three years in the program if he can continue to work on the nitty gritty aspects of the game.

14. Johnny Johnson, Cornerback, 5'9, 185. (UR)
We had Johnny Johnson unranked in the preseason forecast because we really just hadn't seen enough of him, due to the shoulder injury. From everything we've heard, though, he's really well thought of in the program, and compares favorably with Ishmael Adams. He's one of the returners we're most excited to see this spring and fall.

15. Sean Covington, Punter, 6'1, 211. (8)
Grading on the curve of freshmen punters, Covington had an excellent first year. There's no reason why he shouldn't be a four-year starter at punter and develop into an excellent one by his second or third year in the program.

16. Kylie Fitts, Defensive End, 6'4, 270. (13)
Fitts had surgery on his wrist midseason to remove a plate that had been inserted the previous year due to a bad injury. This year, he didn't play all that poorly considering that every time he engaged an offensive lineman his wrist ached. With a healthy wrist this spring and fall, and a full offseason of strength training, he should be among the eight man rotation on the defensive line.

Priest Willis.
17. Priest Willis, Cornerback, 6'2, 190. (3)
Willis had the most precipitous drop among the freshmen, going from third in the preseason to unranked now. Willis still has some upside, but the question is still: what is he? He struggled at corner during Scout team play, and we have to wonder if a move to safety, at least part-time, might be a decent move for him. He had some moments at corner during fall camp, though, so there's a chance that if he continue to improve in his reactions and awareness, he could find a spot there. This drop is more due to uncertainty than anything.

18. Jayon Brown, Safety, 6'0, 200. (12)
Brown was one of our favorites in fall camp, coming out of nowhere to have a pretty big impact through the first week of the camp. He dropped off a bit when the Myles Jack show started and UCLA needed to use less nickel. His work on special teams was excellent though, and he provides the closest approximation of Jack's skills in the linebacker corps, even if it's not a very close approximation. We could see him in the two deep on defense this year, and he should be an uber-special teamer again.

19. Cameron Judge, Linebacker, 6'1, 218. (UR)
Judge, like Brown, made a big impact on special teams this past year, and there's every reason to believe that should be the same every year at UCLA. He's an inside linebacker, though, and it's a position where UCLA is quickly becoming stacked with elite talent. He will compete for time at linebacker, but the way the position is loaded, it's going to be difficult to crack the starting lineup.

20. Kenny Lacy, Offensive Line, 6-4, 290. (UR)
Lacy has potential at left guard, and as he continues to work on his body and learn the position after playing tackle most of his high school career, he should compete for playing time. He's been dedicated in the weight room, and we could see him starting at some point in high UCLA career.

21. Jalen Ortiz, F Back, 5'9, 180. (UR)
Ortiz, as we wrote about in the Scout team review, impressed us with his quickness during the season. With the lack of great options at F, and with so many sizeable receivers on the team, Ortiz's quickness could have more comparative value, which could lead to him getting significant time over the next three years.

22. Tyler Foreman, Safety, 6'2, 198. (UR)
Foreman, like Willis, is in a position of uncertainty. He didn't show great flexibility at safety, and a move down to linebacker, or at least more of a box safety role, might be in the cards for him. We like his attitude and his strength, but it's a question where he has the open field athleticism to be a cover safety in the spread-oriented Pac-12.

23. Darren Andrews, Receiver, 5'10, 180. (16)
Andrews has very good speed, but was beset by injuries during the majority of his first year in the program. He has upside because of that speed, but the outside receiver positions are becoming stacked with very good talent. If he moves into the slot, he might have a chance for more playing time.

24. Deon Hollins, Linebacker, 6'0, 216. (UR)
Hollins has value as a situational pass rusher, but we don't know that he has the skillset to be an every down linebacker. He lacks ideal flexibility for an outside backer, and actually plays more like an undersized defensive end, but doesn't have the bulk to do that full-time either.

25. John Lopez, Offensive Guard, 6'5, 325. (UR)
Lopez, as he continues to refine his body, could compete for playing time down the road. He's shown a good attitude in his first year in the program.

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