Fall Camp Preview: Receivers

UCLA's receiving corps should be a very good, fairly deep unit this fall, with several returning starters and a solid talent boost from incoming freshmen...

UCLA’s receiving corps only lost one really significant contributor from last year in Shaquelle Evans, and, though Evans was clearly a talented receiver, his skill-set is one that UCLA shouldn’t have a difficult time replacing. Based on what we saw this spring, between Devin Lucien, Jordan Payton, Thomas Duarte, and Devin Fuller, the starting rotation shouldn’t skip a beat despite the loss of Evans and Darius Bell.

UCLA has several talented possession receivers, but It will be key this August to continue to develop speed and playmaking ability in the unit. Again, based on what we saw this spring, our concerns were assuaged to a certain extent, with Kenny Walker showing that he’d made some considerable progress from two years ago. He’s one of the two or three fastest players on the team, and he has that rare ability to hit top speed very quickly off the snap. If he has continued to develop his route-running and catching ability this offseason, he could have a breakout camp.

Mossi Johnson, the freshman receiver, also showed great hands and an uncanny knack for getting open over the middle. Seeing him this August without a brace on, after he sat out last year with an ACL tear, should be fun.

Injury/Personnel Updates

***Austin Roberts — the freshman wide receiver tore his ACL during offseason workouts and will miss the entire season.

Mossi Johnson.
Incoming Freshmen

Alex Van Dyke
Austin Roberts
Jordan Lasley
Mossi Johnson

We’ve heard from numerous different sources, and Jim Mora reiterated at Media Day, that Alex Van Dyke has been extremely impressive in offseason work. He’s reportedly gained good weight and looks like a potential impact receiver from day one, which is likely a huge boost after the Bruins learned that Roberts would miss the year due to an ACL tear. Roberts, physically, was thought to be the most ready to play immediately of the incoming freshmen, and his combination of size and speed would have allowed him to fit into a variety of different receiver roles.

Lasley has good speed, and projects as an outside-type receiver. Probably the most interesting thing to monitor with Lasley will be his growing maturity as a player. The knock on him in high school was he had a tendency to talk trash to opposing players and teammates alike, so it’ll be interesting to monitor whether he’s started to grow out of that.

Johnson, as we said up top, looked very good this spring after sitting out all of last year recuperating from a knee injury. He actually didn’t seem hindered by the brace he wore, but we’re interested to see if his mobility improves even on what he showed during spring. He quickly became one of Brett Hundley’s favorite targets this spring, and we’d have to imagine with a similar showing this August, he’ll earn significant playing time this years a backup F/Y receiver.

Devin Lucien.
Projected Starters

The starting four are almost a foregone conclusion at this point. Payton has started a year already, and played considerably his first year. If we had to peg one of the receivers to replace Evans’ steady production, it would probably be Payton.

Lucien, who came on toward the end of last year, is poised to contend with Payton for the No. 1 receiver job. Lucien has a bit more speed and flair for the spectacular than Payton, which makes him a bit better as a downfield threat.

Duarte sat out much of the spring with a couple of different ailments, but is fully ready for fall camp. He looked very good through the first two weeks of spring, and might have the most natural hands on the team. Consistent playing time for him this year should pay dividends in the red zone.

We’re hoping Fuller is featured more this year, particularly on crossing patterns over the middle where he has excelled in practice. He isn’t a huge play threat as he may have been billed early on, but he can consistently get open over the middle, much like Johnson, and we’d like to see that utilized more.

Depth

Coaches and players have praised Eldridge Massington considerably throughout the offseason, and this August we’ll get to see him at full strength and speed for probably the first time. This spring, he looked good, particularly as a big-bodied possession receiver in the red zone, but we’re still waiting to see his 4.4 speed. If he can start to show that off this August, he will be an integral part of the receiver rotation this year.

Walker, as we mentioned above, showed off elite speed this spring, frequently burning a variety of corners on simple post routes. He had issues his first year dropping balls, and while his hands aren’t excellent, they’ve improved considerably since then. With a summer of work behind him, August could be a big month for him.

Jalen Ortiz and Darren Andrews, along with the freshmen, will all have a pretty decent chance of playing this year. UCLA will likely use seven or eight receivers consistently. We wouldn’t anticipate Ahmaad Harris seeing meaningful time, but he might get in for some work toward the ends of games.

It bears mentioning, particularly if there are injuries, that UCLA does have a talented group of walk-on receivers, including Tyler Scott, Logan Sweet, Zach Hernandez, and Sam Handler. We’d actually be completely comfortable with Scott or Sweet having to play a little at some point.
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