Evaluating the UCLA Newcomers

Aug. 17 -- As is becoming a tradition, we rank the newcomers according to their potential impact...

After a week of fall camp, we've seen enough of the newcomers to see who is most likely to make a big impact this year. As we've done the last two years, we've ranked the newcomers in terms of their potential impact on the program -- so this isn't just a ranking of what they'll do this year, but what we think they'll do over the course of their careers at UCLA. So guys with tremendous upside might be ranked above guys who might play more their first year.

In general, the 2015 class appears to be full of potential contributors, though it might be light on instant-impact stars. The one instant-impact star, though, is at the most important position on the field, which adds some weight to the class.

1. QB Josh Rosen

Rosen was clearly the headliner of this class as soon as he committed last spring, and nothing we've seen since then has dissuaded us of that notion. We still hold that he will likely start as a true freshmen, and then start for at least the two years after that. We've talked about Rosen's upside at length at various points throughout the last few years, so it's probably a little redundant to say anything more on the subject. In any case, the freshman has a higher potential ceiling as a college and professional quarterback than any UCLA quarterback in recent memory.

2. C Fred Ulu-Perry

Ulu-Perry has been the best of the freshmen offensive linemen this fall, and, given that Jake Brendel graduates after this season, Ulu-Perry projects as a potential three-year starter at center. He already looks like he's been in college for a year or two, and is built sort of like a refrigerator. He's had a snapping issue, but assuming he can get that figured out, he'll be in competition to start with Scott Quessenberry at center next year, and we'd imagine Quessenberry would be the more likely of the two to switch to guard.

3. WR Stephen Johnson

Johnson's speed has absolutely shown up at the college level, and, like Ulu-Perry, ,he has a college-ready body, already at 193 pounds. We're not even certain he stays at receiver at this point, given that he could also be a very good corner, but given what we've seen from his speed and athleticism, we have even fewer doubts about him having a big impact down the road wherever he ends up. We'd be a little surprised if he doesn't play this year, and going forward, he has obvious starting potential.

4. RB Bolu Olorunfunmi

Olorunfunmi has been one of the biggest surprises of camp for us, and this is one of those situations where watching too much passing league play can be a detriment to evaluating. Olorunfunmi doesn't catch well, first, and just generally doesn't translate to a shirts and shorts environment. In pads, though, he looks like a different runner, showing off good quickness, a nice burst, and good vision. His hands are still a question mark, but his assets as a runner make him a candidate to play early.

5. CB Dechaun Holiday

Through the first few days of camp, we were concerned that Holiday was simply too big to play cornerback, but through the last couple of days, he's looked much better. We'd still say his ideal fit is probably either receiver or safety, but we wouldn't completely rule out corner if he can maintain his current build. He's a really good athlete, and even if he does switch positions, he has the potential to be an impact player down the road.

6. DE Rick Wade

Wade is right there with Olorunfunmi for the surprise of camp. We were expecting Wade to look much like the player we saw last June -- somewhere around 230 pounds with an obvious redshirt year ahead of him. Instead, Wade walked out on the field at a pretty rocked out 250+ pounds and has already spent some significant time in the two-deep at defensive end. We've said it often that Wade looks like one of those long-armed Stanford defensive linemen, and he could make an impact on the field as early as this year.

7. RB Soso Jamabo

We've been saying it for a year, but we're still not sure what to make of Soso Jamabo. He looks like a slot receiver in terms of build, but he obviously had a prolific high school career at running back. So far, he hasn't seemed to find a niche yet in UCLA's offense, and it's not for lack of trying. He's run out of the backfield, taken swing passes, ran a little Wildcat, and been used in a variety of ways. As we've said for a long time, we like him the most catching the ball out of the backfield, which might translate best as the F position in UCLA's offense, but it's obviously still early. We'd like to see a little more explosion out of him if he's going to stay at running back long-term.

8. DE/OLB Keisean Lucier-South

Lucier-South is a very good athlete and you can see the obvious potential there for him to be a dominant pass rusher at this level. As of now, he's still very skinny, so it's tough to project him doing a whole lot this year, but down the road, he could have a big impact. We wouldn't rule him out of playing this year, but as of now, we'd probably project that he redshirts.

9. OG Tevita Halalilo

Halalilo appeared to be winning the competition for a second-string guard spot before he took a hit to the head. He is sitting out a couple of practices going through proper concussion protocol, but he's expected back Tuesday. He's in much better shape than we anticipated heading into camp. He's not a finished product by any means, but he has lost probably 15 or 20 pounds since we saw him January, which is very good for him. He might still be two seasons away from starting, with Kenny Lacy and Alex Redmond ahead of him, but he has starter potential.

10. S Nathan Meadors

This is how deep this class is -- Meadors will probably play this year and could start down the road, but he's 10th on this list. He has looked good through both spring and fall camps, and is in competition with Tahaan Goodman for the third safety position (a competition which Goodman appears to be winning as of now). Judging by what we've seen of him in man coverage, we wouldn't be opposed to Meadors playing a little bit of corner down the road either, which could increase his value.

11. OLB Josh Woods

Woods looked really skinny this spring, but he put on some weight in the offseason and looks more like a college player. We'd still anticipate him redshirting, since he could still afford to put on some weight, but there's a lot to like here. He's had a few moments where his high-level athleticism has shown up, particularly in coverage. Depending on how his body goes, he could project as a coverage linebacker to help fill the void left by Myles Jack when he departs.

12. RT Andre James

James had a rough first few days of camp, but looked better on Friday and Saturday. He's worked exclusively at right tackle so far, so we haven't gotten a chance to see him at guard, which many thought would be his ultimate college position. Physically, he probably has to get stronger, but that'll come over the next year. He's flashed some nice athleticism over the last few days in pass protection drills.

13. CB Colin Samuel

Samuel, like Holiday, is a long, strong cornerback with good athleticism. He hasn't looked quite as natural as Holiday has, and lacks some of Holiday's feel for the position. He's shown nice physicality in drills, and is a very willing tackler, which you have to like in a cornerback. He's probably headed for a redshirt year at this point, unless he really comes on over the next few weeks.

14. OG Josh Wariboko

Wariboko is in the competition with Halalilo for the second-string guard spot, but like we said, it appeared Halalilo was winning that competition when he went down last week. Wariboko needs to get bigger and stronger on the interior, but he has shown some nice athleticism at times. We'd imagine he redshirts this year.

15. S Octavius Spencer

Spencer has had some nice moments at safety, and, as with Meadors, it's a little silly that he's this low on the list because there's a chance he could start at any one of three positions at some point in the future. Right now, he's at safety, which means he's probably the fifth guy in that rotation after the starters, Goodman, and Meadors. He has shown nice instincts so far for playing defensive back and, again like Meadors, he's looked good enough in man coverage that we'd be interested to see him try cornerback.

16. LT Zach Bateman

Bateman had a rough spring and hasn't looked great in fall camp either. He has played exclusively tackle this fall after playing a lot of guard this spring, but neither has appeared to be a great fit for him. So far in camp, he's been with both the third string and second string at left tackle, and hasn't looked quick or long enough to handle edge rushers. He has gotten bigger and stronger since the spring, though, so perhaps it's time to give guard another shot.

17. S Will Lockett

This is an unfair placement for Lockett, but suddenly UCLA has a decent amount of depth at safety, and that's his most natural fit in the defense. Right now, it looks like Meadors and Spencer are both ahead of him, along with Goforth, Wadood, and Goodman, but it's very early.


N/A TE Chris Clark

We haven't seen anything of Clark yet, so it's hard to throw him into this. He looks like he lost a considerable amount of weight while dealing with mono, so that'll be something to address once he gets healthy. Jim Mora said he doesn't intend to redshirt him this year, but we'll see what happens as he progresses through his recovery.

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