S Randall Goforth (Photo by Steve Cheng)

UCLA 2016 Defensive Back Depth Projection

Jan. 1 -- In the final installment in our series, we take a look at the defensive backfield, which should be deep and talented in 2016...

Previously in this series 
Linebacker Projection
Defensive Line Projection
Offensive Line Projection
Wide Receiver Projection
Running Back Projection
Quarterback Projection

2016 Defensive Back Projection

Justin Combs
Tahaan Goodman (possible)

Leni Toailoa
Darian Owens (WR/S)

RS Sr. Ishmael Adams
Jr. Jaleel Wadood
RS Sr. Randall Goforth
RS So. Adarius Pickett
RS Jr. Johnny Johnson
RS Sr. Marcus Rios
RS Sr. Fabian Moreau
RS Fr. Dechaun Holiday
So. Octavius Spencer
So. Nathan Meadors
RS Fr. William Lockett
RS So. Denzel Fisher
RS Fr. Colin Samuel

A Look at 2016

With all of the departures in other units, there’s an argument to be made that UCLA’s defensive backfield is the deepest unit on the entire team. The Bruins return virtually every key contributor from this season, and even add in Fabian Moreau, who missed all but the first couple of games with a Lisfranc fracture in his foot. UCLA could very well start nothing but juniors and seniors in the defensive backfield next season, for the first time in a long time.

We’ve included Tahaan Goodman as a possible departure because we continue to hear that he could very well decide to transfer and use his final year of eligibility elsewhere. Justin Combs celebrated senior day this year as a redshirt junior, so he will also not be on the roster next season.

But that leaves a very talented and experienced group of remaining players. Assuming Moreau returns to full health at some point in the next six months, it’d be easy to pencil him in as a starter at one of the outside corner spots. Marcus Rios, who had a pretty solid year in his first full season back, could also start at the other corner position. Johnny Johnson injured his shoulder in the bowl game, and unfortunately, it was his healthy shoulder that he hurt, which could make his recovery a bit more difficult. If he gets healthy, he could absolutely compete to start, but it remains to be seen.

Ishmael Adams didn’t have his best season after starting the year with the suspension, but he gives UCLA a ton of experience at nickel. When you factor in what Nathan Meadors was able to do in limited prep time at cornerback, and then also what UCLA could still get out of guys like Colin Samuel (who’s drawn rave reviews from coaches), Dechaun Holiday, and Denzel Fisher, and the cornerback depth chart looks to be in pretty good shape heading into next year.

Safety also looks plenty deep. UCLA returns both of its starters in Jaleel Wadood and Randall Goforth, and Goforth, a year further removed from his shoulder injuries, should be poised for a strong offseason. If you had to point to one issue he had this year, it was probably tackling, and with eight months to strengthen his shoulders and get confident in them again, he should be much better in that department next season.

Behind those two, we really liked what we saw from Adarius Pickett this season. A switch seemed to flip with him about halfway through fall camp and he started to play a lot faster, with much less hesitation. He has the potential to be a hard-hitting box safety with his size, and if UCLA is committed to getting better against the run, he seems like a potential fit to play more.

We’ve also heard really great things about Octavius Spencer, who played some special teams this year. Spencer could impact the depth chart at either corner or safety next season, but it sounds like the plan right now is to keep him at safety and watch him develop there. Will Lockett could also contribute at safety.

Looking at the overall depth chart, UCLA has nine or ten guys who can legitimately play next season, which gives the Bruins a true two-deep even when factoring in that UCLA is most often in nickel. UCLA’s secondary was statistically one of the best in the country this year, and next year, given the personnel returning, should be similar, if not better.

Will the unit perform better, worse, or the same in 2016? Better.

2016 Projected Depth Chart

CB: Fabian Moreau, Denzel Fisher, Colin Samuel
S: Randall Goforth, Octavius Spencer
S: Jaleel Wadood, Adarius Pickett, Leni Toailoa
Nickel: Ishmael Adams, Johnny Johnson
CB: Marcus Rios, Nathan Meadors, Dechaun Holiday

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