This is our second in a series of analyzing what UCLA’s football team will look like in the post-Josh-Rosen era. We’re pretty confident – as is the rest of the world – that Rosen will jump to the NFL early, after his junior season, so this is a projection of UCLA’s depth chart for the 2018 season.
http://www.scout.com/college/ucla/story/1671510-post-rosen-era-depth-cha... As we said in the first installment (on the 2018 offensive line depth chart), we would have never been able to do this until Jim Mora arrived at UCLA; he’s recruited and built out depth so well that you can actually project a depth chart two years out, and it helps to analyze UCLA’s current, specific recruiting needs – as opposed to previous regimes where you could assume UCLA needed help at every position.
As we said in the 2018 OL piece, the offensive line might be the thinnest to project out two years. Comparatively, the projected 2018 defensive back depth chart is quite a bit deeper.
And this is how amazing this is – that’s given that UCLA will lose five of its top six defensive backs for the 2016 season by that time. It’s a testament to how well defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin has recruited and built depth himself. Right now, you can easily project a two-deep for UCLA’s 2018 secondary, and even a three-deep at safety. And this isn’t even counting all the guys UCLA might actually get in the 2017 class – or any from the 2018 class. That’s truly amazing.
UCLA had the best secondary (statistically) in the Pac-12 last season, and, with the depth and talent returning, will probably be competitive for that title in 2016. It’s very impressive that the DB depth chart for 2018 – two years from now – will still be pretty loaded, and more than likely will be even more talented. Nathan Meadors had some starters minutes last season as a true freshman, and was slotted as the starter in spring practice (even though UCLA was missing some potential starters at cornerback), and, if there’s a player on the current roster who projects to being a starter in 2018, it’s him. He’s showed the talent to play cornerback, but could also easily slot in at safety. Adarius Pickett, who was also a starter this spring, would also be a big contender to start in 2018. We know the staff loves Octavius Spencer, who played a bit as a true freshman last year. Safety William Lockett had a big spring, Denzel Fisher got a lot of time at corner, and Dechaun Holiday started to step up and flash. Even Leni Toailoa, who should be a high school junior, came on and showed some talent by the end of spring. Colin Samuel got great reviews all season in practice but was hampered this spring by injury. Perhaps the most highly-ranked among the group is a safety who will enter UCLA this fall, Brandon Burton, and there’s also versatile incoming freshman Keyon Riley. There’s so much position versatility that so many of these guys would be able to easily slot in at nickel, too.
In adding some 2017 recruits to this mix, we’ll be conservative and say that UCLA adds the five-star corner prospect Darnay Holmes, another elite cornerback from either Thomas Graham or Elijah Gates, the #1 safety in the west, Chaz Ah You, and corner/safety Jeffrey Manning. It’s conservative because we’ve heard, as of right now, UCLA leads for all of these prospects. Holmes would probably be a true sophomore in 2018 and be competing for a starting corner spot; we’d suspect that Graham or Gates would be, too. Ah You, as of right now, plans on going on his Mormon mission out of high school, but if he still favors UCLA and comes to Westwood after the mission, he’d be a true freshman in 2018.
It would be incredibly fun to see who would be the starters at cornerback among Holmes, Meadors, Graham/Gates, Fisher, Samuel or Riley, and the starters at safety from Pickett, Spencer, Lockett, Toailoa, Burton, Manning or Ah You. Speculating, the secondary could be returning at least two starters, and have a very talented and deep pool to fill out the starting four. And this is without even adding in the 2018 recruiting class, which would be true freshmen in the 2018 season. The obvious first impression is that this is a huge amount of talent, and you'd have to think there'd be some players listed here who would transfer out by the 2018 season. It's a good problem to have, really. We could also see some position changes -- like Toailoa, who is still 16, getting a great deal bigger physically and ending up a linebacker; Holiday and Burton might be better receivers than safeties. But, still, lacking a mass exodus, the talent should be plentiful. It could be the most competitive situation for playing time among any unit on the team in 2018.