With two months to go until the start of fall camp, we're going to count down our 30 most important UCLA players for the 2016 season. These are the players we think are going to have the most significant impact for UCLA this year, so don't take this to mean that these are the players we think are the best long-term prospects, or even necessarily the most talented. Every BRO staffer has ranked his top 30 UCLA players, and from that we've drawn an aggregate list.
Today we'll continue with No. 26.
26. Kenny Walker, RS Senior Wide Receiver
2015 Stats: 9 catches, 231 yards, 1 touchdown
Why He's Important: Walker has been a little bit of a divisive figure in the fan-base during his four-year career at UCLA, and the reasons are understandable. On one hand, he has that most paramount of athletic gifts -- breakaway speed -- that can cover up any number of other faults. On the other hand, he did display many faults as a receiver, including questionable hands and limited route-running ability through his first four years. Famously, last year, he dropped the first pass of Josh Rosen's career, a beautiful deep ball that hit him in the hands.
That all said, we saw a different Walker this spring -- or at least, an improved Walker. With the depth chart opening up in front of him, Walker looked like a much more polished receiver than at any point in his UCLA career. Early in his career, he was the classic track guy playing football, but he began to show a little more polish toward the end of last year, and this spring he continued that development. Before, the deep post or streak was about all he had in his arsenal, but his route-running looked better and more natural this spring than it ever has.
Perhaps more importantly, his hands, which have shown incremental improvement over the last couple of years, looked even better this spring. While we wouldn't say he has Thomas Duarte-like mitts at this point, he looked much more reliable this spring, and actually made some tough catches at times and looked much more comfortable adjusting to the ball in the air.
And the speed is still there. He's still very likely the fastest guy on the team with pads on, and if he can combine that speed with the improvement we saw this spring in actual games this season, he could be a big part of filling the void left by Jordan Payton, Devin Fuller, and Duarte. With his speed, he actually has the potential to provide more explosive play-making ability than any of those three, and that's an exciting thought -- if Walker can put it all together this year.
What's Been Said About Him:
"He’s having an impressive camp right now. He’s running great routes. Im trying to find out if he’s going to take over for Jordan Payton." -- WR coach Eric Yarber, April 12, 2016
Most Recent Interview:
Top 30 Most Important Bruins
|Rank||Name||Highest Rank||Lowest Rank|
|26||Kenny Walker||13 (Blair Angulo)||Unranked (2-way tie)|
|27||Mike Fafaul||11 (Tracy Pierson)||Unranked (3-way tie)|
|28||Josh Woods||23 (Blair Angulo)||Unranked (2-way tie)|
|29||Keisean Lucier-South||14 (Tracy Pierson)||Unranked (3-way tie)|
|30||Nate Meadors||20 (John Evergreen)||Unranked (2-way tie)|