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. 23.
23. Bolu Olorunfunmi, Sophomore Running Back
2015 Statistics: 34 carries fo 200 yards (5.9 yards per carry).
Why He's Important: There isn't a more stacked position on the team than running back, but there's still a little bit of intrigue heading into fall camp -- namely, who's going to be the starter? Will it be the oldest guy in the group, Nate Starks, who has learned the ropes behind Paul Perkins and probably best replicates his skill-set? Or will it be Sotonye Jamabo, the five-star phenom who actually carried the ball more than Starks did last season?
Seemingly lost in the conversation is the one who might have had the best spring of the bunch: Bolu Olorunfunmi. While Starks and Jamabo were both solid in spring, neither of them matched Olorunfunmi's consistency from practice to practice. Just watching him and comparing him to last year, he's improved in every facet of his game. First, the areas where he was already strong he showed steady improvement, looking more decisive, stronger, and a bit more explosive than he did during the season last year. Second, he really shored up two of his main weak areas. His hands were significantly better this spring than at any point when we've been watching him over the last three years, stretching back to high school. He might never be as smooth as Jamabo in catching the ball, but he didn't embarrass himself this spring. And while it's tough to see on the practice field, he also seemed to show a little bit better field awareness, and didn't seem like he was in position to take the big hits that he took a little too often last year.
Does that mean he's going to win the starting job, though? Likely not. Starks has the seniority, and Jamabo has the heralded name, and -- to reiterate -- all of these guys are good. I would probably have given the edge to Olorunfunmi this spring, but it won't be some injustice if he doesn't start. The three are all pretty close together in our estimation, and since all three bring a slightly different skill set, we'd imagine that each will see a good amount of time this year.
One caveat to the above: if the offensive line struggles this year, we could see UCLA opting for more Olorunfunmi as the season wears on. He's the biggest back on the team, and probably runs with the most strength, so if UCLA is having trouble opening holes, he probably stands the best chance among the backs of creating straight-ahead yardage with his bulk.
What's Been Said About Him:
“I really don’t know if I had a player, at any position, who was as strong with overall strength as he was as a high school senior." -- Tom Simons, Olorunfunmi’s coach at Clovis North High School from 2011 to 2014 (Daily Bruin, October 30, 2015)
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30 Most Important Bruins for 2016
|Rank||Name||Highest Rank||Lowest Rank|
|23||Bolu Olorunfunmi||13 (Dave Woods)||Unranked (Blair Angulo)|
|24||Deon Hollins||15 (Tracy Pierson)||Unranked (Dave Woods)|
|25||Darren Andrews||12 (Tracy Pierson)||Unranked (2-way tie)|
|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)|