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. 17.
17. Jaleel Wadood, Junior Safety
2015 Statistics: 72 tackles, 2 interceptions, 4 pass breakups, 4 tackles for loss
Why He's Important: Jaleel Wadood was a big part of a UCLA secondary last year that limited opponents to the fewest yards per pass attempt in the Pac-12. Despite a somewhat infamous difficulty defending a Francis Owusu touchdown catch against Stanford, Wadood was probably UCLA's most consistent safety, and arguably the overall MVP of the defensive backs last season. With so many corners going down last year, and Randall Goforth having some tackling issues throughout the season, Wadood was a more consistent performer, and helped provide a steadying influence in the secondary.
Wadood, despite being undersized, has a great nose for the ball and tackles very well for his size, which allows him to perform relatively well in run support -- not something you'd expect from a player who's probably generously listed at 175 pounds. It's actually a shame that he doesn't weight 30 pounds more, because he has that perfect, no-fear mentality for a big, box safety. As a coverage safety, he's perfectly fine -- even on that Owusu catch, he was in good position to make a play. He is rarely way out of position, but he could probably continue to work on his awareness.
This year, with Randall Goforth potentially dropping down to corner, Wadood could be the most experienced safety in the two-deep, and that certainly ratchets up the importance of his place on the team. Given that UCLA's run defense should be a bit more stout next year, it's fair to assume that offenses are going to challenge UCLA's defense more through the air than they did a year ago, and that will entail a lot of pressure being placed on the shoulders of Wadood.
What's Been Said About Him:
"He's not big in stature, but he is a tough kid. He's not afraid to get in there and mix it up." -- Jim Mora, December 25, 2014
Most Recent Interview:
30 Most Important Bruins for 2016
|Rank||Name||Highest Rank||Lowest Rank|
|17||Jaleel Wadood||6 (John Evergreen)||30 (Tracy Pierson)|
|18||Kenny Young||13 (Tracy Pierson)||Unranked (Blair Angulo)|
|19||Theo Howard||14 (John Evergreen)||24 (2-way tie)|
|20||Matt Dickerson||15 (John Evergreen)||29 (Tracy Pierson)|
|21||Randall Goforth||12 (John Evergreen)||29 (Blair Angulo)|
|22||Austin Kent||17 (Blair Angulo)||30 (John Evergreen)|
|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)|