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. 16.
16. Nate Starks, Junior Running Back
2015 Statistics: 50 carries, 320 yards, 6.4 yards per carry, 5 touchdowns
Why He's Important: From strictly a yards per carry standpoint, Nate Starks was UCLA's best running back last year, by a pretty considerable margin over No. 2 Sotonye Jamabo (6.1 yards per carry) and No. 3 Paul Perkins (5.7 yards per carry). Starks improved a good deal over his freshman season in 2014, looking stronger, faster, more explosive, and more balanced. He dropped some weight as well, which aided him in getting a little bit faster. He more or less split carries with Jamabo last year, but he missed the first game of the season and was a little dinged up at points which kept him from matching Jamabo's carry total.
The question really is whether he can beat out Jamabo, and Bolu Olorunfunmi, for the starting job this year. Based on the way the staff divvied up reps between the experienced Starks and the freshman Jamabo last year, we're leaning toward Jamabo being the main back -- Jamabo was better this spring than he was last year, so he really hasn't done anything to diminish himself in the eyes of the coaching staff. As we talked about in the Olorunfunmi piece, though, the competition seemed extremely close this spring, to the point where it wouldn't be surprising for any of them to win it. As we've opined several times, if UCLA is looking for a back that best replicates what Perkins brought to the table, Starks probably has the most similar combination of skills.
Even if he doesn't win the job, though, we imagine he's going to get a good amount of carries. He looked better this spring than he did last spring, and has shown steady enough improvement throughout his UCLA career for us to think that he should be a better back than he was last year -- when he had at least a per-carry argument for being the most productive back on the team. With Jamabo, Starks, and Olorunfunmi, UCLA has one of the best running back groups in the Pac-12, and it should be very fun to see how the competition shakes out this fall.
What's Been Said About Him:
"This offense really suits Nate Starks, a big downhill runner, he can make people miss and has breakaway speed. He doesn’t hesitate where he’s going." -- OL Scott Quessenberry, April 5, 2016
Most Recent Interview:
30 Most Important Bruins for 2016
|Rank||Name||Highest Rank||Lowest Rank|
|16||Nate Starks||14 (Dave Woods)||22 (Blair Angulo)|
|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)|