With one month 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. 15.
15. J.J. Molson, Freshman Kicker
Why He's Important: Last year, out of nowhere, UCLA kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn won the Lou Groza Award as a senior. During the year, he kicked a 60 yard field goal and was excellent on kickoffs all season, frequently earning touchbacks, which was completely necessary given that UCLA's kick coverage was oddly bad all year.
Now, Fairbairn is gone, which puts a lot of strain on the remaining special teams. Replacing Fairbairn is freshman kicker J.J. Molson, one of the top kickers in the country in the class of 2016. Molson was in school this spring and looked exactly the part of a very talented freshman kicker this spring. Fairbairn had a poor, somewhat jittery start to his UCLA career, but watching Molson this spring, we'd be a little surprised if he wasn't significantly better than Fairbairn as a freshman.
Like we said with the Austin Kent story, we also can't imagine that UCLA is going to use its kicking game less simply because the Bruins have freshmen at the two main spots. The Bruins have been consistently pretty conservative with 4th down decisions under Jim Mora, and we have to imagine that will continue this year even with freshmen kickers. So, giving what we've seen in the past, Molson should get a good amount of field goal opportunities, and the odds are that he'll be the kickoff specialist as well. Molson performing at a close approximation of senior year Fairbairn will be a key to UCLA's success this year.
What's Been Said About Him:
"J.J. is a talented all around kicker/punter. A big time athlete that shows the ability to hit a big ball. His punting is very solid and among the best in his class. Kicking is his biggest strength, but I look forward to seeing what he is capable of as a punter as well. He is showing great improvement from camp to camp. Excellent all around prospect. 2016 U.S. Army All American as a kicker. Huge pick up for UCLA!" -- Chris Sailer
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30 Most Important Bruins for 2016
|Rank||Name||Highest Rank||Lowest Rank|
|15||J.J. Molson||9 (Blair Angulo)||21 (2-way tie)|
|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)|