It's our final installment in the series analyzing what UCLA’s football team will look like in the post-Josh-Rosen era. We’re pretty confident – as is the rest of the world – that Rosen will jump to the NFL early, after his junior season, so this is a projection of UCLA’s depth chart for the 2018 season.
As we said in the other installments, we would have never been able to do this unless UCLA had built good depth in the last several years. The program has recruited and built out depth so well that you can actually project a depth chart two years out, and it helps to analyze UCLA’s current, specific recruiting needs – as opposed to previous regimes where you could assume UCLA needed help at every position.
UCLA loaded up on receivers with the 2016 class, taking six (if you count Dymond Lee, who will start out at quarterback this season, and Darian Owens, who didn't qualify academically and will enroll at Fresno City College). Even without Owens, if you add Lee to the 2018 projected depth chart, it's still well-populated. Even tight end, the position that its widely been lamented for lack of bodies, isn't bereft.
We took the liberty of moving Lee to the receiver depth chart. We think he's a talented receiver, but it will probably take him this season to realize he's not a quarterback, which will set him back some in terms of his development as a receiver. By his sophmore redshirt season he should really be ready to make an impact.
We also took the liberty of moving Theo Howard to the top of the heap of the depth chart because in spring he looked like a different-level talent.
This coming season, 2016, should really show if Jordan Lasley has matured and refined his game to make a contribution. From what we saw in spring, we think he'll continue to make strides and accomplish that this season, and by 2018 be a major contributor.
Stephen Johnson played as a true freshman last season, and probably shouldn't have. But we know UCLA expects him to be a weapon at the slot -- soon, and easily by 2018.
We think Austin Roberts will flash in the 2016 season, and think he'll have a chance to be a all-conference type of guy by his senior year in 2018. Hopefully the USC transfer Caleb Wilson and Jordan Wilson will have developed enough to be contributors at tight end since Roberts is more of a Thomas Duarte-type, and UCLA will need true tight ends who can block.
It'd be great to get an impact tight end onto this depth chart, somehow. It's looking unlikely at this point that UCLA will do that with the 2017 recruiting class, but it is a long way until Signing Day in February. And, of course, this depth chart doesn't include any players from the 2018 class that would be true freshmen.
We've speculated that maybe a defensive end currently on the roster would switch over, like Marcus Moore. And then yesterday on the BRO Football Premium Forum, we learned that true freshman defensive end Jake Burton might want to move to tight end to get on the field quicker. Burton might fit the bill as a traditional tight end, with good size as a blocker but having some legit pass-catching talent, too.
In regard to what this projected depth chart means for recruiting, the other main impression is that, while UCLA is indicating it only wants one receiver in the 2017 class, it might need two. Yes, if you plug in one guy from the 2017 class, and maybe 2+ from 2018, the depth is good but, as you can seen, after the 2018 season UCLA will lose two senior receivers (and two tight ends), so the young depth might not be seasoned enough to really be contributors in 2019. You'd like to maybe have more than one, and probably two redshirt freshmen, on this depth chart, so in 2019 they would have probably had some experience and are ready to replace the graduating seniors as redshirt sophomores. Plus, at the slot, with that position possibly not getting as much play in the new offense, you could see maybe Damian Alloway or Demetric Felton looking to transfer because of a lack of playing time.
We're nitpicking a bit here, because, really, with just reasonable development and some of the guys on this depth chart reaching reasonable expectation, the 2018 depth chart looks good.
With the depth, and let's say at the very least Howard, Johnson and Roberts have developed into impact players, it's especially key to have experienced talent and depth for the quarterback that probably takes over for Josh Rosen in the 2018 season.