They might not have seen game action last season after arriving from high school, but several redshirt freshmen appear primed to earn looks beginning next week when UCLA kicks off its fall camp in preparation for the Sept. 3 opener. Here are our top five candidates to make a splash in the weeks to come:
5. CB Colin Samuel
The former Long Beach (Calif.) Poly standout has the length that assistant coach Demetrice Martin covets in his cornerbacks, and Samuel used that frame to put together a decent spring both in coverage and as a tackler. He still has some work to do, particularly at the point of attack when the ball approaches, but Samuel uses his size well to disrupt receivers on plays near the sidelines and doesn't give quarterbacks much room to fit throws into.
The cornerback spot was affected by injuries all of last season but with up-and-comers like Samuel on the roster, the Bruins should have some serviceable depth this fall.
4. DB Will Lockett
The native Texan was probably the player that deserved more mention than he got this past spring. Lockett looked assertive at safety, creeping into the box in run support but also turning fluidly when he had to cover receivers down field. He earned praise from head coach Jim Mora for his consistency working with the second unit and had a couple big hits up the middle that raised some eyebrows.
UCLA sits in a favorable spot with veterans Jaleel Wadood, Randall Goforth and Tahaan Goodman leading the back end of its secondary, but we would expect Lockett to continue to warrant a look.
3. OL Andre James
The Bruins are set at both offensive tackle spots heading into camp, but James might be one of the more integral pieces of the group this season. He has shown flashes of dominance in pass protection and fared well in one-on-one battles throughout the spring, keeping defenders in front of him by moving his feet and setting a solid base. The potential is certainly there for James to be UCLA’s best offensive linemen down the road.
It should be interesting to see, though, if James gets a shot at one of the offensive guard spots, which were still undefined by the end of spring. Will assistant coach Adrian Klemm field his best five or could James be too valuable at tackle to jeopardize?
2. DE Keisean Lucier-South
One of the more explosive edge rushers in the entire 2015 recruiting class, Lucier-South showed some progression this past spring and looked noticeably bigger while maintaining his speed and quickness. When the former Orange (Calif.) Lutheran star bursts with a good first step, dips his shoulder and turns the corner, there is not much an offensive tackle, even a player like Conor McDermott, can do to stop him. That much was evident in the spring.
Lucier-South, who a couple months ago said he was up to 230 lbs., has worked on his strength and technique quite a bit and, if he is able to take that next step in his development and add a couple moves to his arsenal, could be thrust into an important pass-rushing role during the season.
Takkarist McKinley and Matt Dickerson are the projected starters at the end spots along the defensive line, but don’t be surprised to see Wade get into the rotation quite a bit this season thanks to his physicality. The switch to the 4-3 scheme from the 3-4 base was beneficial to Wade since he has the size to line up between the offensive tackle and tight end, and the motor to occupy blocks and rush the passer through the interior.
Wade was up to 265 lbs. in the spring and was still quick enough to cause havoc and chase ball carriers in the flats. Assistant coach Angus McClure has reason to be excited about the former Trinity League star's potential to contribute this season.