WR Jordan Lasley (Photo by Steve Cheng)

2017 Depth Chart Projection With 2017 Freshmen

Feb. 7 -- It's a bigger leap in speculation this year since so much is unknown about the offense and a new offensive staff, but we take our premature shot at what the depth chart might look like heading into UCLA's opener against Texas A&M Sept. 2nd...

Projecting a depth chart for the start of the 2017 season is extremely difficult, just because we have a good amount of missing information -- such as what offense new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch will run exactly, and what positions it will utilize.

There's actually, too, the factor that new offensive line coach Hank Fraley will start from scratch in evaluating his offensive linemen and that could cause some upheaval on the offensive line. 

But something as critical as those two factors never stopped us here at BRO from speculating prematurely.

So, this depth chart is not only comprised of some guesses in regard to positions themselves, but the positions some players will end up in by September of 2017.  

OFFENSE

The biggest unknown is hands-down the offensive line.  Like we said above, the offensive line could be completely re-thought by Fraley, and we're going to go out on a limb with our offensive line projection.  We've always thought that Kenny Lacy is more suited to tackle than guard, and now that Conor McDermott has left UCLA after 17 seasons, and UCLA would be looking for a second starting tackle, we think Lacy might emerge as the guy at right tackle.  That's also based on the thought that Andre James, who started at right tackle for most of last season when Kolton Miller got hurt, is probably better suited as a guard and he'll slide inside. Then there will be a competition for the other starting guard spot, and we think that Josh Wariboko-Alali will finally realize some of his potential and emerge.

But we reserve the right to immediately retract this guess if UCLA does indeed get an offensive lineman (or two) off the grad transfer market.  We'd expect that UCLA is primarily shopping for tackles, so the hope is that the transfer would be good enough to start at right tackle.  In that case, we still think that James moves inside and Lacy competes at guard in an effort to get the best five on the field.  One good grad transfer who can start at tackle really changes the entire complexion of the OL; UCLA would then only be looking for one new starter at guard (conceding that Lacy secures one starting guard spot) among James, Wariboko-Alali, Paco Perez, Najee Toran, Poasi Moala and even Zack Bateman.  You have to consider this, too: players who have been on the roster for a while might get new life under Fraley and a different approach to coaching than former OL coach Adrian Klemm. For instance, Fraley might be able to get something out of Moala or Bateman.   

WR Theo Howard (Photo by Steve Cheng)

We've take the liberty to move Theo Howard to the top of the depth chart at one receiver spot. Given another year of development and maturity, and a new receivers coach to go along with the influence of Fisch, we think Howard will step up.   We suspect Dymond Lee will make his way to the receiver group by fall practice and, being one of the best athletes already on the team, we've heard he's really improved his speed as he's matured physically.  Out of high school, we thought Lee was one of the best natural pass-catchers but lacked top-end speed, so if it's true he's gained a step that makes him potentially a very dangerous receiver -- he just has to make that decision to drop the dream of quarterback.  We'd expect that probably to happen this spring when he can't win the back-up spot behind Josh Rosen.  

You can see that we also slipped in Darnay Holmes on the WR depth chart, since we think he's going to get an opportunity on offense in certain packages.  He's just too good of a receiver not to utilize him. 

A guy to watch for is Audie Omotosho. We've been hearing good things about him all off-season.  

One of the most interesting aspects of spring practice to watch will be the slot receivers, with Stephen Johnson coming back from the redshirt year, Felton returning from his redshirt year of recovery and Damian Alloway after his redshirt year. All three were pretty highly-touted prospects out of high school and have all had good reviews in the off-season.  

We've continued to include a fullback position with the offense since, at this time, we're uncertain if there will be some formations that utilize a fullback.  We think, though, that Cameron Griffin will make a full, permanent move to linebacker and that Ainuu Taua could be the guy who alternates between a situational defensive lineman and possibly fullback, if the offense calls for it.

We truly have no idea what to do with the running back depth chart. We personally think that Brandon Stephens is the best potential running back in the group and that maybe after a year of being in the program will emerge as the No. 1 guy.  It will be interesting how it all shakes out with new running backs coach DeShaun Foster.  We'd really like to see Demetric Felton get some time at running back as a change-of-pace type. We thought he was a better running back in high school than he was a receiver, and we've now heard, after recovering from his shoulder injury and the redshirt year, that he's one of the fastest players on the roster.  He might be only 185 pounds, so he's obviously not a three-down running back, but speed and elusiveness might be something desperately needed among the tailbacks for the 2017 season.  

X Receiver
Theo Howard (6-0, 185, So.)
Mossi Johnson (6-0, 190, R. Sr.)
Dymond Lee (6-2, 185, R. Fr.)
Darnay Holmes (5-10, 185, Fr.) 

Z Receiver
Jordan Lasley (6-1, 200, R. Jr.)
Eldridge Massington (6-2, 210, R. Sr.)
Alex Van Dyke (6-4, 220, Sr.)

Adewale Omotosho (6-2, 195, R. Fr.) 

Left Tackle
Kolton Miller (6-8, 310, R. Jr.)
Alex Akingbulu (6-6, 275, R. Fr.)
Stephan Zabié (6-5, 295, Fr.)  

Left Guard
Josh Wariboko-Alali (6-2, 305, R. So.)
Paco Perez (6-4, 310, R. Fr.) 
Zach Bateman (6-6, 310, R. Sr.) 
Kanan Ray (6-4, 285, Fr.)
Sean Seawards (6-3, 315, Fr.) 

Center
Scott Quessenberry (6-4, 310, R. Sr.)
Gyo Shojima (6-2, 295, R. Sr.) Walk-on
Zack Sweeney (6-3, 275, Fr.) 
Markus Boyer (6-1, 290, Jr.) Walk-on   

Right Guard
Andre James (6-4, 300, R. So.) 
Najee Toran (6-1, 285, Sr.) 
Poasi Moala (6-4, 305, R. Sr.)

Mike Alves (6-5, 315, R. Fr.)

Right Tackle 
Kenny Lacy (6-4, 300, R. Sr.) 
Jake Burton (6-5, 275, R. Fr.) 
Jax Wacaser (6-5, 275, Fr.) 

Tight End
Austin Roberts (6-2, 230, R. Jr.)
Caleb Wilson (6-5, 245, R. So.)
Jordan Wilson (6-5, 255, R. Fr.)
Jimmy Jaggers (6-4, 245, Fr.)
Moses Robinson-Carr (6-5, 260, Fr.)

Slot Receiver
Darren Andrews (5-10, 190, R. Sr.)
Stephen Johnson (5-11, 195, R. So.)
Damian Alloway (5-10, 185, R. Fr.)  
Demetric Felton (5-10, 185, R. Fr.)  

Quarterback
Josh Rosen (6-4, 225, Jr.)  
Devon Modster (6-2, 220, R. Fr.)
Matt Lynch (6-4, 215, R. Fr.)
Austin Burton (6-3, 203, Fr.)

Fullback?
Ainuu Taua (5-11, 295, R. Jr.)

Tailback
Soso Jamabo (6-2.5, 215, Jr.)
Nate Starks (6-0, 210, Sr.)
Bolu Olorunfunmi (5-11, 220, Jr.)
Jalen Starks (6-1, 250, So.)
Brandon Stephens (5-11, 195, So.)



DEFENSE

On the defensive line, we suspect the starters will be the guys who have gotten the most time the last two seasons.  But the DL rotation is always a big one, so we'd expect plenty of players to get plenty of playing time. 

Obviously the biggest projection here is that true freshman Jaelan Phillips will jump to the starting razor DE position vacated by a graduating Takkarist McKinley.  He's a once-in-a-very-long time kind of talent, and is already 6-5 and 255, and will certainly be 260-ish and stronger by fall (since he came in early for Winter Quarter and spring practice).  What's also encouraging is that Keisean Lucier-South has put on some weight, up to 240+. Bulk and strength is KLS's biggest obstacle at this point so it's a good sign he continues to get physically bigger.  We took the liberty to move Breland Brandt to defensive end, too, thinking he's better suited there than any linebacker position and will keep getting bigger physically. 

Inside, we think it's pretty easy to expect Dickerson and Tagaloa to be the starters, but that it will be a pretty big rotation. We anticipate first off the bench will be true freshman Greg Rogers and Nick Terry, and then Taua will be used a situational inside pass rusher.  We've heard that Osa Odighizuwa is a physical specimen and, after a redshirt year, expect him to see some time. 

Boss Tagaloa (Photo: Steve Cheng)

At linebacker, we made our own change in moving Krys Barnes to strongside linebacker. With Kenny Young and Lokeni Toailoa getting all the reps at middle linebacker, and Barnes getting playing time on special teams last season and being physically pretty big, we think that's the place he might fit.

UCLA spends quite a bit of time with only two linebackers on the field, and we think that will be primarily Young and Josh Woods, with Lokeni Toailoa giving Young a breather and the question being -- who gives Woods a breather?  It very well could be Mique Juarez, but we think Juarez might come back to the field quite a bit bigger and maybe too big to play the weakside spot.  

We're also looking forward to seeing such a big athlete like Griffin at linebacker, and probably the strongside spot.  

There are some clear questions at linebacker to sort out in spring and fall, mostly who gets most of the playing time at strongside linebacker and who gets the back-up minutes a the Will. 

We're going to make the biggest stretch of our projections here in the secondary and guess that Darnay Holmes wins the open starting corner spot. He's still pretty raw in his coverage skills but he's just so athletic.  We don't think Johnny Johnson will ever be 100% as a result of his injuries and that Holmes, since he's getting a jump on his development by coming in early, will be able to overtake Denzel Fisher by September.  We haven't really seen Keyon Riley since fall camp, where he showed a few flashes while also getting burned as a true freshman corner.  We've always thought he could be a candidate to move to safety but we've kept him at corner for the time being.  Both true freshmen Elijah Gates and Jaylan Shaw shouldn't be counted out of the cornerback competition either since both are very talented.  Watching that competition will absolutely be one of the best things to watch in both spring and then fall camp (when Hicks and Shaw join the team).  

At safety, it's now Adarius Pickett's time to shine. He's the big-hitting head hunter we like at safety. And then there is much anticipation to seeing how much Brandon Burton has developed in the off-season.  

Defensive End
Jacob Tuioti-Mariner (6-2, 285, Sr.) 
Rick Wade (6-6, 270, R. So.)
Odua Isibor (6-4, 245, Fr.) 

Defensive Tackle
Matt Dickerson (6-5, 295, Sr.)
Greg Rogers (6-3, 310, Fr.) 
Ainuu Taua (5-11, 295, R. So.) 
Osa Odighizuwa (6-2, 285, R. Fr.) 

Chigozie Nnoruka (6-3, 290, R. So.)

Defensive Tackle
Boss Tagaloa (6-2, 310, So.)
Nick Terry (6-3, 305, R. Sr.)
Martin Andrus (6-2, 300, Fr.) 

Defensive End
Jaelan Phillips (6-5, 260, Fr.) 
Keisean Lucier-South (6-4, 245, R. So.) 
Breland Brandt (6-5, 240, R. Fr.)
Marcus Moore (6-2, 255, R. Fr.) 

Will Linebacker
Josh Woods (6-2, 245, Jr.) 
Leni Toailoa (6-2, 225, R. Fr.)
Dechaun Holiday (6-2.5, 220, R. So.)
Rahyme Johnson (6-4, 215, Fr.)  

Mike Linebacker
Kenny Young (6-1, 235, Sr.) 
Lokeni Toailoa (6-1, 250, So.) 

Sam Linebacker
Krys Barnes (6-2, 250, So.) 
Cameron Griffin (6-3, 245, R. Jr.) 
Mique Juarez. (6-2, 250, R. Fr.) 

Left Cornerback
Darnay Holmes (5-10, 185, Fr.) 
Keyon Riley (6-0, 190, R. Fr.)
Johnny Johnson (5-10, 185. R. Sr.)
Jaylan Shaw (5-11, 175, Fr.)

Safety
Jaleel Wadood (5-10, 185, Sr.)
Octavius Spencer (6-0, 175, Jr.) 
William Lockett (5-11, 180, R. So.)

Safety
Adarius Pickett (6-0, 195, R. Jr.)
Brandon Burton (6-1, 200, R. Fr.) 
Colin Samuel (6-3, 200, R. So.) 
Quentin Lake (6-1, 185, Fr.)

Nickel
Jaleel Wadood (5-10, 185, Jr.)
Keyon Riley (6-0, 190, R. Fr.) 

Right Cornerback
Nathan Meadors (6-0, 190, So.)
Denzel Fisher (6-2, 190, R. Jr.)
Elijah Gates (5-11, 175, Fr.)  
Morrell Osling (6-1, 185, Fr.)



SPECIALISTS

The competition between Molson and Strauch will continue, but we think Molson as a sophomore will distance himself from Strauch.  

There is a question at punter, with the scholarship guy, Austin Kent, struggling through his freshman season and the walk-on, Flintoff, looking better.

The kick-off and punt returner roles are probably completely open, even though Pickett was getting time there at the end of last season. It will be interesting to see if Howard and Stephen Johnson can get some opportunities there, and we'd anticipate Holmes getting looks in spring. 


Place Kicker
J.J. Molson (6-0, 190, So.)
Andrew Strauch (5-11, 170, R. So.) Walk-on

Punter
Stefan Flintoft (6-3, 180, R-Jr.) Walk-on
Austin Kent (6-2, 210, So.)

Long Snapper
Johnny Den Bleyker (6-0, 200, So.)

Kickoff Returner
Adarius Pickett (6-0, 195, R. Jr.)
Theo Howard (6-0, 185, So.)
Jordan Lasley (6-1, 200, R. Jr.)
Stephen Johnson (5-11, 195, R. So.)

Darnay Holmes (5-10, 185, Fr.)

Punt Returner
Adarius Pickett (6-0, 195, R. Jr.)
Darren Andrews (5-10, 190, R. Sr.)
Stephen Johnson (5-11, 195, R. So.)
Theo Howard (6-0, 185, So.)
Jordan Lasley (6-1, 200, R. Jr.)

Darnay Holmes (5-10, 185, Fr.)

 


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