Freshman Report Card

We all know how Marcedes Lewis, Jarrad Page and Drew Olson are doing, but what about the other redshirt and true freshmen on the team that aren't playing? Here's a player-by-player review as to how they're doing in practice...

Robert Chai, T-FR, C/OG, was out for a while with a injured hand, but has been practicing now for several weeks. Chai has good athleticism for a center prospect and could be moved eventually to the guard position if so needed. He needs to get stronger, but the coaches have been happy with his aggressiveness.

Robert Cleary, R-FR, OG. Cleary came to UCLA as fairly highly-regarded. When he arrived last fall he needed to improve his strength. His body has changed pretty considerably over the last year and he's ability to play physically has improved. His quickness and good feet have always been there. This fall the coaches have been pretty pleased with his progress. With some solid depth ahead of him at guard, with junior Shane Lehmann and sophomore Paul Mociler, it will give Cleary time to develop more. Next year he should be a solid backup as a redshirt sophomore, and then be probably ready to compete to start the next year after that as a redshirt junior.

Elliot Vallejo, T-FR, OT. Vallejo was one of the last recruits UCLA decided to offer and take in last year's recruiting season. He has been a pretty good pleasant surprise. He has great size at 6-7, and will be in the process of firming up and bulking up. He was about 290 when he came to UCLA, but he should slim some of that down, then build it up and wind up around 300 or so. UCLA has some good young talent at tackle, but Vallejo has the potential to compete by his redshirt sophomore year. Next year he'll be a backup and continue to develop.

Matt Mosebar, R-FR, OT. Mosebar is still developing as a redshirt freshman. To be blunt, UCLA was probably expecting more from him by this time, but he still has plenty of time to grow into a player, only halfway through his redshirt freshman year. At 6-9 and about 290, he is in the process of bulking up and getting stronger. He has good quickness and feet for a tackle, but is still learning the techniques of playing tackle. He's expected to provide backup minutes at tackle next season as a redshirt sophomore.

Alex Potasi, T-FR, OT. He is one of the true freshmen that the coaches are the most pleased with so far this season. He's very large, at 6-6 and 290, and very wide. At tackle he takes up so much space it's difficult for pass rushers to just get around him. At one point this fall the coaches were considering not redshirting him, to get him some valuable game experience, but he experienced a few minor injuries and that pretty much nixed that idea. After senior starting tackles Bryce Bohlander and Mike Saffer leave this season, Potasi will get a chance to possibly step into one starting tackle position in spring practice. It could very well end up that Steve Vieira is moved back to tackle and redshirt freshman tackle Ed Blanton takes the other open starting tackle position, but if Potasi is good enough, it could allow the coaches to leave Vieira at guard.

J.J. Hair, T-FR, TE. Hair has struggled as a true freshman in practice this season a bit. He might lack the quickness needed to play tight end. He is very large, though, at 6-5 and at least 255. There are some options for him to maybe contribute down the line. It is only his true freshman year. He could continue to develop phyiscally, get quicker and end up contributing as a pass-catching tight end. He has pretty decent hands. He could also be predominantly UCLA's designated blocking tight end during his career. Or there could be a possibility that he could continue to bulk up and grow into a potential offensive tackle. He might not be quick for a tight end, but he'd be quick for a tackle.

Jacques Lazarus, R-FR, WR. Probably the most mind-boggling young player on the team. Lazarus might be among the best few athletes in the entire program. He has a great body, is very quick and has good speed, and has very good athleticism. There are times in practice when he runs by defensive backs in a blur. Since he and Junior Taylor switched jersey numbers, there are times in practice when you see #9 fly by someone and it hits you that it's not Taylor but Lazarus. But then again, he doesn't sustain effort well. He'll have one good rep and then he could take one rep off. He has the chance to be a contributing factor in the receiver rotation down the line, even next year if they light turns on. He also might get a look as a punt or kick returner. He's done it a few times in practice and has looked very good. It will come down to, though, whether the light every fully comes on for Lazarus.

Idris Moss, T-FR, WR. He has some of the quickest feet on the roster. He's smallish, not necessarily really his height (5-11), but his body at 170 pounds could use some bulking up. It will be interesting to see what position Moss ends up playing at UCLA. He has shown some great potential at wide receiver, possibly providing the team the smaller, quick wideout it could use to complement its traditionally bigger receivers. If Antwuan Smith ends up coming to UCLA and is exceptional, Moss could wind up at cornerback. But even if Smith does come, Moss could, with his quickness, end up a better receiver prospect. He's pretty raw right now, but has made considerable improvement from the beginning of the fall until now. If he gets bigger and stronger, which he is bound to do, he has a future at wide receiver.

Josh Roenicke, R-FR (Walkon), WR. Roenicke has been the stand-in on the scout team for the opponents best receiver almost every week. He came to UCLA a year ago as a walkon quarterback, but he switched to receive and has shown some potential. He has very good height at 6-2, and is on the skinny side at 180. But he has very good explosiveness off the line. His hands are inconsistent – at times he catches almost everything and then at others doesn't. But his size and quickness give him the potential to earn a scholarship and end up being a bigger, quicker version of Garrett Lepisto down the line.

John Sciarra, R-FR, QB. While everyone is looking for Drew Olson or Matt Moore to be the future at quarterback for UCLA, Sciarra keeps plugging along under the radar. And he's continuing to improve. The ball he throws now is light years ahead of where it was a year ago. Heck, it's light years ahead of where he was at the beginning of fall. He quite commonly throws the tightest spiral on the team in any practice. The ducks that he used to throw have mostly gone south. He's accurate on his short throws and can complete them like second nature. He still needs to get better throwing the ball down the field. He'll always be on the small side physically, but with the progress he's shown throwing the ball just this fall, I don't think you can count him out when thinking about UCLA's future at quarterback. Yes, Olson and Moore probably have a better shot at playing time than Sciarra, but at the least, he's showing that he has the potential to be at least a solid backup down the road, unlike what UCLA has had in recent years.

Matt Moore, T-FR, QB. Moore this week is working with the scout team and doing his best impression of Cal's Kyle Boller. He said that he's trying to throw the ball with as much velocity as he can to simulate Boller's arm strength. Well, Moore is pulling it off well. The zing Moore can put on the ball is considerable. Many times in recent weeks the sharp passes I see coming out of the scout team draw my eye across Spaulding Field. Moore has so much going for him, the arm, athleticism, confidence and the personality, to be a great quarterback. The coaches have indicated that Moore is learning the technique and subtleties of being a quarterback extremely quickly. As he gets bigger and more experienced, you can expect him to compete very fiercely with Drew Olson for the future starting position at UCLA. It's exactly like many predicted when Moore and Olson were prospects – that Olson would be the more ready of the two, but that Moore could end up being at least as good, if not better, down the line.

J.D. Groves, T-FR, FB. Groves was pressed into service this year due to limited depth at fullback and injuries. Being a true freshman he's made some mistakes, but the coaches are very high on Groves. Right now he is ahead of sophomore Pat Norton on the fullback depth chart, and is the starter with Manuel White out with an injury. The reports are that he has pulled ahead of Norton legitimately, despite Norton's injuries, and will probably be ahead of Norton on the depth chart in the future, unless Norton improves. The coaches like Groves toughness as just a true freshman. He is physically pretty mature at 235 pounds, but could get even bigger. They like his versatility also, his ability to run as well as catch the ball out of the backfield.

Kirby Joseph, T-FR, DE. Joseph has had his arm in a sling after shoulder surgery for the last couple of weeks and hasn't practiced. After fall practice, when he was practicing, it looked like he had found his position at defensive end, rather than strongside linebacker. He played mostly with his hand down in high school and seems to be more comfortable there. At 6-2 and close to 240, he's a bit of a tweener, but UCLA has lacked quickness and pass rushing from its defensive end position, so Joseph might be part of the answer to that down the line. There has been a trend in college football to go to the smaller, quicker tight end and it's good to have that option on your roster. Before he sat out, he showed good quickness and played his butt off in practice, which the coaches were very pleased about.

Thomas Patton, T-FR, DT. Got quite a bit bigger from when UCLA recruited him to when he came to UCLA this fall. He's about 6-3 and close to 280 now. The coaches have said they like his potential, that he has good mobility for how big he is, and when he matures more and gets more control of his body, which is still growing, they expect him to be very good. He has good explosion off the ball and plays hard, which the coaches particularly like. He'll have a chance at playing time next year in a backup role.

Kevin Harbour, T-FR, DE. The coaches consider Harbour a future star at defensive end. He has good size at 6-4 and 250ish. He actually came into fall practice rocked out, having turned some of that high school baby fat into muscle. The reports are that he continues to get stronger and more muscular. He reportedly has very good lateral quickness and very good natural pass rushing instincts and technique. While UCLA will still have three current defensive ends on the two-deep return next season, he's expected to have a good chance at breaking into the two-deep as that fourth man and seeing playing time as a redshirt freshman.

C.J. Niulsulu, T-FR, DT. He got in 20 plays against Oregon and the reviews were very good. He had a sack, was quick off the ball, held up physically, wasn't overpowered, and got the best of his blocker at least a few times. While he was needed to play since Rodney Leisle was injured, the fact his college football career might end because of the pending legal case against him did contribute to the coaches playing Niusulu against Oregon, even though they'll deny it. He had surgery on his knee early on in fall practice, but has recovered fully. If he does continue to play at UCLA, the coaches expect him to be a contributor next year in the two deep, and probably be the #3 tackle behind Leisle and Boschetti.

Xavier Burgess, T-FR, LB. He started out fall practice injured and unable to participate in contract drills, which pretty much ended any hope of him playing as a true freshman. He's a bit of a quiet kid off the field, so the coaches weren't sure of how to read him early on. When the other freshmen linebackers looked like they'd get playing time ahead of him, and he was injured, many thought that Burgess might be a candidate to transfer. But in recent weeks he's been recovered from his injury, participating in practice, and looking good. He's slotted as a strongside backer. At 6-2 and about 230 pounds, he has the size, and he runs very well and is playing with intensity on the scout team, which the coaches like. Next year he'll compete with Tim Warfield for the backup strongside backer job.

Justin London, T-FR, LB. This was only going to be a review of the younger players that hadn't seen the field, but we haven't seen London that much. London came into UCLA this fall and impressed everyone with his instincts, quickness and aggressiveness. The coaches want to get him in the game more, but haven't had a good opportunity in recent games to do it. After Marcus Reese has left the program, this spring practice all eyes will be on him to see if he can step up and fill the void at middle linebacker. It is one of the biggest positions that UCLA will need to fill next year and the coaches are expecting the more talented London to fill it over perennial backup Dennis Link. Most of the opinions of the coaches are that London has a chance to be a big-time player at UCLA, and continue the recent tradition of great middle linebackers. He just needs to learn the position better.

James Jessen, R-FR (Walkon), LB. Jessen is a volleyball player trying to make it as a football player and he has a chance. He originally tried his hand at defensive end last season as a true freshman, but they moved him to strongside linebacker once they realized that it didn't look like he'd have the capability of putting on defensive-end-type weight and strength. He's 6-4 and about 225 right now and will probably top out at about 235. He has very good quickness and athleticism, and pursues the ball very well. He'll have a chance at the two deep in the next four years.

Patrick Pierre-Louis, R-SO, LB. We're listing him as a sophomore here since he's redshirting this season and will return next year as a junior. Even though you hate to see a player lose a year of playing due to an injury, it was also an added bonus for UCLA that they'll have Pierre-Louis for two more years, to help with depth at linebacker. Pierre-Louis had a great fall camp and looked like he'd be a considerable contributor at weakside linebacker this season before he dislocated his shoulder. He's back practicing now in a limited capacity, and with the scout team, so it's hard to assess how he's doing lately. But the coaches were very pleased with him in fall camp. He showed great pursuit and speed to the ball. He'll definitely be a part of the two-deep next season, either at weakside, where he is now, or possibly at middle linebacker.

Wesley Walker, T-FR, LB. Walker is another true freshman who has seen playing time but we're including him here anyway. Walker has been pressed into playing this year because of the injury to Pierre-Louis and the loss of Audie Attar at weakside linebacker. He's been playing a limited amount each game, providing relief for Spencer Havner, but he's been solid. For a player who most expected would redshirt and needed to get stronger, he's performed very well. He's at least 6-2 and about 227 right now, and with some physical maturity, the coaches believe he has great quickness and athleticism to make for a very good linebacker. He could conceivably move positions also depending on how he develops.

Glenn Ohaeri,  T-FR, CB. Ohaeri has made the two-deep at cornerback as a true freshman. The coaches are very impressed with him as an all-around football player, his aggressiveness, skill, hitting ability and instincts. He'll probably be the #3 cornerback on the team next season, even though there should be some great competition at corner this spring. He also could at some time make a jump back to tailback, his primary high school position, if he was needed.

Jebiaus Brown, T-FR, CB. Brown sat out most of fall camp with various little injuries, but he's been practicing in recent weeks and the coaches generally love him. He's good-sized for a corner at 6-0, but is pretty thick, already at about 185. He is a very good athlete and the coaches expect him to be a big contributor down the line, even as soon as next year.

Marcus Cassel, R-FR, CB. Cassel has improved quite a bit from last year as a true freshman. He has good size at 6-0 and 175, and has shown good cover instincts this season. The question on Cassel was whether he'd be physical enough, but he's been stepping it up in practice in the last month and showing more physicality and aggressiveness. Right now he'd be the fourth corner in the two-deep for next season.

Joe Garcia, T-FR, CB. He had some moments during fall practice. The coaches like the combination of his size and lateral quickness. He's spending this year getting a feeling for playing at this level, particularly the speed and physical level that's needed to succeed. But there has been a couple of times this fall when a UCLA coach said they thought Garcia had the chance to be a starter within a couple of years. The competition at corner is going to be big.

Eric McNeal, T-FR, S. McNeal was set back by injuries and is redshirting. He came in pretty well-hyped and then had Jarrad Page fly by him on the depth chart. The coaches like McNeal's athleticism. It's just a matter like it is with many freshmen, as it was for Ben Emanuel – when he gets the speed and intensity of college ball. Many times it comes in the spring of their true freshman year, after they basically didn't do too much playing on the scout team all fall and winter. With UCLA's safeties being pretty young, there is always a chance that McNeal could turn it up a notch and catch up or even pass Page, or even Raymo. Right now, the coaches are looking forward to spring with McNeal to see what he'll be ready to show them.

Justin Medlock, T-FR, K. The lefty kicker looks very good in practice. He routinely boots 50 to 55 yarders. He doesn't have a huge, huge foot, but far better than average, and looks very accurate. He also seems to get the ball up on a high trajectory very quickly, and has a very short stroke, both of which helps in keeping the ball from getting blocked. With Chris Griffith graduating, he should be the heir apparent to the place-kicking duties.


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