Projected Depth Charts: Offense

Again, it's impressive how little turnover there will be on the UCLA roster for the next two seasons. The cupboard is definitely not bare for 2003 and 2004. Here's how the offensive depth charts project for the next two years, and the holes that need to be filled...

The offensive depth chart is as deep as the defensive depth chart. While there is a question on defense – the defensive line in 2004 – the question on offense really is: Will UCLA get some good production from its quarterback position in the next two years?

 

If it does, if Drew Olson and Matt Moore can efficiently execute the UCLA quarterback position, UCLA has the potential to be very good.  But it's obvious how important the position is, and it definitely is the biggest determining factor in whether UCLA will be successful in the next two seasons.  Even though UCLA still will have talent and depth practically at every position for the next two years, if the quarterback position falters, more than likely so will UCLA.

 

QUARTERBACK:

 

Projected Depth Chart for 2003

 

Matt Moore (SO), Drew Olson (SO), John Sciarra (SO), Brian Callahan (Walk-on R-FR), [FR Walkon?]

 

We really should list the two quarterbacks equals since, it's very likely, they could go all of next season without either having emerged as the clear-cut better quarterback.  But we'll give Moore the slight nod here, only through pure speculation and nothing based on any source from the football department. 

 

Moore, it would stand to reason, with another year of experience and physical maturity, might nudge ahead of Olson. They were essentially even last season, with Moore far more inexperienced and still weighing under 190 pounds.  While you can anticipate that Olson will also improve, it's a good bet that Moore will show drastic improvement by next fall.  As Moore gains more physical maturity and experience, what will more than likely set him apart is his better athleticism and arm strength. 

 

The question is, if Moore wins the starting position, or even if Olson does, what does the other quarterback do? It would be devastating if either decided to transfer.  UCLA needs both of them desperately.  And here's our BRO pitch for both of them to remain Bruins for the next three years:  There hasn't been one season since Cade McNown was at UCLA that the starting quarterback made it through the season.  In fact, in many seasons, the backup quarterbacks took almost as many snaps, and definitely had opportunities to earn playing time and the starting position.  Also, even if one is named the starter next year, you never know if the other won't improve more over the next three years, or the one that was named starter eventually falters.  Both should stay, since both will almost undoubtedly get ample playing time over the next three years. 

 

And let's not rule out the possibility that Moore and Olson share the position.  Many feel it's disruptive to an offense, but in many ways it's also beneficial. There are aspects of the position that each probably performs better than the other. It could give UCLA far more options offensively. 

 

The quarterback depth chart is the scariest aspect of both the offensive and defensive depth charts. And it's not close. If Moore or Olson are injured, there is only one more quarterback on scholarship on the roster. Callahan is a walk on caliber player, that is, he's not a walkon with the potential to be a contributor.  It seems very necessary that UCLA brings in another walkon by next fall, one that hopefully does have the capability of being a contributor. 

 

Projected Depth Chart for 2004

 

Matt Moore (JR), Drew Olson (JR), John Sciarra (JR), FR QB, [FR QB?], Brian Callahan  (SO), Walk-on QB

 

Having only three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, and all juniors, creates a strange situation over the next couple of years.  As mentioned, from a pure numbers standpoint, it makes you very thin, and you're only a couple of injuries away from being down to one quarterback.  Having both Moore and Olson the same year creates not only a problem of whether one might transfer if he isn't named the starter, but potential depth problems.  If you take two in any year, and then don't get a quarterback the following year, it then perhaps makes you have to take two scholarship quarterbacks the year after that, thus repeating the same inherent dilemmas with taking two quarterbacks in one year.  Ideally you'd like to take one quarterback a year. It lessens the possibility that one would transfer for lack of playing time since, if they all just played out their time, they'd each start as seniors, minimum.  Taking two in one year also will scare away any quarterback prospects the following year far more than just taking one.  And then, as stated, it almost forces you to take two quarterbacks in the same year again within a couple of years. And then, ultimately, you again have a good chance of ending up with a slim depth chart because one quarterback taken among two in the same year are more prone to transfer. 

 

It's quite apparent, thought, that UCLA needs to recruit one good, elite quarterback in the current high school junior class.  Ideally, if it could also find a quarterback project in that class – someone who has the potential to be developed who would accept being taken as a project, that would be also ideal. But a high school quarterback prospect who recognizes he's a project and accepts a second-fiddle status is very hard to come by.

 

Another possibility that might be considered that could help work out the depth and class problems here: If John Sciarra can improve enough by the 2004 season to be an ample second-stringer, and then a true freshman quarterback is also good enough to be third string, UCLA could redshirt either Moore or Olson, whichever didn't win the starting position. If this was done, then the one that was redshirted would be a year behind the other, and have a chance to start himself as a senior.  It'd also be a great argument in trying to convince the one who didn't win the starting position to not transfer.  Being able to, at least, have the starting job as his own his senior year at UCLA might be more attractive than transferring to another school, learning a new system, having to compete at that new school anyway, and possibly only getting the possibility of two starting seasons.

 

Really, though, the big issue over the next couple of seasons is whether Moore or Olson, or both, will step up and execute the position well enough for UCLA to win. If one, or both, does, then many of these questions are moot. And if they do it, while staying healthy, then it's even more moot.

 

RUNNING BACKS:

 

UCLA has some very enviable depth at its running back positions, perhaps the most in many, many years.  But of course, with such depth comes the inevitable question of whether someone will transfer as a result of little playing time.  It might be the biggest question concerning the running backs throgh next season. But realistically, this is actually what you want to happen at UCLA.  Players transferring because of an over abundance of players at their position means UCLA is a bigtime program, where you're bringing in a plethora of players at one position and the best one wins.  It's a game of depth-chart survival of the fittest that only the elite college football programs get to play.

 

Projected 2003 Depth Chart

 

TB:  Manuel White (JR), Tyler Ebell (SO), Maurice Drew (FR), Akil Harris (SR), Jason Harrison (SO), Wendell Mathis (SO), Derrick Williams (FR)

FB: J.D. Groves (SO), Pat Norton (JR), Michael Pitre (FR), Ray Cassaday (JR)

 

It's very difficult to predict who will win the starting tailback position. But it's a quite enjoyable thing for UCLA fans to think about – to consider that UCLA will have the "Thunder and Lightning" combination of Manuel White and Tyler Ebell.  White might slightly get the edge since he's more of any every-down, grind it out, kind of runner, the type that possibly Karl Dorrell and his former-Colorado coaches have had before.  But Ebell proved last season that he can also be an every-down back.   Perhaps what might facilitate that White be the primary tailback is the fact that he probably won't have to play much fullback, unlike last season.  UCLA was wary to play true freshman J.D. Groves too much last season, but he proved he was up to the task. Another year and more experience under his belt, and he'll be far more ready at fullback, giving White more of an opportunity to play tailback.  Even though it's still thought that White will see some time at tailback since having him and Ebell in the backfield at the same time presents some very interesting possibilitires. 

 

Maurice Drew is anticipated to come in and immediately compete for playing time.  He's good enough to be in the mix immediately, and you need three good tailbacks most of the time to get you through a season. What will be interesting to see next fall is just how good he is – if he's good enough to actually threaten White and Ebell as a true freshman. 

 

There are rumors that Wendell Mathis could transfer, which, from his standpoint, you could see.  Mathis, though, is a very good athlete, and there have been some rumblings that, if he feels he isn't going to get a chance at tailback, he could switch positions. Wide receiver might be the best fit for him, since has good size and speed for it.  And, being just a sophomore next year, he might see more chance at playing time at wide receiver in the next three years than at tailback.

 

The depth chart might be altered depending on the future of Jason Harrison.  He suffered a pretty serious knee injury and recently underwent surgery. It's uncertain whether he'll be able to return by next season, and it's even relatively uncertain whether he'll be able to return to football.  Harrison was rounding into a very solid running back when he suffered his injury in the Washington State game. 

 

Projected Depth Chart for 2004

 

TB: Manuel White (SR), Tyler Ebell (JR), Maurice Drew (SO), Jason Harrison (JR), Wendell Mathis (JR), Derrick Williams (R-FR), FR TB

FB:  J.D. Groves (JR), Pat Norton (SR), Michael Pitre (R-FR), Ray Cassaday (SR)

 

This is why UCLA's roster is so impressive when projecting out the next two years. As with many positions, this depth chart is almost identical from 2003 to 2004, which the only loss of Akil Harris.

 

It's not only exciting to think about this backfield next year, in 2003, but in 2004 when White is a senior, Ebell a junior, Drew a sophomore and Groves a junior.

 

Derrick Williams will also be an interesting situation to watch.  You have to really love this kid, who was a longtime UCLA fan and wanted to come regardless of the depth at running back. And don't discount him already as a tailback; he looked good in the CaliFlorida practices, alternating with Drew.  But Williams is such a great all-around athlete he'll have an option to move to another position, more than likely cornerback, down the line.  But he also very well could stay at tailback and, if Drew doesn't redshirt, have a chance to be a solid contributor at tailback down the line. 

 

UCLA will probably look for an elite running back in the next recruiting class, but won't go out of their way to bring in just anyone,  given the depth and the limited scholarships available.

 

Over the next two years the competition at fullback should be fun to watch. Norton was hampered by injury last year, and there are many close to the program who believed he was slighted a bit by Toledo.  Groves, though, has a chance to be an elite player. So, the battle between the two for playing time should be good. But you always need two good fullbacks.  Pitre, also, would have to be considered one of the real sleepers of the class.  While he didn't get a lot of hype, many football types who saw him this season think he could be very good and was vastly underrated.   More than likely, with the youth of the fullbcks, and if Pitre redshirts, there really is no need to bring in a fullback in the next recruiting class.

 

It will also be interesting to see if Keith Carter is used as an h-back or fullback at times like he was last season.

 

TIGHT END:

 

Another position where the depth chart won't significantly budge for a couple of years. Actually, three years, if you can believe it. 

 

Projected Depth Chart for 2003

 

Marcedes Lewis (SO), Keith Carter (SO), Blane Kezirian (SR), J.J. Hair (R-FR), Jimmy Stephens (FR)

 

Just about the only potentially, slightly imperfect thing here is the fact that Lewis and Carter are the same year.  But that might not ever become an issue with the two, since two tight ends are commonly used at the same time, and Lewis could be split wide or in the slot at times, giving Carter the traditional tight end space.

 

Perhaps the other slight issue is that the players are a bit unproven. But with the flashes of potential that both Lewis and Carter have shown, there probably won't be much of an issue of whether the position will be good over the next couple of years.

 

It is very exciting – and almost frightening – to consider Marcedes Lewis next year and the year after, with that much more experience and physical development under his belt.  There has also been quite a bit of talk about him playing some defensive end, but as of right now Lewis has only been told by the new coaching staff that they intend to use him on the offensive side of the ball.

 

Carter has the potential to be very good, too. The tandem of Lewis and Carter secures the tight end position, to say the least.

 

Projected Depth Chart for 2004

 

Marcedes Lewis (JR), Keith Carter (JR), J.J. Hair (SO), Jimmy Stephens (R-FR), FR TE

 

Once again, not much changes.  UCLA does, though, want to bring in a tight end for this year.  There is a question of whether J.J. Hair will be able to provide quality backup minutes and Stephens is an unknown at this point. Even if he ends up a player who can contribute, it might not be at tight end.  Hair, too, the thought was last year, could end up an offensive tackle.  He's 6-5 and probably 260 right now, and it wouldn't take much to make him into an OT. He is a bit slow for a tight end, but would have good quickness for an OT.

 

You also want to bring in a tight end in 2004 since Lewis would be a candidate to possibly turn pro early.  While it's incredible premature to consider it, he does have the freakish physical talents that could make him a candidate in couple of years.

 

OFFENSIVE LINE:

 

UCLA's talent will be good, but we'll see if some players develop in the next couple of years to make it excellent. The depth is also solid, but not getting a tackle type this season, along with fairly unknown quantities among the guards that are coming in presents a little concern.

 

Projected Depth Chart for 2003

 

LT:  Steve Vieira (JR), Matt Mosebar (SO), Elliot Vallejo (R-FR),

LG: Eyoseph Efseaff (JR), Robert Cleary (SO), P.J. Irvin (FR), FR OG

C:  Mike McCloskey (SO), Robert Chai (R-FR)

RG: Shane Lehmann (SR), Paul Mociler (JR), Nikola Dragovic (FR)

RT: Ed Blanton (SO), Alex Potasi (R-FR),

 

It's pure speculation that Vieira would be moved to tackle next season. There has been some talk of it around the program, but nothing at all concrete. It makes sense, though, especially because coaches always talk about getting their best players on the field.  To get UCLA's best five OLs on the field, Vieira would probably have to move to OT.  There's a question of which side of the line, though.  Vieira was the right guard last year and if he were to move to tackle, he naturally would move to the right tackle position. But that's the position where Blanton worked most of last year. If Vieira and Blanton were the tackles you might think then that they'd move Vieira to left tackle, since he's had more experience and probably be better suited for making a move to the opposite side of the line.

 

There is also the possibility that Paul Mociler could develop to the degree that he is among the fifth best linemen on the team. That would make things considerably easier, and better on depth. Mociler would then probably step into the left tackle position and enable Vieira to stay at right guard. Mociler is a wild card, as in Shane Lehmann. Lehmann was hampered most of last season with injury. You would expect him to return for his senior year and step up and earn a starting position, and that would be at right guard.

 

It's a fairly young offensive line, but experienced.  Vieira and Efseaff will be in their third year as starters. McCloskey definitely earned respect his starting last season. Blanton is thought to be potentially an elite tackle. And Lehmann and Mociler should be, at least, very solid, with as much experience as they have. 

 

There is depth, but the talent level of the depth is questionable.   With Alex Potasi's status unknown due to his injury, it really makes the depth at tackle even more uncertain. Potasi got rave reviews last season in practice.  It's time for guys like Mosebar and Cleary to be solid backups who are able to play.  Much will be determined this spring practice concerning who will be prepared to play and who won't next fall. It's good to go into any season with at least eight OLs who can play. UCLA will have to discover a couple more by the start of the season.

 

Projected Depth Chart for 2004

 

LT:  Steve Vieira (SR), Matt Mosebar (JR), Elliot Vallejo (SO), FR OT

LG: Eyoseph Efseaff (SR), Robert Cleary (JR), P.J. Irvin (R-FR)

C:  Mike McCloskey (JR), Robert Chai (SO), FR C/OG

RG: Paul Mociler (SR), Nikola Dragovic (R-FR), FR OG

RT: Ed Blanton (JR), Alex Potasi (SO), FR OT, FR OT

 

Again, the depth chart for 2004 doesn't alter much. On the OL, UCLA loses Shane Lehmann, but will return four – if not all five – starters for the 2004 season.

 

The definite question that year is going to be depth and the future of the line.  Having gotten only five offensive linemen in the last two years, and none of them really considered elite types, this next recruiting season UCLA will have to do its best recruiting on the offensive line to keep it stocked in 2004. They'll have to bring in at least two and probably three tackles and two interior OLs.  Two of those, at least, will probably have to be guys who could play by their redshirt freshmen seasons, and possibly even contend for starting positions. 

 

It would go a long way if a few among Elliot Vallejo, Robert Chai,. P.J. Irvin or Nikola Dragovic became players.  Vallejo generally was praised last season in practice for his mobility and has a chance.  Chai sat out a great deal due to injury.  It will be very interesting to see both this spring. Dragovic is an unknown, but given his background might be the best bet among this group. Irvin will have to go through a bit of a metamorphosis, particularly physically, to be a contender for playing time in the next several years. 

 

As stated, J.J. Hair could very well end up an offensive tackle. He would plug in here well, especially if Potasi's football future is cut short.  If Hair could develop into a solid two-deep OT, it could really help the depth in a couple of years.

 

Many speculate that incoming freshman defensive lineman Noah Sutherland might project as an offensive lineman also.  If he could, and was serviceable, he – and UCLA – might be better served if he ended up at offensive tackle. But it's far too early to tell.

 

WIDE RECEIVER:

 

SE: Craig Bragg (JR), Junior Taylor (SO), Garrett Lepisto (SR), Idris Moss (R-FR), Antwuan Smith (FR), Alex Ghebreselassie (FR)

FL: Tab Perry (SR), Ryan Smith (SR), Jacques Lazarus (SO), Joe Cowan (FR), Josh Roenicke (SO)

 

It's a talented, deep group of receivers.  If Ryan Smith can return to his 2002 form, it's  really one of the best group of receivers in many years.  The top four receivers would be pretty set in stone – Bragg, Perry, Taylor, Lepisto and R. Smith, so there'd probably be a dogfight for that last, fifth spot in the rotation.  Idris Moss, a year bigger, stronger and experienced, could be the best bet.  Don't count out Jacques Lazarus. He's got talent, speed and agility, he just needs to be able to stay focused and sustain effort.  The new coaching staff, with WR coach Jon Embree and head coach Karl Dorrell being a WR coach himself, could really reap dividends among the younger receivers on this list, especially someone like Lazarus.  Walk-on Josh Roenicke has a definite chance to be a contributor and earn a scholarship.  Antwuan Smith, just being a year older and coming in this spring, will have a jump on Ghebreselassie and Cowan, both of whom are likely headed for redshirt years. 

 

Of course, there is also Marcedes Lewis, who will get some snaps at wideout also.

 

Projected Depth Chart for 2004

 

SE: Craig Bragg (SR), Idris Moss (SO), Antwuan Smith (SO/R-FR), Alex Ghebreselassie (R-FR), FR WR

FL: Junior Taylor (JR), Jacques Lazarus (JR), Joe Cowan (SO/R-FR), Josh Roenicke (JR), FR WR

 

Again, the continuity of talent is pretty impressive, still having the caliber of players such as Bragg and Taylor as your starters.  By this time, it would be pretty natural to assume that at least a couple of other players have stepped up among the six other WRs who have been in the program.  Two elite wide receivers will be needed, though, to be brought in to keep the talent level high.  It will be interesting to see if any other players from other positions eventually be converted to wide receiver, perhaps, as was speculated, Wendell Mathis, or a defensive back.

 

KICKING GAME

 

UCLA has had the luxury of not having any turnover in its kicking game for the last several years with Chris Griffith and Nate Fikse. It's a whole new world now.

 

PK: Justin Medlock (R-FR)

P: Chris Kluwe (JR)

 

Medlock looked very good in practice this year. Very good.  He had good distance, accuracy and height on his ball.  There shouldn't be too many worries about him.  Kluwe, as most know, has a cannon for a leg, it's just always been a matter of consistency and technique. He improved both quite a bit this last year in practice. 

 

Next recruiting season, UCLA will probably be looking for a punter it can bring in to redshirt for Kluwe's senior year.  With limited scholarships, though, they'll probably only take one if he's a truly elite prospect since Medlock can do double duty and punt also if he had to.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:

 

It's almost uncanny how few players UCLA loses over the next couple of seasons.  It was almost a mantra in this analysis – repeating over and over again how the depth chart doesn't change much in the next couple of years.  It's especially evident between the 2003 season and the 2004 season.  If UCLA already has good production coming from its quarterback position, really the only aspect of the team that will be a concern would be the defensive line.  But if a couple of young players step up next season into the two-deep that might not even be that much of a concern. 

 

Not to put too much pressure on the new coaching staff, but the cupboard was definitely left anything but bare.  There is plenty of good talent still left on the roster for the next two years.  And 2004, after the coaching staff has established itself, the players have had a year to get used to the system, and with all the returning talent, has the makings of a year when it could all come together.

 

UCLA currently only has 17 scholarships to give to the next recruiting class. To keep talent coming into the program, UCLA's next recruiting class will be crucial, after the transitional one this year. The next recruiting class will be recruited from this spring through next winter, so the staff will do quite a bit of recruiting of next year's seniors  with the prospects seeing UCLA on the field coached by the new staff for only one season.  The new staff, and the new program, will really have to prove itself on the field in 2003 to recruit well for 2004. 

 

But with the young talent that's on the team, it's not as if Karl Dorrell and company need an immediate influx of talent to turn around the program.  They really only need it to keep the talent level up, which is a luxury for a new coach and staff.  


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