Review of UCLA's Freshman Class

With fall camp over and the UCLA football team now into game week, we've had a good enough look at the newcomers to Spaulding Field, being able to predict who will play early, who's a projected starter down the line, and who are the probable stars...

With fall camp officially ending and UCLA beginning its first game week, it's appropriate to provide a post-fall-camp review of the Bruin newcomers.

Anthony Barr, F-back – The first surprise was that he measured 6-5. In an interview with BRO, he said he tried to always tell everyone he was shorter so he could be a running back. Well, no need to lie now, Anthony. In the first couple of days of fall camp he immediately stood out, catching the ball out of the backfield with skill and athleticism – looking like he was artificially engineered for the new position in UCLA's new offense. He's in the rotation at F-back, and he's definitely going to see a good deal of playing time this season, with plays designed specifically for him to catch and run the ball. In the F-back spot, he'll line up just about anywhere, with the UCLA coaches trying to exploit the mismatches Barr creates. Without having played a game, you could say that Barr is going to be one of the jewels of the 2010 class.

Darius Bell, QB – The JC transfer doesn't look very big out there, about 6-0 at the most, and he doesn't have great arm strength. He struggled at the beginning of camp, and understandably, since he was coming in fresh on a new system. But as he got more reps with Kevin Prince being out, he had some good practices, particularly when he was able to improvise and create. He's not greatly fast, which is probably the biggest disappointment, but he's fairly shifty, and he's better on the roll where he can get out from behind the big linemen and make quick decisions. At the very least he provides more depth at quarterback and, if given an average amount of development, could provide UCLA a different kind of weapon in the Pistol over the next several years.

Derrick Bryant, DE – Bryant didn't participate in fall camp due to shoulder surgery. The coaches are hopeful he'll be able to practice in November, so he can get in some work, but would be fine if he's ready by next fall. Physically, he's rangy, with long arms and a good frame, having measured at 6-3 and weighing in at 236.

Seali'i Epenesa, DT – The coaches are very pleased with Epenesa, who had a very good fall camp. He's 6-2 and 320, and could probably tighten up his body a bit, but physically he looks good, like a prototypical defensive tackle. He came in a bit stronger than the coaches anticipated, and his quickness was impressive. He's pretty raw in terms of technique, and probably won't play this season, unless the DL is hit with injury. But the coaches think Epenesa is clearly a future starter.

Wesley Flowers, DE/DT – Physically Flowers fits the part, at 6-4 and 257. He's long, has a good frame, is pretty strong and runs well. Right now he's lining up as a defensive end, but with a redshirt year and probably quite a bit of physical develop in front of him, they'll see which way his body goes to determine whether he's a defensive end or defensive tackle. He could end up a strongside defensive end, in the mold of Datone Jones, at 6-4 and 270. UCLA took him because they liked his upside and the coaches are very excited now about his future having seen him in practice.

Casey Griffiths, OL – The last-minute JC transfer Griffiths physically looks good, at 6-5 and 285. He's relatively strong, but the thought is that he needs some time in the weight room, while he's also pretty raw in technique. The general thought, though, is that Griffiths, just a sophomore with a redshirt year available, has a chance to contribute, definitely a shot at the two-deep down the line, as he gets stronger and more refined. Right now, with UCLA being so short-handed in their OL depth chart, he's at least some insurance this season in case the OL is hit by more injury. He projects as a guard as of now.

Kody Innes, OL -- Innes has plugged in to the depth chart at center, behind the back-up, redshirt freshman Greg Capella. Innes has to get stronger and needs at least a year in the weight room, but he's intelligent, and has a decent burst, and the word is he has a very good attitude. It will be interesting to see if, by next fall, he's competing with Capella as the center next-in-line behind Kai Maiava, since Capella has clearly struggled this fall.

Anthony Jefferson, CB – The talented athlete started fall camp and it was then learned that he hadn't been certified by the NCAA Clearinghouse. After an injury, too, he started off fall camp slowly, but in the last week and a half he's really shown the talent and potential the coaches expected of him. He's tall for a cornerback, at about 6-1, and long, but narrow, not like the safety-looking Aaron Hester. Jefferson is quick, though, with great feet. The coaches expect him to be a star down the line.

Jordon James, RB – James sat out most of fall camp with a strained hamstring, and only returned in the last couple of days. The coaches have been giving him a lot of reps to see if he's capable of making the running back rotation. In the limited viewing we've had of him, he looked like he lived up to the billing of possessing great vision and quickness, but there is still the lingering toughness factor. More than likely he'll redshirt, having been set back by the hamstring, which allowed Jones to move ahead of him on the depth chart. James is better built than he looks, at close to 195 pounds.

Malcolm Jones, RB – Impressive in every aspect during fall camp, Jones already looks like a big-time college running back at 6-0 and 223, and he seems to naturally get how to run in the zone-blocking scheme of the Pistol. When he gets into the secondary he's a load to bring down, with his weight and power really gaining momentum. He was the leading ball carrier in the fall scrimmage, but then tweaked an ankle and sat out a few days, but returned Thursday. He said it still bothers him a bit, but should be fine by this Saturday's opener. If we had to make a prediction, it might not be this season, but Jones will be UCLA's starting tailback. And it very well might be this season. He definitely looks special.

Eric Kendricks, LB – Admittedly, we haven't gotten a great look at Kendricks. In the linebacker drills he looks the part, with decent size at about 6-1 and 215, for a freshman, and he looks like he has good feet. It's clear he's going to need some developmental time, to get stronger physically. As of now, he's penciled in at the weakside linebacker position, and it will be interesting to see if he stands out at all on the scout team.

Tevin McDonald, S – Another freshman who looks particularly good physically, McDonald has been plugged in at free safety, where he's behind a few guys and will almost certainly redshirt. He's pleased the coaches with his instincts, and his work ethic.

Cassius Marsh, DT – Defensive line coach Todd Howard said that Marsh is everything they thought he would be when they recruited him, and that was as an impact player on the DL. He's a big boy, at 6-4 and 285, and still looks fairly lean, with quite a bit of room to put on bulk and muscle. He's been impressive in his ability to hold the trenches, going up against experienced and stronger OLs. It almost certainly will earn him a spot on the two deep, and it's expected he'll play and get a handful of reps per game this season.

Owamagbe Odighizuwa.
Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE – He's probably the true freshman who looks the most impressive physically. Just saying he's 6-4 and 240 doesn't really capture the sculpted physique. He was slowed a bit by some minor nicks in fall camp, but the word is that without having any idea really how to play the position, working with just high school techniques, he's a load to block. As he gets some coaching, and some technique, the sky's the limit for Owa. He's naturally a tough combination of power and quickness. There's a very good chance he won't redshirt, but UCLA would love to save him, if they get a good enough pass rush from their veterans.

Aramide Olaniyan, LB – He was slowed with a sprained ankle for about half of fall camp, so that set him back. The coaches think he needs a year to develop, anyway, since he came in at 6-2 and 202. His body, though, is pretty well-developed and it will be interesting to see if he can put on more weight. He is a terrific athlete, running like a defensive back. How his body goes will determine what position he plays, but the coaches believe he'll get bigger and be a weakside linebacker who can really run and get in the opposing offense's backfield.

Kip Smith, K/P -- Usually new punters and/or kickers come into UCLA and shank kicks and punts all over Spaulding Field. Some of the best, guys currently in the NFL, shanked many of their share. Smith has been on the low end of the shanks for true freshman kickers. He looks to have good range on his kicks, probably out to the low 50-yards, and hits the ball straight and strong. He also has shown some punting abilities. You can't expect him to be on the level of Lou Groza Award winner Kai Forbath, but it looks like UCLA has a good kicker to replace Forbath when he graduates after this year.

Dietrich Riley, S – An impressive athlete, looking like a college-level safety the first moment he walked on the field at 6-0 and 201. He also is exceptionally quick and instinctual, which gave him a look with the first-string defense for a few practices during fall camp. He vaulted over Stan McKay as the #2 strong safety and definitely pushed starter Tony Dye, but then Dye had a string of practices where he was particularly good. He's definitely UCLA's strong safety of the future and has the earmarkings of a potential star. It's expected he'll play this season, backing up Dye.

Chris Ward, OL – Ward having an impressive fall was perhaps the most welcomed news of camp. With UCLA losing OLs weekly, the fact that Ward showed some considerable talent as a true freshman was a definite boost. Especially since, if you just eye-balled Ward, you'd say he needs some time to develop his body. But he quickly established himself as a guy that was hard to move, with a very strong, low center of gravity. With how UCLA has so few numbers on the OL for the Kansas State game, Ward very well could be the first OL off the bench right now. They see him as a future starter, perhaps as early as next season.

John Young, TE – Young came to UCLA and immediately went in for surgery on his shoulder. While he wasn't expected to contribute as a true freshman, when the tight end spot got a little thin after a couple of injuries in fall camp, his unavailability left a bit of a hole, which they've had to fill with Jayson Allmond. Young came in at 6-3 and 260, and looks fairly lean, which is a good sign, that he has some bulk to him and could get up to 275 easily and be a good blocking tight end.

Jordan Zumwalt, LB – One of the most impressive true freshmen, and perhaps one of the guys with the most upside. First, he's 6-4 and 225, and looks pretty skinny. That's a great sign when you're scouting prospects, because when he does put on more weight and muscle he'll probably be 250ish. A 6-4, 250-pound linebacker that can run is an NFL-caliber type of player. He was slowed by a groin in camp, but even without the bulk and being fairly skinny, it appears that Zumwalt will make the two-deep as the second string strongside linebacker, backing up Akeem Ayers. It's probably an effort on the coaches part to get talent in the SAM spot, preparing for the depature of Ayers after this season to the NFL. The coaches are ecstatic with how talented Zumwalt has looked, thinking they have potentially a three-starter of the future.

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