We're finally here. The third year of the CRN era. This is going to be a key season for Neuheisel and his legacy as UCLA's head coach. No one at BN is expecting CRN to go 10-2 and put us in serious contention for the Rose Bowl. Especially not with our out-of-conference schedule. But, it is reasonable to expect continued growth in the program, not so much in the win column (but that would be nice), but in the quality of the play on the field.
KD's reign was a disaster. Plain and simple. His incompetence left the program in shambles. But CRN has had two seasons at the helm, and almost all of the guys on the roster, and certainly the ones in key positions, are his recruits who have been brought up in his program. That's right folks, this is CRN's program now. His and his alone. While we can give him leeway in light of how barren and downtrodden the program was when he took over, now is the time to start evaluating CRN and his ability to improve the program. Most importantly, at least for me, is this is when I really start evaluating CRN.
What exactly do I mean by that? Well, I think most folks agree that CRN can come into a program and win. He can take a program to some pretty astounding heights (as we saw with UW and the Rose Bowl). However, one of the big marks against CRN was his ability to sustain success. In the same way CBH is known for rebuilding programs but is an unknown commodity for sustaining success, this is the first opportunity we'll have to really evaluate CRN and see if he is capable of not only bringing our Bruins success, but sustaining that success on a consistent basis.
For me, that evaluation takes place over the next three to five seasons. Now that Nestor has finished breaking down our depth chart for the upcoming season on the defensive side of the ball, (linebackers, defensive line, and secondary), now is the time to look past this season and project our depth chart for the next few seasons. We'll be going through the defensive side of the ball, then the offensive side following Nestor's break down of the offense.
Why look to the future? It's not so much to see who will be starting, but to see where CRN will need to recruit. This way we'll have some benchmarks to use in evaluating his long-term ability to sustain success, specifically, can he spot where his long-term roster will be deficient and recruit accordingly? So far, with the influx of OL talent, the signs point to yes. But while CRN is doing good now, we can't subscribe to the kind of blind faith you see out of the moronic zealots from across town: CRN will need to be accountable, and for me, this is part of how to do it.
Okay, enough of all the talk, let's get to the depth chart projections. After the jump (I know, I know, I'm being like those annoying TV shows where you're about to get the good stuff, then commercial, or "see you next week").
To make it a bit easier to sort, I've broke each group up into separate block quote sections:
'10-'11 (16 total players):
CB SS FS CB (SO) Tony Dye (JR) Rahim Moore (JR) (RS SO)
(RS FR) (SO) (RS JR)
Anthony Jefferson (FR) (RS SR)
(RS FR) (SO)
Anthony Barr (FR) Dietrich Riley (FR) Tevin McDonald (FR)
Incoming Freshmen: Anthony Jefferson, CB (4 stars, #15 by Scout); Dietrich Riley, S (4 stars, #16 by Scout); Tevin McDonald, CB (4 stars, #20 by Scout); Anthony Barr, S/OLB/RB (4 stars by Scout)
Notes: Anthony Barr is really a man without a position. The coaching staff has him penciled in at RB, but given the depth there (Jet Ski, Coleman, Thigpen, along with super-recruit Malcolm Jones and Jordon James), don't be shocked if Neuheisel moves Barr to the defensive side. The question is whether he'll project as a SS or an OLB. He has fantastic size and speed and could be an impact guy in either role. For now, we're going to include him as both a SS and OLB.
Brandon Sermons is out for the season and will redshirt this year, but he's included since he'll be on the roster for three seasons after.
The three freshman are all highly-touted, although none of them come close to the hype or expectations for Rahim Moore out of high school. Then again, Rahim is a special once-every-ten-years kind of talent. Riley will have a tough fight with Hilliard to take over from Rahim when he finally goes on to play on Sundays. Anthony Jefferson will be a lock-down All-American corner for the Bruins in a few seasons, mark it down. McDonald has the size to play safety, which will help us down the line if we get thin. If Hester or Price get hurt, I could see Marlon Pollard making a strong push to become the next starter: he has the talent to do it.
Riley won't redshirt but he won't see a lot of time in the secondary. I expect CRN will try him out in a Wildcat-type situation, esp. since we've installed the Revolver, which is more Wildcat-friendly. Riley won't make an impact as a freshman, so don't be shocked if you see the Bruin faithful complaining about how CRN "wasted" Riley's freshman year and "should have" used a redshirt on the kid.
'11-'12 (15 total players):
CB SS FS CB (JR) Tony Dye (SR) Rahim Moore (SR) (RS JR)
(RS SO) (JR) (RS SR)
(RS JR) Anthony Barr (SO)
Dietrich Riley (SO) (RS SO) (RS SO)
(RS SO) Tevin McDonald (RS FR)
Class of 2011 Recruits Neuheisel has Offered: Wayne Lyons, S (4 stars, #6 by Scout); George Atkinson, S (4 stars, #12 by Scout); Avery Walls, S (4 stars, #24 by Scout); Pat Martin, S (3 stars, #27 by Scout); T.K. Fleming, S (3 stars, # 27 by Scout); Jonathan Aiken, S (3 stars, # 59); DeAnthony Thomas, CB (5 stars, #1 by Scout); Doran Grant, CB (5 stars, #2 by Scout); Stefan McClure (4 stars, #18 by Scout); Chris Jones, CB (3 stars, #28 by Scout); Mercy Maston, CB (3 stars, #61 by Scout).
Notes: At this point, I'm projecting Price to hold on to his job, despite Jefferson's presence. I would expect Jefferson and McDonald to redshirt this season, and for Jefferson to make a real strong push to start with strong showings at spring and fall camps. I think he definitely moves up ahead of Abbott. Also, this scenario assumes that Rahim doesn't jump a year early for the NFL. He's an elite talent and I could see it happening, but I'm hoping CRN can convince him to come back for a senior year and a real shot at Rose Bowl glory. If Moore does leave early, then expect it to be a real battle to replace him between Riley and Hilliard.
On the recruiting front, I don't think we have a realistic shot at most of these guys, but you can never count CRN out. I didn't include anyone who has already committed to another school, except for the Black Mamba, DeAnthony Thomas, because his commitment to U$C seems weak. If he bails, he'll likely run to Washington, but he's an L.A. product and if the Bruins get it done in 2010, CRN could bring him around. We know Neuheisel is a closer, so Thomas is still fair game. I think we do end up landing George Atkinson, stealing him from Cal on signing day, and Mercy Maston is all but a done-deal, at least at this point. He won't be an impact guy I don't think, but he'll give us some depth.
There's a possibility Neuheisel may take a shot at Byron Moore, who was once a UCLA recruit before turning stupid and going to Second Choice. Now that the kid saw the light and jumped off that sinking ship, maybe CRN can turn him back to UCLA. He's not a must-get by any means, but it'd be a nice addition.
'12-'13 (12 total players):
CB SS FS CB (SR) (RS JR) Dietrich Riley (JR) (RS SR)
(SR) (RS JR) (RS SR) Tevin McDonald (RS SO) (RS JR) (RS JR)
Class of 2012 Recruits Neuheisel has Offered: Shaquille Thompson, S (Sacramento, CA); Trae Elston, CB (Oxford, AL)
Notes: It's tough to keep Jefferson out of a starting position. I think he's going to give Price a real run for it, assuming Hester doesn't get injured and Neuheisel slides the talented kid over to the other side. I think Riley will beat out Hilliard for the job. Dalton can hit so I think he'll see a lot of playing time, but I think Riley has more upside, which should come through by his junior season. Likewise I think McKay makes the SS spot his, unless CRN has Barr in the secondary, in which case, Barr would certainly be a realistic option. I'm also figuring that Tevin McDonald, by his third year in the program, will have put on some more size and be moved over to SS where he can use his size to really lay the lumber, so to speak.
On the recruiting front, it's obviously way too early to tell, but Thompson and Elston are both sought-after guys with offers from the likes of U$C, Florida, and Alabama. I think there is no way we snag Elston out of SEC country, not will Alabama in the hunt, but props to CRN for making the offer and giving it a shot. Thompson is the younger brother of Cal stand-out Syd'Quan and I can't imagine him going somewhere else than Berkeley. Then again all three Shipp brothers went to different schools (Cal, UCLA, and ASU), despite Daddy Shipp having been a U$C guy. Still, a long shot, I think.
ASSESSMENT: Our secondary is the strongest part of our current defense. This is the most experienced unit and the one which will probably be the most consistent. Likewise, the depth is solid here, even if Barr is kept on the offensive side of the ball or moved to OLB. Jefferson, Riley, and McDonald are going to be exciting players for us down the line and I think Bruins should be excited to watch these guys develop. CRN will need to continue to look to bring in a few guys each season, but unlike OL, there is no immediate rush to run out and snatch up guys here.
'10-'11 (14 total players):
SLB MLB WLB (RS JR) (JR) (JR) Isaiah Bowens (RS FR) (RS SO) (FR) (SO) (RS FR) (RS JR) Aramide Olaniyan (FR) Jordan Zumwalt (FR) (RS SR) Eric Kendricks (FR) Anthony Barr (FR)
Incoming Freshmen: Jordan Zumwalt, MLB (4 stars, #9 by Scout); Anthony Barr, S/OLB/RB (4 stars, #10 by Scout); Aramide Olaniyan, OLB (4 stars, #14 by Scout); Eric Kendricks, MLB (3 stars, #42 by Scout)
Notes: Ayers is an absolute beast. I expected Sloan to have emerged as a Christian Taylor type player by his junior season, so call me a bit disappointed. Still, he has a good shot at starting this season and he's a steady, albeit not spectacular presence in the center of the defense. Larimore is really going to give him a run for his money, although both guys need to keep themselves in top form since Golper is a solid player. Zumwalt should redshirt, but he's going to be one to watch: he might be a future great UCLA MLB.
Once again, Barr is a guy we don't know what to do with. Scout projects him as an OLB but the coaches have him lined up in the backfield. I think his size hampers his ability to play RB, and with his size, he'd be a lighting fast terror at WLB (and we'd have someone able to cover those quick Cal running backs on wheel routes finally). Likewise Olaniyan and Kendricks will most likely redshirt. Westgate is an effort guy, but he's lacking in size. Don't be shocked if Glenn Love is the started by the fifth week of the season.
'11-'12 (13 total players):
SLB MLB WLB (RS SR) (RS JR) (RS SR) Isaiah Bowens (RS SO) (RS SO) (SR) Aramide Olaniyan (RS FR) (SR) Anthony Barr (SO) (JR) Jordan Zumwalt (RS FR) (SO) Eric Kendricks (RS FR)
Class of 2011 Recruits Neuheisel has Offered: Stephone Anthony, OLB (5 stars, #3 by Scout); Colt Lyerla, OLB (5 stars, #4 by Scout); Jason Gibson, OLB (4 stars, #6 by Scout); Aaron Wallace (3 stars, #27 by Scout); Tony Steward, MLB (5 stars, #1 by Scout); Anthony Wallace, MLB (5 stars, #6 by Scout)
Notes: Of course, I'm assuming Ayers come back for his senior season. In all likelihood, he's gone after this year. If he stays, great. If he goes, expect it to be a three-way battle for his job between Bowens, Olaniyan, and Barr. I think by this point, Larimore will have made the MLB job his to lose. It's still up in the air, but this year I think Golper will really be in the mix. I think Zumwalt will still not be ready to make a push. The following year, I think the job is his, but in 2011, Larimore will likely get the nod. Call it intuition.
Likewise, I think Love's hard-hitting earns him a starting job for his senior season. As much as we love Westgate, I think his size is going to hurt his ability to contribute to run defense, so Love is likely in. I think Olaniyan and Barr show enough to move their way up the depth chart, but not crack into the starting line-up.
In terms of recruiting, it's good that CRN is chasing some of these guys, but I don't think any of them are realistic. We're in Gibson's top-5, which is encouraging, but I think he's Cal's recruit to lose. It's CRN though, so you can never count him out.
'12-'13 (13 total players):
SLB MLB WLB Isaiah Bowens (RS JR) (RS SR) Anthony Barr (JR) Aramide Olaniyan (RS SO) Jordan Zumwalt (RS SO) (JR) (SR) (RS JR)
Eric Kendricks (RS SO)
Class of 2012 Recruits Neuheisel has Offered: Kwon Alexander, OLB (Oxford, AL)
Notes: By this point, if Barr goes to OLB, he should be starting, either at SLB or WLB. The other OLB spot is a toss-up between Bowens and Olaniyan, although I'm giving the edge to Bowens for now. In the middle, if Larimore has a solid junior season, he should hold on to his job, although Zumwalt has got a lot of upside and should be pushing him hard. Likewise, Golper should be in the mix, with Kendricks a solid reserve player.
ASSESSMENT: Our linebacker corps should be okay, but not anything to write home about. After Ayers, there are a lot of unknowns. A lot of guys have huge upside, but upside is one thing, actually developing and delivering the goods is another. I hope the coaches realize that quality LB depth will become an issue in a few seasons and start planning accordingly. Barr should be moved to OLB where he can really use his speed and size in an almost Ayers-like fashion (Ayers came into the program around 6'3" and 220 pounds, while Barr is showing up around 6'4" and 225 pounds). Bowens should be a very good player for us, but there are major questions at MLB. After Taylor left, Reggie Carter moved to Mike and stepped into the leadership role. I don't know if Larimore or Sloan have it in them to follow in Taylor and Carter's footsteps. We'll see.
'10-'11 (16 total players):
LE DT DT RE (JR) (RS JR)
David Carter (RS SR)
(RS FR) (RS SO)
(SO) Owamagbe Odighizuwa (FR) (RS SO)
Cassius Marsh (FR) (RS SR)
Rykeem Yates (FR)
Seali'i Epenesa (FR) Wesley Flowers (FR) (FR)
Incoming Freshmen: Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE (5 stars, #8 by Scout); Cassius Marsh, DT (4 stars, #8 by Scout); Seali'i Epenesa, DT (3 stars, #45 by Scout); Wesley Flowers, DT (3 stars, #80 by Scout); Rykeem Yates, DE (3 stars, #82 by Scout); Derrick Bryant, DE (3 stars, #86 by Scout)
Notes:Datone Jones is the only returning starter in this group, but Chandler and Carter should get the job done. Brian Price is someone we will not be able to replace, period. We all know that. But Marsh is a highly ranked kid and I think in a few years, he'll be a serious threat for All-America honors. I wouldn't be shocked to see Holmes moved over to DT if he can gain more weight, especially since Owa and Graham should lock down DE in the future. Given the number of guys who we moved from another position to DT (Chandler, Keane, and Donovan Carter), I think Holmes would be a real contender for playing time if he can gain the size.
I haven't heard any news on Rykeem Yates. I believe he's likely to come as a gray-shirt, but I don't know how that situation has developed or not. Tentatively, I'm putting him in the projection.
I'm excited to see Graham on the field. A lot of people forgot about him while he redshirted this season, but he was a 4 star DE recruit out of high school, ranked #6 by Scout. The scouting team reports on him are encouraging too. Him and Owa make impressive bookends on this defensive line. CRN has done a great job of re-stocking the defensive front with young talent for the future.
'11-'12 (13 total players):
LE DT DT RE (SR) (RS SR)
Cassius Marsh (SO) (RS SO) Owamagbe Odighizuwa (SO) (RS SR)
(RS JR) (JR) Rykeem Yates (RS FR) Seali'i Epenesa (RS FR) (RS JR) (RS FR)
Wesley Flowers (RS FR)
Class of 2011 Recruits Neuheisel has Offered: Viliami Moala, DT (5 stars, #4 by Scout); Antwaun Woods, DT (4 stars, #7 by Scout); Todd Barr, DT (4 stars, #8 by Scout); Christian Heyward, DT (4 stars, #18 by Scout); Kevin McReynolds, DT (4 stars, #20 by Scout); Darian Cooper, DT (4 stars, #23 by Scout); Mickey Johnson, DT (4 stars, #24 by Scout); Danny Shelton, DT (4 stars, #26 by Scout); Jesse Williams, DT (4 stars, JC transfer); P.J. Jones, DT (3 stars, #32 by Scout); Jadeveon Clowney, DE (5 stars, #1 by Scout); Greg Townsend, DE (5 stars, #2 by Scout); Jermauria Rasco, DE (5 stars, #3 by Scout); Ray Drew, DE (5 stars, #6 by Scout); Brennan Scarlett, DE (4 stars, #15 by Scout); Anthony Chickillo, DE (4 stars, #27 by Scout); Steve Dillon, DE (3 stars, #40 by Scout); Anthony Rabasa, DE (3 stars, #51 by Scout); Stephan Nembot, DE (3 stars, #66 by Scout)
Notes: Assuming Jones can be productive this season without Price and Jerzy eating up blocks, he should be able to narrowly hold on to his job, despite Owa being an absolute beast. That said, I still think Owa will see significant playing time. Cassius Marsh, I believe, will take control of a starting spot by his second year in the program. I suspect Holmes will be moved over to DT.
On the recruiting front, CRN certainly gets it. He's made 23 scholarship offers to defensive linemen. I excluded those who already committed to another program. CRN isn't messing around either: he's going after the elite top-end players, the kind of guys that KD would have never even taken a shot at, assuming U$C would get them instead. I don't think we have any real shot at Moala, Heyward, Clowney, Townsend, Rasco, or Drew. I think we're in the lead to get Barr and I will be shocked if Woods doesn't end up at U$C. There's no immediate need to bring in another elite DE, with Owa and Graham looking to lock those positions down for the next few seasons. DT will need to help, because after this season, it starts to look thin.
'12-'13 (10 total players):
LE DT DT RE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (JR) Seali'i Epenesa (RS SO) Cassius Marsh (JR) (RS JR) Rykeem Yates (RS SO) (RS SR) (RS SR) (SR) Wesley Flowers (RS SO) (RS SO)
Class of 2012 Recruits Neuheisel has Offered: Quay Evans, DT (Morton, MS); Eddie Goldman, DT (Washington, DC); Jeremy Castro, DE (Murrieta, CA)
Notes: This is the season where our depth is going to be a major concern. Fortunately, CRN obviously sees this too, as he's been handing out scholarship offers to defensive linemen in the Class of 2011 like it's going out of style. Hell, he's already got his eyes on guys in the Class of 2012. I think he brings in Todd Barr and a few other quality guys, so this 2012-2013 depth chart will have more names in it when all is said and done. Now if CRN fails to land any real talent in the Class of 2011, then it's a major problem.
ASSESSMENT: This is CRN's biggest defensive problem right now. He's got to replace a DT who is irreplaceable. He's only got one returning started in his defensive front and his depth is going to be pretty thin in a few seasons. If there's any part of the defense that needs his focus and energy, it's the defensive line. I keep saying it, but CRN's moves on the Class of 2011 shows me he gets it and is planning ahead, seeing the problems with depth we're seeing now as well. Under KD, that would have been unimaginable. We would have gotten to 2012-2013 and he'd be converting OL to DL on the fly and our defense would suffer for it.