We are continuing with our Bruins Nation 2012 spring football previews. We have had several installments so far which have looked at a program overview and Coach Mora and coordinators, position coaches here and here, and the defensive scheme. We have also looked at specific units on the field, including the defensive line, linebackers, special teams, defensive backs, offensive line and running backs.
Today, we are looking at the receivers, a group that will look different from what we saw last fall in scheme as well as in personnel. The wide receivers are being coached by Eric Yarber, coming to UCLA after 2 years coaching receivers for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Earlier in his career, he coached at ASU, Oregon State and Washington.
The passing game is going to be quite different this coming season that what we have seen the last couple of seasons. While the Pistol having been locked away (for good) would be enough for many Bruins, Coach Mazzone's offense in particular will give our receivers plenty to do - and give even the lower portions of the depth chart some looks throughout the year.
A look at the guys lining up on the outside this spring after the jump.
Before getting started, a quick note of the changes in personnel from last fall, and the players who will not be on the Spring roster. From the 2011 roster, Taylor Embree, Nelson Rosario and Josh Smith have exhausted their eligibility, while Randall Carroll - who had been switched over to DB during the 2011 season - has been dismissed from the program. And while Coach Mora and staff were able to recruit a number of prized recruits at wide receiver and tight end, none of these freshmen-to-be have enrolled early, keeping them out of spring practice, and giving the returning players the first shot at impressing the new coaching staff.
Given the fluid situation at the position, the level of usage expected of all of the receivers and the players that will not be on the field for Spring practice, I am forgoing a traditional depth chart for this pre-practice preview in place of running through the guys that will be on the field over the next few weeks.
Shaquelle Evans (Jr*, 6-1/205) is the team's leading returning receiver, and should be the top guy on the field during these practices as well as at the start of the season. Devin Lucien (Fr*, 6-1/192) raised plenty of eyebrows during practices last fall, and could be primed to breakout in 2012. After Shaq, Ricky Marvray (Jr*, 6-0/190) is next on the list of returning receivers; after a freshman season in 2010 in which he started 4 games, his role was reduced last fall with Evans having become eligible. He'll have the opportunity to earn that old PT back starting this week.
Jerry Johnson (Sr*, 6-4/218) has had a snake-bit career at UCLA. After showing some promise in practices as a redshirt freshman in 2009 and appearing in a pair of games, he was in the receiving rotation to start the 2010 season before breaking his ankle late in the season, an injury from which he only recovered from in time to play in one game last season. He enters his senior season hopefully able to put that injury behind him and make his presence felt on the field. Given his size, he has to be a tempting weapon for Coaches Mazzone and Yarber to deploy this fall. Damien Thigpen (Jr*, 5-9/185) is another Bruin who has had to fight back from injury, with a shoulder injury cutting short the 2010 season, and a hamstring injury leading him to take a medical redshirt last fall. As long as he is physically able, look for him to play wherever the coaches can get him the football, as the gamebreaking talent is there.
After two years in the program as a walk-on, Jerry Rice Jr (Jr*, 6-0/186) has been put on scholarship for this season and will provide depth at receiver this year. Speaking of the children of former San Francisco 49ers, Christoph Bono (Fr*, 6-1/162) has been moved from Quarterback to Wide Receiver. No word on whether this is a permanent position switch, but between Brett Hundley, Devin Fuller and TJ Milweard as young QB's who are on the team, as well as Eddie Printz - the verbally committed C/O 2013 Georgia HS QB - there appears to be little future for Bono to see playing time as a Quarterback during his time at UCLA.
Roosevelt Davis (Fr*, 5-7/162), Tyler Scott (Fr*, 6-2/214) and Logan Sweet (Fr*, 6-1/185) remain on the squad as walk-ons and will provide further depth during practice. Davis had been named outstanding special teams scout player at the end of last season.
Under the Mazzone offensive scheme, the traditional 'Tight End' role goes by the "Y". While the nomenclature of position naming is different, the position pretty much serves the same purpose. And while the particular role may be new, the primary name will be familiar to all of us. Joseph Fauria (Sr*, 6-7/258) is the most experienced - and most talented - player lining up at the position, on the team as well as in the conference - and it is difficult to think that Coach Mazzone will not take full advantage of him at that spot.
After having been moved from Quarterback to Wide Receiver last fall, Darius Bell (Jr*, 6-0/230) has been switched again to the Y role. John Young (So*, 6-3/280) is around to provide depth, while his size could come in handy in certain game situations. Jordan Barrett (Jr*, 6-3/257) is a walk-on transfer from UNLV who should provide some practice depth.
That concludes the Spring preview of the Bruin receiving corps. Fire away with any additional thoughts and comments, and stay tuned for our final installment where we'll preview the quarterbacks.