Our Still-Too-Early UCLA Football Depth Chart Projection for the 2012 Season: Receivers And Running Backs

The Jet Ski headlining UCLA's RB depth chart. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Last week, tasser10 and gbruin began to look at the post-spring practice state of the UCLA Football team, by looking at the depth chart at linebacker/DB, and the guys in the trenches - the offensive and defensive lines. Today, we'll take a look at the running backs and the receivers.

As both tasser and gbruin noted, Coach Mora has already called this exercise pointless, saying injuries and ongoing competition make the current depth chart "fluid as water" and already obsolete. While it makes the inevitable springtime football obsession talk - including these posts - pretty meaningless over the long haul, that really is the best approach. We want to see the best players on the field this season, and the opener against Rice is still more than 3 months away. A lot will happen between now and then. So consider this post more of a midterm grade or a progress report. There is still plenty of time for players to shine, or get passed up by those who do. In short, read the following at your own risk.

RUNNING BACKS

Before spring ball began, AHMB looked at the Bruin running backs that were returning from the 2011 squad. With the coaching change and the resulting shift in offensive philosophy, the depth chart - and even the usage of many of our offensive skill players was an open question. We didn't come up with a formal depth chart at Running Back or at Fullback - or receiver for that matter. But, there were some thoughts on how players stood up, with the rough conception of a depth chart as follows:

Running Back: Johnathan Franklin; Malcolm Jones; Jordon James; Dalton Hiliard; Steven Manfro

Fullback: David Allen, Alek Cusick, Luke Gane, Philip Ruhl.

And the post-spring practices depth chart:

Running Back Fullback

Johnathan Franklin

(Sr*. 5'10", 205)

David Allen

(Sr*, 6'2", 224)

Malcolm Jones

(Jr. 6'0", 227)

Alek Cusick

(Jr*. 6'1", 235)

Steven Manfro

(Fr*. 5'11", 195)

Luke Gane

(So*. 6'1", 247)

Damien Thigpen

(Jr*. 5'9, 185)

Phillip Ruhl

(So*. 6'1", 235)

Melvin Emesibe

(Fr*. 5'11", 200)


While the new coaching staff came into the spring with a clean slate, there was little doubt that Franklin would be at the top of the chart in his final year in Westwood. Likewise, it is about time to see Malcolm Jones with the opportunity to show his immense skills in what had been Derrick Coleman's role in the backfield hierarchy, while Jordon James has been shifted to receiver.

Aside from the quarterbacks, Steven Manfro has been the most written-about player on the squad this spring; going by his work ethic and desire for the game, the attention on him is well deserved. After excelling on the scout team last fall, Manfro's first impression on the new coaches has primed him to earn some time in the offensive backfield this fall, as well as special teams responsibilities. Melvin Emesibe is a walk-on who looks to be more of a practice/scout team player than someone who we can expect to see carrying the ball in the Rose Bowl the next couple of seasons. Damien Thigpen has, for the moment been switched back to running back, while Dalton Hilliard switched back to defense in the wake of a number of injured DB's.

Fullback is far from a solid situation for the Bruins; not only did all of the players now on the depth chart switch from other positions since last fall, but it is uncertain how much Coach Mazzone's offense will utilize the role. David Allen is the leader at this point on the depth chart, and with 2 seasons as a special teams contributor, has the most experience with the speed of Pac-12 football.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Like with the running backs, the massive change to the foundation of the Bruin offense made creating a depth chart heading into spring practices a tall task. In looking at the position group in early April, I looked at the returning players from the point of view of 'best player' rather than in the context of the best player for a particular role in Mazzone's offense - with the exception of TE/Y Receiver. The basic ordering entering the Spring was roughly:

Receiver: Shaquelle Evans; Devin Lucien; Ricky Marvray; Jerry Johnson; Damien Thigpen; Jerry Rice Jr; Christoph Bono; Roosevelt Davis; Tyler Scott; Logan Sweet.

TE/Y Receiver: Joseph Fauria; Darius Bell; John Young; Jordan Barrett.

Post-spring practices depth chart:

X Receiver Y Receiver F Receiver Z Receiver

Jerry Johnson - or

(Sr*. 6'4, 218)

Joseph Fauria - or

(Sr*. 6'7, 258)

Ricky Marvray

(Jr*. 6'1, 190)

Shaquelle Evans

(Jr*. 6'1, 205)

Devin Lucien

(Fr*. 6'1, 192)

Darius Bell

(Jr*. 6'0, 230)

Jordon James

(So*. 5'11, 200)

Jerry Rice, Jr.

(Jr*. 6'0, 182)

Sam Handler

(Fr. 6'1, 200)

John Young

(So*. 6'5, 280)

Roosevelt Davis

(Fr*. 5'7, 162)

Logan Sweet

(Fr*. 6'1, 185)

Jordan Barrett

(Jr*. 6'3, 257)

Tyler Scott

(Fr*. 6'2, 214)

Jackson Reeder

(Fr*. 6'3, 194)

Not much of a shakeup at the top of the depth chart; with either Johnson or Lucien as the #1 at the 'X-receiver', the expected top guys entering the spring are still at the top. The one evolution over the last few weeks comes through Darius Bell - after switching to the Y-position this spring, which came after his switch from QB to receiver last fall, he is currently in a dead heat with Fauria for the lead role at the Y-spot. It is hard to imagine a weapon like Joseph not being the lead option at the position - and the offense as a whole - at the start of the season, but a very promising sign of how well Darius is adapting to his new role.

The end of spring has seen a pair of one-time running backs swap roles: Entering the spring, it appeared that Damien Thigpen would be competing for time at reciever, while Jordon James would be in the mix to relieve Franklin at running back. After 5 weeks of practice, Coach Mora and staff have flipped them, with Thigpen back in the running back mix, and James listed as the backup to Marvray at the 'F-receiver' spot.

Not as much to say about the walk-ons. Tyler Scott played well during the Spring Game, but currently sits behind Logan Sweet on the depth chart. Roosevelt Davis sits behind Marvray and James at F-receiver, while Christoph Bono is off the depth chart entirely. Jackson Reeder entered the depth chart as a redshirt freshman; not much known about him at the moment, except that according to his bio, his "Hobbies include listening to good music". While some of these guys appear close to the two-deep at the moment, remember that there is a group of elite recruits at the position coming to UCLA in the fall. While they should see plenty of action on Spaulding throughout the fall, it is unlikely that we will see much - if any - of them on the playing field this year.

Keep in mind that this is the depth chart factoring in players who were on the roster for Spring Football. Incoming freshmen who did not enroll early are not factored in; some of those players may certainly see time on the playing field from the first game at Rice, and play their way up the chart throughout the season. Once we get into the summer, and the approach to Fall practices, you will see charts and analysis with the new guys in place.

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