UPDATE (N): Manfro is now on ESPN's college football home page:
Bruce Feldman recently wrote a post titled Top 10: The Most Pleasant Surprise Players of the Spring, in which he looked at players who looked poised to have breakout seasons after emerging in the Spring. Any guesses on which unheralded player from UCLA made the list?
You guessed it. We've chronicled how Manfro Mania hit Westwood this Spring, and now it has apparently gone national. The 5'11, 195 lbs. "powerfully built" tailback received some pretty high praise from Bruce Feldman:
3. Steven Manfro, UCLA, RB/WR/KR: If Bruins fans hadn't heard about the redshirt freshman before spring, they almost certainly did by the end of UCLA's spring game when the 5-10, 190-pounder lit up the Rose Bowl making big play after big play. It's crazy to think that the guy who had almost 3,500 rushing and receiving yards and 39 TDs from scrimmage his senior year in Southern California at Valencia High only had offers from Wyoming and UCLA. The new Bruins staff is lucky to have him though. Manfro, who lists Maurice Jones-Drew and Danny Woodhead as his favorite athletes, has earned the nickname "the White Mamba" for his exploits on the field. UCLA coaches say Manfro - pegged as more quick than fast -- "flashed" in every practice they had and can be a line-up-all-over the field difference-maker as well as game-breaker for all of the Quick Game stuff new OC Noel Mazzone wants to run. The kid's family also has an amazing backstory, as detailed here by Fox's Lisa Horne.
"I'm excited about him," says Mazzone, who has a strong group of weapons out of the backfield that also include Jonathan Franklin and Jordon James. "He's a perfect hybrid for what we do. He can run routes. He's flexible enough to get in the slot. He's a back that can run in between the tackles and can play in the slot."
I like Mazzone's comments about Manfro's ability as a hybrid player. Players that can line up in the slot and in the backfield, especially if they can run between tackles, is a defensive coordinator's nightmare. Of course, Spring excitement is common, and has often been followed by Fall disappointment, but it's easy to root for a guy like Manfro.
Feldman's list included two other Pac-12 players. Washington So. DT Danny Shelton came in at #2. The former OG has apparently grown to 325 lbs. after coming into UW at 285. We hope to see similar gains now that Coach Mora forced our limp AD to hire a dedicated S&C Coach.
At Oregon, RS Fr. Marcus Mariota came in at #7. A lot of people, myself included, thought Oregon's offense looked better with Bryan Bennett at QB rather than Darron Thomas. Darron Thomas saw the writing on the wall and bolted for the NFL early, or at least tried to bolt to the NFL, but apparently Bennett hasn't secured the starting spot.