UCLA Spring Football: A Look at the Receivers

Harry How

Spring football is fast approaching, with Jim Mora and our Bruins returning to Spaulding Field on April 1. As we get ready for what should be an elite, special year in the third year of the Jim Mora era in Westwood, Bruins Nation takes a look at how our 2014 and 2015 depth chart projects, all to assess where our coaching staff will need to focus their recruiting efforts. This part of our series takes a look at the receivers.

Given the tempo that OC Noel Mazzone wants to run his offense, depth at the four receiver positions is a critical component to the success of the offense.  We've already seen how Mazzone uses the depth, constantly using different receiver packages and spreading the ball out to many players.  Last year's leading receiver, Shaq Evans, led the team with only 47 receptions.  Let's take a look at the Spring Football depth chart put together by Bellerophon a couple weeks ago:

WR

SLOT WR (F)

TE (Y)

WR

Jordan Payton (JR)

Devin Fuller (JR)

Thomas Duarte (SO)

Devin Lucien (RS JR)

Eldridge Massington (RS FR)

Jalen Ortiz (SO)

Nate Iese (RS SO)

Kenneth Walker (RS SO)

Logan Sweet (RS JR)

Darren Andrews (SO)

Tyler Scott (RS JR)

Austin Roberts (FR)

Roosevelt Davis (RS JR)

Alex Van Dyke (FR)

Jordan Lasley (FR)

Ahmaad Harris (RS SO)

As mentioned above, the biggest loss will be Hundley's top target in Shaq Evans.  While he led the team with only 47 receptions, he turned those opportunities into 709 yards and 9 TD's.  Generally, he was the receiver who could consistently take the top off defenses.  His replacement will be talented but thus far inconsistent Devin Lucien.  Lucien has shown flashes of brilliance in his two years at UCLA, and he's the best chance at a legit deep threat on the roster.  Lucien has also disappeared at times and dropped catchable balls, so hopefully he turns the corner this year and turns his promise into reality.  Last year he managed only 19 catches for 339 yards and 2 TD's, but with more opportunities it would not be hard to envision him matching Evans' production.

UCLA really lacks an ideal substitute behind Lucien, so we'll list Walker here for now even though he's more of an F type.  Walker's 5'9 175 lbs. frame may not be suited for the outside, but given the depth at F somebody will have to learn to play outside.  I think Andrews could get a good shot outside as well.  Although he's not much bigger than Walker, he has elite top end speed.

As mentioned, UCLA has a lot of depth at the F spot.  Fuller returns as the obvious starter.  He tallied 43 receptions for 471 yards and 4 TD's last year.  Remember, he played QB in high school and is still refining his skills, so expect him to be even better this year.  After Fuller, Ortiz, Andrews, and Walker are all capable options.

At the other wideout spot, Jordan Payton and Eldridge Massington form a pretty solid duo.  Payton managed 38 catches for 441 yards and 3 TD's last year while Massington redshirted and rehabilitated an injured knee.  According to multiple practice reports, Massington was essentially fully healed by the end of last year and could run full speed with the scouting team.  When he finally suits up and plays, he will have had over a year and a half with the program because he enrolled early and red shirted, so he should be able to come out the gates ready to contribute.  Payton has consistently improved and should be Hundley's favorite target next season.  He's not the biggest or the fastest receiver, but he runs great routes and finds ways to get open.

The Y position was somewhat underutilized last year because of youth, but I believe Duarte will have a big showing this year.  He had some good moments last season, and his frame and receiving ability are perfect for the position.  Iese's only catch last year was a TD, and he fills more of the blocking Y role.  He has good athleticism and size, and I believe he'll have better production this year.

Neither Roberts, Lasley, or Van Dyke enrolled early, so for purposes of Spring Practice, they will be non-factors.  However, I do think each of them has a chance to play next fall.  Roberts and Van Dyke both have the size to get time at the Y position as well as out wide, and I do think they'll get a good opportunity to get in the mix with Duarte and Iese.

***

That concludes the Spring Football preview of the receivers.  Fire away with your thoughts!

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