UCLA Football Post-Spring Roundtable: Part 3 - Favorite Bruins (Other Than Hundley); 2014 Expectations

No. 6 is the "heart and soul" of the Bruin defense. - Harry How

Part 3 of 3 part roundtable among BruinsNation bloggers - sounding off on various issues related to UCLA football following Bruins' 2014 spring camp.

Which group has the most question marks - heading into the Fall Camp?

IE Angel: I think it's wide receiver. I still don't see any player on the roster that is better than a #2 option in the passing game. Granted, there are about 6 guys (Payton, Lucien, Massington, Johnson, Fuller and Duarte)  that could be solid #2 options, so the depth and overall talent level is great. But no defense is going to have to do anything special with their secondary against UCLA. Maybe some incoming player changes that, but I wouldn't count on it.

Bellerophon: I'd say the running backs.  There's no elite playmaker in the group.  Jordon "Joystick" James has always had a ton of promise, but he's never really delivered on it.  Perkins and Lee are solid, and Manfro is a dependable option, but there's no MJD or Jet Ski in this group.  As I mentioned earlier, maybe true freshman Nathan Starks changes that for us, but with our current RB options, don't be surprised if Brett Hundley leads the team in rushing yards and rushing TDs.

Uclaluv: I am really feeling good about every position.  What a cop out right?  But how great to feel that way.  I got used to saying the dbs but dang, they're going to be really strong this year.  I also think the rbs are being coached up very quickly and I feel good about them.  So for me a big avoidance here.

chrissorr: I'd have to say the corners.  Again, I'll feel better about RB if Lee rises.

Odysseus: There isn't a proven consistent playmaker at receiver, but I think there are enough weapons overall. Offensive line still has question marks and has to replace XSF, but again, there is a depth and talent.  The DBs played well for their inexperience and should be better.  DL and LB should be fine.  I would go with running back.

JoeBruin15: The running backs stuck out as a much improved group, but they need to continue that development to help take the pressure off Hundley. They need to continue working the most, but the O-Line also needs to continue maturing and that will help Brett and the backs out quite a bit.

bruinclassof10: Running backs and o-line depth.

gbruin: I'm going to say the defensive secondary.  They were probably the weakest unit (on a very good team, so that's not meant so much as a criticism) last year.  They have a bunch of good names and a ton of talent and promise coming back, but they have yet to show that they can dominate a game from that position.  I think they have a ton of upside and amazing depth, so I'll be anxious to see if they can develop and perform the way it looks like they can.

Which group is UCLA's strongest unit - heading into the Fall Camp?

IE Angel: The defensive backs, for me. Returning all 4 starters from an extremely solid unit last season. The depth is insane to think about. Case and point: the third string this season will probably include at least three 4 star players. Johnny Johnson 4*, Marcus Rios 4*, Adarius Pickett 4*, Jaleel Wadood 4*, Tyler Foreman 4*, Tahaan Goodman 4*. None of those players are starters. Plus, Ron Robinson (early enrollee from the 2014 class) is a massive player at safety. He's listed at 6'2, 197 but could easily have grown since he's only 17.

Bellerophon: I have to agree with IE Angel here - the defensive backs are insanely deep.  We get all of the starters back, and we've added a lot of really good players to the unit.  This is a group that should be able to shut down all but the most elite QB-WR duos in the conference.

Uclaluv: I could go with the O-line.  The holes they've been opening against some really awesome defensive players are incredible.  I think they are also making some nice pockets for Brent to operate out of.  I like both our lines a lot. But let's not forget we are LB U!  Linebackers rule!

Odysseus: I'm going to go with the defensive line, another position that has a huge number of blue chippers and returning experience.

JoeBruin15: I agree that the D-backs are probably the strongest unit on the defensive side of the ball and I think the Defense as a whole may be slightly better than the offense as a whole right now.

gbruin: QB, DL, and OL are pretty good answers, and I said in the section above that the DBs are on the verge of being great, but even after losing Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt, I love the linebackers.  Myles Jack doesn't need anything more said about him.  Eric Kendricks deserves to have tons more said about him (I just love that kid's game).  Kenny Orjioke really flashed during the spring, and Isaako Savaiinaea will be very solid.  And when Zach Whitley learns the position, he'll be crazy good.  They're an underrated group because of who they are losing, but Coach Brick has made this #LinebackerU, and this year should be no dropoff.

Who is your favorite UCLA football player from next year's team (other than Brett Hundley)?

IE Angel: On the offensive side of the ball, probably Jordan Payton. Been a player I've rooted for since the first Fall Camp in San Bernardino. Reminds me of a smaller Joe Jurevicius (which is a big compliment). On the defensive side of the ball, it'd be either Anthony Jefferson or Owamagbe Odighizuwa, both guys that have battled back from injuries to be really productive players that should play on Sundays.

Bellerophon: Myles Jack.  Because he's the only man who can beat up Chuck Norris.

UCLAluv:  Ishmael Adams.  I think he's going to do some more great things this year.  I hope he is our return man. We saw what he could do last year (too late) and I hope they don't hold him back this year.  I think he'll make some great plays on D as well.  Second choice, besides the obvious is, Thomas Duarte.

Odysseus: Myles Jack of course and I'm really rooting for Odighizuwa to put it all together and rebound from his injuries.

JoeBruin15:
Those are all great choices and each will have some time to shine this year, but this is the year that our opposition better pay attention to Myles Jack. Owa's another fave just because I love saying his entire name: Owamagbe Odighizuwa. As a lifelong Yankee fan, I can almost hear Bob Sheppard the voice of Yankee Stadium pronouncing it. It would have replaced Shigatoshi Hasagawa as Sheppard's favorite name, for sure.

gbruin: Eric Kendricks.  He's the heart and soul of this team.  How that kid wasn't all Pac-12 either of the last 2 years is beyond me, but he'll just store that little slight away and use it to lead the conference in tackles again.  Honorable mentions to Myles Jack, Owa, Devin Lucien, EFM and EVD, and the whole OL.

What are your current expectations for the football team heading into 2014 Fall Camp?

IE Angel: Win the Pac-12 South, compete for a Pac-12 Championship and one of the four berths in the first College Football Playoffs. This should be one of the best UCLA teams in the history of the football program at UCLA.

Bellerophon: Not only should we win the Pac-12 South, we should win the whole conference this year.  The schedule is set up perfectly for a special run to the first-ever college football playoff.  We get Oregon and Stanford at the Rose Bowl.  Arizona State on the road will be tricky, but they lost pretty much that entire defense that slowed us down last year, so I don't think they will be a serious problem for us in the division.  Getting Hundley back (and if he stays healthy) is huge - this could finally be THE team that gets us to the promised land.

Uclaluv: Win the Pac-12 South, the whole conference, and be in contention to be in the final-four.  We have a tough schedule in terms of going undefeated, so some of the championship selections might come from one loss teams, and what they do with that who knows.  I do think that if we are only a one loss team, given the level of competition, we should be in.

chrissorr: PAC-12 South for sure.  Oregon and Stanford at the Rose Bowl is a big plus so PAC-12 championship is a strong possibility.  If that happens, it almost goes without saying that we get into the four team playoff.

Odysseus: I think it all starts with winning the Pac 12 South and then playing well in the big games.  If there aren't any poor coaching decisions or poor performances, the rest should take care of itself.

JoeBruin15: The schedule has aligned itself (even with the stupid "neutral" site game at Jerryworld). Win each and every week. I expect to have seven home games this year, not six, because I expect us to win the Pac-12 South and host the Pac-12 Championship game. Getting to the Rose Bowl that Friday is going to be hell! Our toughest four games will be at home -- Oregon, Stanford, $c, and the P12CG. Winning the P12CG should put us into the CFP at the Rose Bowl (but that won't be a home crowd) and that should get us to Jerryworld for the Championship Game. 60 years is enough. It's time for #2 and I believe that we can get it done this year.

gbruin: Pac-12 Champs.  Winning the Pac-12 South should also get us home field for the Pac-12 Championship game, and I love our chances at the Rose Bowl. Now, I don't have enough faith in the national powers that be that winning the Pac-12 will get us in the Final Four (I'd sooner believe that 3 SEC teams and a 2 loss tOSU get invited), but we should be banging on the door.  Footballs bounce funny and there are always the SPTRs to screw things up, but if we can avoid injuries then we have as good a look at that Final Four right now as anyone out west.

And, that's the end of our post-spring roundtable folks.   If you agree/disagree, chime in with your 2 cents (or lot more) in the comment thread.  It's gonna be long summer till San Bernardino. GO BRUINS.

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