UCLA Football Pre-Season Fall Camp Preview: Defensive Backs

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

With UCLA's pre-season football camp in San Bernardino on the horizon, Bruins Nation will preview the 2013-14 roster with a look of each positional group and offer some thoughts about the Bruins' projected depth chart. We continue today with our look at the Defensive Backs.

In last Saturday's preview of the Offensive Line, gbruin opened by discussing the relative level of consistency and stability of that Bruin unit. That is not to discount the disruptive effect of the eight freshmen fighting for playing time, but to reflect the reality of 4 starters returning from last season's squad serving as a starting point entering the fall. The Bruin secondary does not have that stable starting point.

With the graduations of starting cornerbacks Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price - along with Anthony Abbott - we knew that the 2013 secondary would have a new look. Given the level of performance of the players who left the program, that new look did not look like such a bad thing.

But as classof10 wrote in his pre-Spring practice notes, there was the expectation of a core group of players - not without issue - with experience. But as the Spring unfolded, Tevin McDonald's scholarship went up in smoke, andMarcus Rios continued to battle a severe infection which has put his health at issue. Now the Bruins enter Fall Camp with just one defensive back who started a game last fall, or even accrued more than 5 tackles (Randall Goforth). With four highly touted freshmen making their Bruin debut in the heat of San Bernardino in a couple of weeks, the battle at every position should be fierce.

Ishmael Adams and Anthony Jeffferson have begun to put their past injuries behind them, putting forward strong performances during the Spring that have placed them in prime position to earn starting nods 5 weeks from now against Nevada. Adams appeared in the first two games of the past season before suffering a season-ending injury to his shoulder. Anthony has had a long recovery after getting injured during his freshman season of 2010, finally working his way back into game shape for the second half of last season. At his best, he certainly has ideal athleticism and size, but between he and Ishmael, only a handful of games played in college.

After earning playing time as a true freshman last fall, Fabian Moreau will provide depth in the secondary and may be a valuable special teams contributor. Librado Barocio is in the same boat, but likely to fall more on the special teams side of that equation, while Justin Combs has finished up his redshirt year to likely continue his role on the scout team. Johnny Johnson and Priest Willis certainly have an opening to earn early playing time. Just to note, Priest is not in Westwood yet - he is home in Arizona taking a summer school class to ensure that he does not have a problem with eligibility this all. Once he is enrolled, the competition should be intense.

It is hard to know how to treat Marcus Rios for purposes of this fall. We have written on his illness - and while it seems that he is well down the road to recovery, he will need to rebuild strength and get back into football shape before we can give any real predictions as to where he fits, or if he will be able to play this fall. Chris Foster reported earlier in the Spring that Rios may be able to play this season, but at this point, we can only hope.

Moving up the middle to the safeties, Dietrich Riley has recovered from his 2011 neck injury and was able to participate in Spring practice. He is still not the best cover man, but assuming he can stay healthy a very valuable addition to the lineup. Goforth might ideally slide out to corner - as classof10 had predicted before Spring Practices - but critical depth issues along with his experience last fall will keep him at Safety to start the Fall.

After factoring in Tyler Foreman and Tahaan Goodman joining the team this summer, there is not a whole lot of depth. Brandon Sermons is back there as the only senior in this unit, and Dylan Price is a walk-on who (no offense) should not see the field this season. Depending on what happens with the cornerbacks (one or both of the freshmen stepping up, Rios being able to contribute, etc), maybe Jefferson slides over to safety and lessens the load on these guys.

Here is my opening look at how our secondary shakes out entering Fall Camp. Honestly, I doubt the depth chart will look like this at the end of camp, or even by the time the team returns to Westwood from the first couple of weeks of work in the IE. But in the wake of Spring football, it seems a logical starting point.

Cornerback Free Safety Strong Safety Cornerback

Ishmael Adams

(*Fr - 5'8, 185)

Randall Goforth

(So - 5'10, 187)

Dietrich Riley

(*Jr - 6'0, 200)

Anthony Jefferson

(*Jr - 6'1, 184)

Johnny Johnson

(Fr - 5'10, 180)

Tyler Foreman

(Fr - 6'2, 190)

Tahaan Goodman

(Fr - 6'2, 190)

Priest Willis

(Fr - 6'2, 190)

Librado Barocio

(*So - 5'7, 170)

Dylan Price

(*So - 5'10, 195)

Brandon Sermons

(*Sr - 5'11, 195)

Fabian Moreau

(So - 6'0, 182)

Justin Combs

(*Fr - 5'7, 165)

Erick Zumwalt

(*So - 5'10, 165)

Marcus Rios

(So - 5'11, 185)

A couple of notes: In creating this chart, I made the assumption that Marcus Rios will sit out this season. If he is physically able to play this season, he has the talent to compete for one of the starting spots. And to answer why I placed all of the incoming freshmen in the #2 spot at each position: I can not comfortably predict any freshman taking a starting spot for the upcoming season before he has taken part in collegiate practice. But, considering their talent and the lack of entrenched starters, they can all legitimately compete for a starting spot or other significant role on this year's team. Barring injury or other developments, I'll expect them all to take the field this fall.

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