UCLA Spring Football Practice: A Look at Quarterback and the Running Backs

Harry How

Spring football is fast approaching, with the Bruins returning to Spaulding Field on April 1. Bruins Nation takes a look at how our 2014 depth chart projects. This part of our series takes a look at the Quarterbacks and Running Backs.

The place with perhaps the least concern of any position on the roster and the position where there are the most questions get looked at today in the preview of the quarterbacks and the running back positions.

Quarterback
Brett Hundley (RS JR)
Asiantii Woulard (RS FR)
Jerry Neuheisel (RS SO)
Mike Faufal (RS SO)
Aaron Sharp (FR)

Starting with the quarterback position at UCLA means talking about Brett Hundley. There isn't a lot to be said about Hundley that can't be summed up in two sentences.

1. Brett Hundley decided to return to UCLA for his redshirt junior season and will likely leave UCLA holding the vast majority of statistical records in UCLA's history at the position.

2. Brett Hundley, with the season expected of him in 2014, has a legitimate chance to become UCLA's first Heisman winner since Gary Beban.

WIth Hundley starting, UCLA has one of the 5 best collegiate quarterbacks in the country without question and arguably the most talented of any quarterback. The only question is about the players behind him and the order they'll be on the depth chart.

The two main competitors for the backup job will be former Elite 11 MVP and 2012's #1 Dual Threat QB recruit Asiantii Woulard and redshirt sophomore Jerry Neuheisel (an efficient 11-13 for 124 yards in 5 games of clean-up duty), who was the backup last season before injuring his thumb in the latter part of the year. It seems to be an extremely popular projection to assume that Woulard beats out Neuheisel, as he would have been the QB UCLA turned to if Hundley had been injured for a significant amount of time in 2013. I agree with it, but expect Jerry to put up one hell of a fight and he certainly gives the Bruins comfortable depth in an emergency.

The story at QB recently is the commitment of 5* 2015 QB Josh Rosen to the Bruins, which adds a new layer to the Bruins QB situation moving forward as Rosen is talented enough to compete from the day he arrives in January of 2015 after graduating early. That will be a much more high profile competition than this one in 2014, but two former #1 rated QBs battling for the starting spot after the previous 5* QB breaks countless UCLA records and got drafted in the top 10 is a far cry from the Bruins QB situation the last decade.

Now, moving on to running back (and the fullback position):

Running Back Fullback
Jordon James (RS SR) Phillip Ruhl (RS SR)
Paul Perkins (RS SO) Tre Hale (RS SR)
Steven Manfro (RS SO)
Craig Lee (RS FR)
Melvin Emesibe (RS JR)
Roosevelt Davis (RS JR)

Like quarterback, this is an area where the Bruins essentially lost nobody to graduation or the NFL who contributed in 2013 (aside from the seemingly under-utilized Malcolm Jones and the injury-riddle Damien Thigpen). The Bruins also will have a healthy Jordon James and Steven Manfro, who are both useful weapons when at full speed, as evidenced by James being among the national leaders in rushing early in the season and Manfro's beyond solid redshirt freshman season.

The Bruins return 3 players that rushed for over 500 yards last season (Brett Hundley 748, Perkins 573 and James 534). You would figure that a healthy Jordon James regains his starting position, though a platoon is the most likely situation with the diverse talent UCLA possesses at RB and the way that modern offenses (especially the N-Zone) work. A player to keep an eye on in the spring is 4* redshirt freshman Craig Lee, who has a boatload of talent and is a more traditionally sized (6', 190 as a true freshman, likely bigger a year later) option at RB.

Paul Perkins will certainly get touches out of the backfield, flashing multiple times last season catching passes (24 catches for 294 yards), but i would expect a healthy Steven Manfro to regain a portion of his role in the offense he had in the 2012 season. Also, incoming freshman 4* Nathan Starks may have more raw talent than any back currently on the roster, but he won't be around until Fall Camp begins in August.

These depth charts are obviously projections and not final by any means, but it provides a starting point for discussion and gives an idea of who to keep an eye on once spring practices start moving.

Until April 1st, Go Bruins!

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