The UCLA Bruins will wrap up their spring football practices with the Spring Showcase this evening at the StubHub Center in Carson at 5 PM.
Bleacher Report actually has a solid roundup of information about the Showcase and some players and storylines from the spring to watch for during the game.
The LA Register has the same type of a deal here, in just an overview of how good UCLA looks coming out of the spring in comparison to years past.
As does the LA Times, where Coach Mora makes an interesting note about watching the defending champion Florida State's spring game (hoping the Bruins get a shot at the Seminoles at the Rose Bowl in the postseason) and how "low-key" their game was and how UCLA's will be the opposite, going live throughout the evening except for the QBs and kickoff/punt returners.
Key story-lines that will be talked about a ton on the Pac-12 Network would include:
- The backup quarterback battle between Asiantii Woulard and Jerry Neuheisel. This won't be settled on Saturday and probably not until later in Fall Camp; but those QBs will likely see far more reps than Brett Hundley does in the Showcase. Woulard addresses some of his problems this spring here:
- The RB situation being unsettled to a degree but Jordon James, Steven Manfro, Craig Lee and Paul Perkins are all going to get touches all season as long as they're healthy. A bell-cow running back is non-essential in the modern offensive landscape.
- The last starting position on the offensive line is up for grabs, but, in my opinion, Simon Goines at full health is the favorite there. If he is not back to his old level, Scott Quessenberry, Ben Wysocki, John Lopez, Poasi Moala and Kenny Lacy could start for quite a few teams.
- The 5th defensive back looks like it is between Priest Willis, who lets Anthony Jefferson and Randall Goforth stay at safety and lets Ishmael Adams bump inside to the slot, and Tahaan Goodman, who bumps either Jefferson or Goforth down to cornerback. Priest Willis is with the 1st team defense on Saturday, but that is far from settled (especially with the absurd amount of talent in the secondary, which goes nearly 12 deep with 4* guys).
- The linebacker situation might cause some pause (with some talk of UCLA switching to a 4-2-5 with how much they've run NIckel defense in the spring) but I think that some perspective would help quite a bit with that as a guy named Eric Kendricks (just a 3-year starter and anchor to the defense) hasn't played and the Bruins rarely ran their base 3-4 more than Nickel packages anyway the last two years. Basically the situation is this: Myles Jack will be awesome, EK will be awesome, Kenny Orjioke has had a solid spring as a pass rusher, Zach Whitley and Isaako Savaiinaea drew some solid reviews inside, Ryan Hofmeister has a lot of experience, star recruit Kenny Young hasn't stepped on campus yet, Aaron Wallace didn't participate in spring but could be back in the Fall. The LBs will be fine.
- The emergence of Mossi Johnson at the Y will be a story because he'll probably make a lot of plays. If this is your first time watching him, I envy you because it was a pleasure being surprised the first time. To put in perspective how good he's been, he's working with the 1st team and is the only incoming freshman on the 1st team in this game on offense or defense.
I think the biggest story might be the lack of real interesting stories, to be honest.
UCLA is crazy deep across the board, returning 19 starters (depending on how you measure those) and a ton of other regular contributors plus a top 20 recruiting class full of talent.
Compared to the stories from rest of the Pac-12 contenders (sorry OSU, UC Berkeley, Wazzu, Utah and Colorado):
Oregon is replacing their top 4 receiving options, including star Bralon Addision to an ACL injury.
Arizona State lost basically their entire defense and their best offensive player in Marion Grice.
Arizona has to replace their starting QB and star RB.
Southern Cal is installing an up-tempo offense despite their scholarship issues leading to questionable depth on both sides despite unquestionable talent.
Washington has an assault case and/or internal punishment issue to resolve with their projected starting QB and most talented WR, plus working with an entirely new head coach and staff.
The biggest story about UCLA this offseason is that Brett Hundley decided to come back for his redshirt junior year instead declaring for the NFL draft. I'll take the lack of a media firestorm over any of those situations.
Speaking of Bruins in the NFL, there are quite a few Bruins who will get their names called in the NFL Draft in a couple days. The most high profile prospects is Anthony Barr. Steelers Depot has this collection of GIFs from Anthony Barr's 10 sacks in 2013. Unfortunately, they didn't include the Matt Barkley hit from 2012 but there's nothing stopping me from doing a cheap plug right here:
Also, on the Anthony Barr train of thought, this excellent piece by former Super Bowl champion NFL defensive end Stephen White (who's contributions to SB Nation are second to none) is the best evaluation of Barr I've seen from any network. Places Barr a tier below Jadaveon Clowney (a class of his own as a prospect) and Khalil Mack, but as a player certainly talented enough to be successful in the NFL a long time.
Sports Illustrated backs up that thought, ranking Barr 6th out of their top 64 prospects for the NFL Draft. I think that Barr probably ends up falling out of the top 10, but 3-4 teams like the Titans, Steelers, Eagles, Saints, 49ers, Cardinals or Chargers would be great fits.
Barr's counterpart in the UCLA LB core over the past few years was the much more flamboyant Jordan Zumwalt, a future NFL LB in his own right, and the subject of an entertaining (who would expect anything less from Zumwalt?) Q&A with Yahoo Sports with about 15 different quotes more candid than anything you'll hear from any draft prospect in the next month.
The Bruin that might end up coming off the board before Barr is Xavier Su'a-Filo, profiled by Bay Sports Net here as a Day 1 fit for the San Francisco 49ers (who've also been linked to Barr around the Twitterverse) and by the Kansas City Star as a great fit for the Kansas City Chiefs, and, finally, with a pretty great highlight video here (thanks to GRangelsfan for the video):
Losing XSF would be a tough situation for any offensive line, but with the recruiting by Adrian Klemm and crew over the past couple of years and continued development in the offseason, depth on the O-line is a non-issue for the Bruins heading into the fall. A couple of bumps and bruises (Caleb Benenoch hyperextended his knee, Alex Redmond and his club hand, Malcolm Bunche overcoming the rust from transferring) put the Spring Showcase in limbo, but the line is 11 strong heading into Saturday.
In this video from the UCLA Athletics YouTube page, two time All-Pac-12 honoree and former Freshman All-American (scary how common that qualifier can be attributed to players on UCLA's roster) Jacob Brendel discusses the overall performance of the line in the spring, Brett Hundley's development, the standout defensive linemen and Adrian Klemm being pleased with the play of the line in the spring. Brendel, per usual for a Bruin, comes across as an articulate and poised player and he'll be headed to the NFL in a couple of years along with XSF.
As a final pump up for the Showcase, there is this video from the Bruin Revolution YouTube channel. Two words, Pride Alley:
Your welcome, Go Bruins!