UCLA Football Post-Spring Roundtable: Part 1 - Thoughts On Bruins' Offensive Backfield

Eric Francis

Part 1 of 3 part roundtable among BruinsNation bloggers - sounding off on various issues related to UCLA football following Bruins' 2014 spring camp.

If you had to pick someone other than number 17 to start at quarterback for UCLA against Virginia, who would you pick and why?

IE Angel: I would still go with Asiantii Woulard without much question. While Jerry Neuheisel and Mike Faufal have both exceeded my expectations by a ton, there's no denying that Woulard offers far more potential than both of those players. There is another underlooked element of Woulard's game hasn't ever been allowed to shine in practices or the Spring Showcase, his ability to run. That alone makes up any gap in the level of understanding how to manage a game that Neuheisel or Faufal might have.

Belllerophon: Honestly, I'm not sure.  It would probably be Woulard despite the fact he's hit a bit of a wall and wasn't very impressive at the spring game.  Neuheisel is a great back up game manager, but for a coach's kid, he made some poor decisions (and his lack of elite arm strength, which helps bail out some guys with bad decision making, hurt), which Rick promptly pointed out to him in his post-game interview.   I like Jerry, think he's a great guy (and he sounds so much like his dad, it's weird), would love to see him get a lot of action mopping up games.  But, Jerry is what he is, whereas Woulard has that upside and potential to get better with more game action - he's the kind of QB where you feel that the more he plays, the better he'll get.

Uclaluv: I was disappointed that  Asiantii didn't get to play with the one's yesterday.  I really wanted to see what he could do in that situation.  Jerry is so much more consistent than Asiantii right now, but as Bellerophon says, still makes mental errors that he should be passed making.  I guess I'd go with Asiantii, but it's a tough call.  His throws have been so far off in the practices I've seen and he's had trouble moving the offense.  On the other hand, getting him real game time might just bring out a different Asiantii.  If he doesn't work out, Jerry could still come in and be the solid back up he is.

chrissorr: I'd say Woulard.  Unfortunately, I don't say it with a lot of confidence.  Tell  you what though, I'm looking forward to the battle royale between Woulard and Rosen next spring.

Odysseus: Well I would hope it doesn't come to that.  I did not watch any spring practice, so it's hard to say.  I definitely prefer Woulard's upside, but based on reports, it's doesn't sound like he's ready.

JoeBruin15: Let's face it. We've been very lucky that Hundley has not gotten hurt at all so far. That said, I think we will need to get both Jerry and Asiantii some playing time early in the season. Lock the games up and get them both some (more) experience, just in case. That said, if Hundley was absolutely unable to start against Virginia, I think you play the guy who has practiced best. From what I've seen with my own eyes at two spring practices and the Spring Showcase, that's Jerry Neuheisel.

gbruin: I'd go with Jerry.  He's simply better able to execute the offense right now.  Woulard will be better in the long run, and he needs to get more snaps in practice to develop, but if you need someone to play right now, Jerry is more familiar with the offense and will do a better job managing the game.

What does your ideal UCLA running back depth chart look like after the spring game?

IE Angel: I'm probably in the minority because I am 100% in favor of a by-committee approach in the backfield. That's how the game of football works best now. But I don't think there's much of a change based in what I saw in the 3 practices I saw. 1. Jordon James 2. Steven Manfro/Paul Perkins 3. Craig Lee.

Bellerophon:  I was more impressed with Perkins than Manfro, who I think is still dancing too much in the backfield and not hitting the hole with authority.  I'd probably slide him down the depth chart behind James, Perkins, and Lee.  But still, I agree with IE Angel, that given Mazzone's spread-style offense, and our desire to be more up-tempo, rotating the RB regularly helps keep fresh legs on the field at all times.

Uclaluv: I agree with everything IE said about RB by committee.  However, I think Lee, Manfro, and Perkins are going to pass James by.  I think Lee won't drop those passes and his speed is special.

chrissorr: I'm hoping Lee comes on strong.  That might be the thing that puts up us into the playoffs.  James next.

Odysseus: James has experience and fits the offense well, but if Lee can continue to learn, he has a chance to offer a more explosive look.

JoeBruin15: Lee has looked extremely good in Spring ball. Manfro has had a good Spring too, but I really see him more as a third-down back that can catch some passes and scamper for short yardage. Perkins has never really impressed me. So I see him falling to 3rd on the depth chart by season-end if not by the fall with James and Lee sharing the bulk of the carries.

gbruin: I think James is still number 1 with Perkins and Manfro filling in in spots.  I do expect Lee to move up that chart quickly though, and I wouldn't be surprised if he isn't starting by midseason, but he's not there yet.

Based on what you have seen and read about UCLA running backs this spring - does Nathan Starks get to see the field next year or will he get redshirted? Yes-No? Gut feeling?

IE Angel: I think he redshirts for sure unless he shows he's too good to keep off of special teams or explodes at a different level than the current group.

Bellerophon: None of the RBs really blew me away, so if he takes fall camp by storm, then I could see him getting a shot.  No one was terrible, but no one was the consensus stud leading man either.  To be blunt, there's no Jet Ski or MJD in this current group, so if Starks has the goods, he could see action as a true freshman.

Uclaluv: My gut says red-shirt, but if he really stands out he'll be in.  I actually feel really good about the current group.  I know Lee dropped some easy ones Saturday (passes), but that is not what he has been doing in practice and I think he'll end up making a lot of big plays.

chrissorr: Gut would be redshirt.

Odysseus: Redshirt.

JoeBruin15: It will completely and totally depend on his fall camp. Unless he gets to camp and blows the roof off the place, he redshirts. And, the chances that he outplays 4 other guys (and Myles Jack?) who know the offensive system is pretty small. It's not a knock on Starks. The other guys are just further ahead knowing our offense. But it's not impossible. I don't see Mora burning a redshirt year for special teams play on a running back.

gbruin: I think he redshirts, and he'll be a major contributor in his second (redshirt freshman) year.

Now those are some of the thoughts from some of our frontpagers. If you agree/disagree, chime in with your 2 cents (or lot more) in the comment thread. More to come tomorrow including discussion on Bruins' biggest stars from 2014's spring camp.

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