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Spring Forward To Spaulding: Thoughts On UCLA's Defensive Backs

Late last month we had some news concerning shifting around in the defensive personnel which included moving of Nate Chandler from TE to DT and shifting Glenn Love from SS to the LB corps. That gave us an opportunity to project the spring depth chart of our front-7 on defense. So I thought we use today to size up our defensive backfield.

We also had another move recently which shifted redshirt senior RB Christian Ramirez over to safety. I didn't have a lot of time to expand on that move when it was announced. So might as well think it out a bit more in this post as we go over our current depth at secondary. I like the move for few reasons. First, Ramirez came into UCLA as a safety/defensive back. I think at 6-2, 222 he has pretty decent frame to play SS. The question around him is the issue of durability. If he can stay away from knick knack injuries, I think he has the potential to emerge as a contributor. So with Ramirez at SS here is how the depth chart shapes up.





Sheldon Price (6-2, 163, Fr) (10)

Tony Dye (5-11, 199, So) (12)

Rahim Moore (6-1, 197, So) (12)

Aaron Hester (6-1, 203, Fr**)(1)

Courtney Viney (5-8, 160, So** (1)

Stan McKay (6-1, 188, Fr**)

Dalton Hilliard (6-0, 194, Fr)

Andrew Abbott (5-10, 176, Fr**^)

Brandon Sermons (5-11, 183, So)

Christian Ramirez (6-2, 222, Sr**)

Alex Mascarenas (5-10, 176, Fr**)

Marlon Pollard (6-0, 158, Fr**)

Jeff Dickman (5-9. 183, So**^)

Lowell Rose (6-0, 186, So**^)

** denotes red-shirt
^ denotes walk-on
() indicates number of games started in 09

So few things to keep in mind. I put together the depth chart based on what our depth chart looked like in our media guide for the Eagle Bank Bowl (p. 33), our roster (as available on the official site), and the OC Register notes on projected depth chart for next season.

So the weights listed above are somewhat outdated. We already saw from the Rahim Moore video posted over the weekend that he has gone north of 200lbs and trying very hard to get up to 205-210 range.  Rahim is probably the only sure bet with a secured position as starter this spring. He had a surreal season building on an amazing freshman campaign. I think his third season will be about proving himself not only as the ball hawking center fielder, but also showing of physical component to his game. As for rest of the guys, let's hope it will be an all out intense competition this spring and upcoming summer camp to figure out how this depth chart is going to shape up in August.

Let's start with Ramirez's move to safety. I already heard encouraging feedback about McKay being a great hitter during last year practices. If both McKay and Ramirez emerge as viable options at SS, perhaps the coaches will have the luxury to consider moving Tony Dye over to one of the corner spots? I think Dye may have the potential to emerge as a physical corner who will not only be effective in bumping and running skilled Pac-10 receivers, but also be effective in providing support in run stoppage.

That takes me to Hester and Price. Hester had a rough debut as a redshirt freshman getting hurt in our first game against San Diego State. He was never able to make it back at 100 percent. I still have high hopes for him because it seems like he has all the physical tools to be a great corner. As for Sheldon Price, the kid improved as the season went along (he didn't look like a total rag doll by the end of the season). However, we really hope he is having a great off-season in terms of gaining weight and getting stronger.

I really hope Brandon Sermons and Marlon Pollard have great spring in terms of pushing Price and Hester every day for the starting spots. Sermons was used sparingly last season and Pollard was red-shirted. So if they have gained more weight and gotten stronger, perhaps they will be ready to make some moves this spring. Also, we cannot forget about Courtney Viney. Viney did an admirable job last season when he stepped in after Hester went down. He was a pretty physical in his start against the Voluneteers. He then got suspended for one game and never regained his starting spot. He got some action against Arizona in Tuscon but got badly burnt. I think Viney can still be helpful to this team as a nickel back and his experience is going to be helpful for the younger guys around the program.

In terms of making moves, Dalton Hilliard is looking like a total beast in the latest workout video released by the athletic center. He is another one of those kids whose name comes up a lot in terms of making mark in practice field. He is of course playing behind an All American in Rahim Moore.  So he is not going to break in as FS. He seems to provide solid depth in that rotation. Also at FS spot, ATV had some nice things to say about Masceranas during last summer's workout. So hopefully he has kept it up.

In terms of new comers, here is the secondary crew from this year's recruiting class:

Newcomers: cornerback Anthony Jefferson; cornerback Tevin McDonald; cornerback Shaquille Richardson; safety Dietrich Riley

I am guessing Jefferson, McDonald and Richardson are going to be candidates for redshirts. Although we will have to keep an eye on Jefferson because his athleticism could be a wildcard. Similarly Riley could be one of the candidates for immediate PT this season as a safety. Moreover, Chow has already indicated that he is intrigued about using Riley on offense as an option in wild cat formation. So that is something we will have to keep an eye on.

Overall, it is clear there has been a talent upgrade in our defensive backfield. If you want to get some perspective check out how the depth chart looked in July of 2008 when we had walk-ons - Matt Culver, Michael Ciaccio, and Garret Rubio - take up 3 of the 6 spots at safety.

The question for our team is now is what kind of competition our coaching staff is going to be able to stage at Spaulding. For our team to take another step(s) forward next year, it is crucial these guys push each other hard in a positive way this spring and during late summer pre-season camp. Can't wait to hear all the reports on how these guys are going about it in less than three weeks.

Meanwhile, would love to hear thoughts from you guys on our secondary. Let me know if I missed something obvious or if you see the depth chart shaping up a different way. Football is lot more fun to talk about these days on BN.