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UCLA Football - Pre-Fall Camp Preview: Defensive Backs

I'll take that, thank you very much.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
I'll take that, thank you very much. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Getty Images

In the third part of our pre-fall camp positional previews (defensive line preview here, linebackers preview here), we take a long look at our defensive secondary and the young men who are going to be asked to fill the big legacies of both recent former Bruin defensive backs (Alterraun Verner, Rahim Moore) and the proud history UCLA has in the defensive backfield (James Washington, Kenny Easley).

So far, spring has not been kind to the secondary, with a couple of injuries and developments depleting an already thin group that will be asked to chase down and cover multiple spread/air-raid style offenses (Oregon, Washington State under Leach, Arizona under Rich Rod), not to mention locking down some pretty elite, NFL-prospect receivers (Cal's Kennan Allen, U$C's troika of George Farmer, Robert Woods, and Marqise Lee). Notably, Alex Mascarenas' football career came to an end with the announcement that he would be taking a medical retirement. Meanwhile, hard-working scout team/special teams/defensive secondary depth guy Librado Barocio will be gone for the season with a torn ACL. Canadian Anthony Thompson, buried at the bottom of the depth chart, and likely seeing the writing on the wall with the influx of secondary talent in Mora's first recruiting class, has transferred. And of course, that doesn't even get to the huge hole left by the hope that Dietrich Riley will be able to return next season, if at all, following his frightening neck injury.

Of course, Jim Mora has done a pretty good job of stocking up the secondary talent in his first recruiting class, but the downside is that UCLA will have to turn to a lot of young, unproven freshmen to rein in a Pac-12 that is very deep in receiving talent. While Marcus Rios enrolled early to participate in spring camp, he'll be joined by fellow freshmen Randall Goforth, Taylor Lagace, Ishmael Adams, and Kenny Orjioke (who at 6'4" and 222 pounds is a wrecking ball of a safety). So, rather than simply re-post the post-spring way-too-early roster projections from our post-spring camp review, let's take into account these roster developments and our incoming freshmen and how our defensive secondary projects to look like this fall, after the jump.

Bear in mind, this is only a projection, based on post-spring developments, and the likelihood that our very talented freshman corner (Marcus Rios and Ishmael Adams) will be moving up the depth chart quickly.


Aaron Hester

6'1", 207, RS SR

Andrew Abbott

5'8", 180, RS SR

Tevin McDonald

5'11", 185, RS SO

Sheldon Price

6'2", 180, SR

Brandon Sermons

6'0", 185, RS JR

Dalton Hilliard

5'11", 198, SR

Stan McKay

6'1", 205, RS JR

Anthony Jefferson

6'1", 184, RS SO

Marcus Rios

6'0", 185, FR

Kenny Orjioke

6'4", 222, FR

Taylor Lagace

6'1", 200, FR

Ishmael Adams

5'8", 186, FR

Randall Goforth

5'10", 173, FR

Dylan Price

5'10", 206, RS SO

Erick Zumwalt

5'10", 170, RS FR

Justin Combs

5'7", 165, FR

Off the top, UCLA returns 3 out of 4 members of their starting secondary from last year. If Tony Dye had decided to use a redshirt for his injury-plagued past season and returned for another senior year, it would have been huge for this unit: his experience and talent would have been well served alongside Tevin McDonald in the defensive backfield. So, the biggest question is whether Andrew Abbott, often used in nickel coverage for UCLA, and very undersized as a SS, can step in and fill that void. Since McDonald is the only member of the secondary with a specific position listed on the official roster (FS), for now, we'll assume that's where he's lining up and he and Abbott won't be switching roles.

Dalton Hilliard will almost certainly spend most of his time on the field on defense, which will disappoint the young man who wanted a shot at RB. Stan McKay has been dependable but not spectacular: the talent is there, so hopefully this coaching staff will be able to get him going. Don't be surprised if Marcus Rios or Ishmael Adams supplants either Brandon Sermons or Anthony Jefferson: both freshmen are very talented and will be needed when the Bruins face off against spread-style offenses.

Jefferson is an interesting case. He's one of the more talented defensive backs that UCLA has brought in during recent years (remember, he was rated a four-star, #15 CB in the country by Scout in 2010). The talented cover-man has struggled with injuries during his time with UCLA, but if the medical staff and S&C coach Sal Alosi can keep him healthy, he would give the starters, Price and Hester, a legitimate scare for their starting spots, and would be the inside man to get the lion's share of time as the nickel corner. Randall Goforth might be called on early if injuries continue to pile up, but ideally, Mora will be able to redshirt the speedy corner/WR combo to use down the line. Justin Combs, the son of rap mogul P. Diddy, is almost certain to redshirt this season, and I would anticipate Taylor Lagace will probably do the same. Kenny Orjioke, who is only 17, is unusually large for a safety (6'4", 222) and given his age, Mora may want to redshirt the young man (who could line up at safety, linebacker, wide receiver, or tight end in the Marcedes Lewis mold), to see how he develops over this year.

And with that, we'll wrap up our pre-fall camp positional preview of the defensive secondary. Do you think the projection is on the money? Or that it is way-off-the-mark? Either way, fire away with your thoughts, analysis, comments, and observations.

And stay tuned for when we turn to our positional previews for the offensive side of the ball this upcoming week.