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UCLA Football - Pre-Fall Camp Preview: The Receiving Corps

Can Big Joe Fauria become UCLA's second Mackey Award winner, following in the footsteps of the great Marcedes Lewis? (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Can Big Joe Fauria become UCLA's second Mackey Award winner, following in the footsteps of the great Marcedes Lewis? (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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In the fifth part of our pre-fall camp position previews (defensive line preview here, linebackers preview here, defensive backs here, and offensive line here), we take a look at the unit that is the most likely to see dramatically more action under new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone: our receiving corps, what we traditionally call wide receivers and tight ends, but what Mazzone instead lists by where they line up on the field: the X, Y, F, and Z receivers. UCLA is losing three of the senior starters from last season, Nelson "Brian Poli-Dixon Jr." Rosario, Taylor "Stone Hands" Embree, and Josh "WTF Happened to Colorado Josh" Smith. Despite these "losses" the Bruins should actually see a dramatic improvement.

Why? Addition by subtraction. Rosario had immense potential and talent, but struggled with consistency his entire UCLA career. He'd come up with huge catches one week, then completely disappear the next week. Taylor Embree infuriated the UCLA fan base with his year-after-year regression, lax attitude, and inability to make the big play. Josh Smith, who transferred from Colorado as a hyped return man and exciting playmaker out of the slot, failed to make any kind of real impact at UCLA. Meanwhile, more talented and hungry receivers, like Devin Lucien got buried in the depth chart under Neuheisel's stubborn refusal to play the most talented guys, rather than the most senior.

But, most importantly, UCLA will be ditching the hated run-heavy pistol offense and installing Mazzone's spread offense that he featured at Arizona State. Expect a lot of passing, a lot of four receiver sets, and a lot of short passes in the flat to slot receivers or running backs swinging out of the backfield. As a result, this unit will get a pretty good work-out. Fortunately, Mora and Mazzone secured a very solid group of pass-catchers this off-season, giving this unit the most depth of any on the team. So while Shaq Evans, Ricky Marvray, and Jerry Johnson are the presumptive starters, expect to see a fair amount of Devin Lucien, Jordon James, Jordan Payton, Jerry Rice, Jr., as well as Fabian Moreau and Kenny Walker.

Most exciting though, is the fact that UCLA will have a pass-first offense that should give Mazzone an opportunity to showcase Joe Fauria, a match-up nightmare and a tight end with the potential to follow in former UCLA great Marcedes Lewis' footsteps and grab the Mackey Award at the end of the year. So, with our talented freshmen joining up with the team, let's take a look at how our receiving corps depth chart projects to look like this fall, after the jump.

Now, as with our other projections, we are taking into account post-spring developments (for example, walk-on redshirt freshman TE Jackson Reeder is no longer with the program), and the likelihood that a couple of our new receivers (Jordan Payton being the most obviously college-ready WR of the freshmen group) will move up the depth chart and get some action (especially given the number of receivers Mazzone's offense utilizes).

WR (X)
TE (Y)
WR (F)
WR (Z)

Jerry Johnson

6'3", 211, RS SR

Joseph Fauria

6'7", 255, RS SR

Ricky Marvray

5'11", 192, RS JR

Shaq Evans

6'1", 201, RS JR

Devin Lucien

6'0", 200, RS FR

Darius Bell

5'10", 205, RS JR

Jordon James

5'8", 193, RS SO

Jerry Rice, Jr.

5'11", 186, RS JR

Jordan Payton

6'2", 205, FR

John Young

6'3", 255, RS SO

Damien Thigpen

5'8", 178, RS JR

Fabian Moreau

6'0", 180, FR

Javon Williams

6'5", 195, FR

Jordan Barrett

6'2", 255, RS JR

Kenny Walker

5'9", 175, FR

Logan Sweet

6'0", 185, RS FR

Sam Handler

6'1", 195, FR

Ian Taubler

6'4", 250, FR

Ahmaad Harris

5'6", 155, FR

Tyler Scott

6'2", 214, RS FR

Christoph Bono

6'1", 162, RS FR

Roosevelt Davis

5'6", 155, RS FR

The first thing you immediately notice is just the sheer volume of bodies that Mazzone has at his disposal. Seventeen wide receivers and five tight ends, and that's not counting guys on the defensive side who can also play receiver (Randall Goforth immediately comes to mind). Now, obviously, the walk-on guys (Sam Handler, Christoph Bono, Roosevelt Davis, Logan Sweet, and Tyler Scott) will probably not see any action, except on the practice squad.

Shaq Evans is the leading returning receiver, and is the presumptive #1 target (well, excluding Fauria), but Jerry Johnson, Ricky Marvray, and especially Devin Lucien are talented pass-catchers who have either been limited by injury or by Neuheisel's insistence on sticking with the mediocre duo of Rosario and Embree.

Leaving spring ball, Marvray was the presumptive starter as the slot receiver (F), but Mazzone loves to get short, speedy guys the ball in the slot on the edge where they can really do some damage. So, I'd expect to see a healthy amount of both Jordon James and Damien Thigpen lining up in the slot. Behind them is exciting freshman prospect Kenny Walker and relatively unknown Georgia prospect Ahmaad Harris. Ideally, Mazzone will be able to redshirt Walker and Harris, but knowing UCLA's injury curse, I wouldn't be shocked if Walker gets pressed into service early.

On the outside, I think the only freshman receiver who is ready to come in and make an impact is Jordan Payton. That said, the long-term ceiling is probably highest for Javon Williams, who would do well to redshirt this season and use the time to bulk up and add some size to his 6'5" frame. If he can add 10 pounds and check in next year at 6'5" and between 205 and 210, watch out. Likewise, with the options available at TE (Y) (Fauria and Bell) and the fact that Mazzone's offense does not traditionally use a TE, I would expect Ian Taubler to also redshirt this year, put on some weight, and come back in 2013 ready to compete to succeed Fauria as the #1 TE (Y) for the Bruins. Turning back to the outside receivers, it will be a real battle for the starting job at the X-spot, with Devin Lucien going head-to-head with Jerry Johnson.

And with that, we'll wrap up our pre-fall camp positional preview of the receiving corps. 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 rest of the offensive side of the ball, with a long look at our options at running back, and the big question mark, quarterback.