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2018 UCLA Football Fall Preview: Bruin Receivers and the Fountain of Youth

Theo Howard looks to lead a very young UCLA Bruins receiving group.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Southern California Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The arrival of Chip Kelly brings an automatic expectation that the offensive side of the ball is going to undergo a dramatic change. It is no secret that Coach Kelly is known for his tempo, his spread offense, run/pass option, and his ability to put his play-makers in space to make plays. Coach Kelly was always able to confuse opponents with formations and open gaps for his running backs.

The big question for everybody now is: “What wrinkles can Chip Kelly bring to an offensive scheme that almost every college in America now runs?” Well, Bruins Nation has put 100% faith in Coach Kelly to build an offense that will have multiple wrinkles and one that will give UCLA opponents trouble stopping this year and for years to come.

Coach Kelly has definitely been given a “tabula rasa” to work with in regards to the personnel on the offensive side of the ball. The Bruins are young all over, and the Bruins lost major contributors in the receiver corps with Jordan Lasley and Darren Andrews leaving for the NFL.

So UCLA’s offensive side of the ball will bring a fountain of youth for Chip Kelly to mold and teach his offensive system to, and the UCLA wide receivers exemplify this youth in spades.

Who’s Gone?

UCLA is losing a group of receivers that produced 138 receptions for 2,148 yards and 21 touchdowns during the 2017 season. When you see those numbers in black and white, it is quite staggering, and pretty scary to be honest. As was mentioned above, UCLA loses Jordan Lasley, Darren Andrews, Will McClure, Eldridge Massington, Alex Van Dyke, and Mossi Johnson.

Who’s Back?

This group is obviously headed by junior, Theo Howard. Howard saw 10 starts last year for UCLA, and finished his sophomore year ranked third on the team with 56 catches for 594 yards and 4 touchdowns. Howard is expected to be a major threat this year for Kelly’s offense. Howard has the ability to make defenders miss and turn short passes into big gains. This type of skill set should make Howard a perfect fit for Kelly’s offensive scheme and build on Howard’s successful sophomore campaign.

Demetric Felton will be an interesting player to watch this year. Felton averaged 7.5 yards per carry last year on multiple play types. Felton wasn’t exactly a juggernaut as a receiver as he pulled down two passes for minus two yards. With that being said, Felton will most likely be a much utilized weapon in Kelly’s offense this year.

Redshirt senior Christian Pabico is the veteran of the group. Pabico’s hands and blocking ability will no doubt make him a valuable receiver for the Bruins this year.

Stephen Johnson, Dymond Lee, Audie Omotosho and Damian Alloway will all push to get on the field more this year as Damian Alloway showed flashes during the spring and even had a 52 yard touchdown pass during the spring game. Alloway is another one of those small UCLA receivers that is allusive and shifty and has the gift of making defenders miss in space.

Who’s New?

Two members of UCLA’s 2018 recruiting class, and two of Chip’s bigger gets, enrolled early, and both of their names appear in the list below, Kyle Phillips and Chase Cota. Kyle Phillips was able to enroll during the winter quarter and was able to participate in most of spring practice. Cota joined Phillips early as well, enrolling for the spring quarter. Both guys have had a jump start with receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty, and more importantly, have had a jump start learning Chip Kelly’s playbook and catching their wind as collegiate athletes.

In addition to Cota and Phillips, two receivers that have caught the eye of Theo Howard and were mentioned in his interview above, are Delon Hurt and Michael Ezeike, aka “Big Mike”. Both of these receivers are large bodied receivers. Delon Hurt’s high school film shows a powerful receiver that also combined some elusiveness and speed.

Michael Ezeike was recruited by both Mora and Chip Kelly, but the addition of Chip Kelly cemented Ezeike’s choice of UCLA. Ezeike wanted to play receiver in college, and Kelly intends to use him at that position, which is exactly what Ezeike wanted coming out of high school.

Ezeike seems to be possible difference maker. He is huge, and will present mismatch problems when he splits out wide. Time will only tell exactly the role that Ezeike plays, but it looks as if he will definitely be a huge weapon in the years to come.

Here’s the complete wide receivers roster.

2018 UCLA Football Wide Receivers Roster

# Player name Height Weight Year
# Player name Height Weight Year
2 Kyle Philips 5-11 180 Fr.
6 Stephen Johnson III 5-10 195 R-Jr.
9 Dymond Lee 6-1 187 R-So.
10 Demetric Felton 5-9 184 R-So.
11 Audie Omotosho 6-2 180 R-So.
14 Theo Howard 6-0 182 Jr.
17 Christian Pabico 6-0 198 R-Sr.
21 Michael Ezeike 6-5 215 Fr.
23 Chase Cota 6-3 206 Fr.
24 Damian Alloway 5-8 170 R-So.
25 Antonio Brown 5-11 182 R-Fr.
29 Delon Hurt 5-11 190 Fr.
39 Ethan Fernea 5-11 192 Jr.

I’m not going to try and predict a UCLA receiving depth chart with so many young receivers possibly factoring in. We do know this, Theo Howard is going to be one of the main play makers that teams will try and take away from UCLA, and with fall practice about to start, it sounds like there are going to be a lot of opportunities for players to make an impact on the depth chart, with young Bruins most likely to factor in heavily.

Who are you excited to see pull down catches this year for the Bruins? Leave it in the comments below.

Go Bruins!