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2019 UCLA Football Fall Preview: Bruin Defensive Backs Could Be Team a Strength

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UCLA has a crop of young talent at the defensive back positions, but is led by a pair of season juniors, Darnay Holmes and Quentin Lake.

Stanford v UCLA
UCLA’s Darnay Holmes breaks up a pass.
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Welcome to Bruins Nation’s preview of the defensive backs for the 2019 UCLA Bruins football team. Last year, because of UCLA’s inability to pressure the passer, the Bruin secondary was often picked on. Even though this is a relatively young group, the talent is present and there is still significant room for improvement. If UCLA can get some pressure on quarterbacks this year, this could be a special group.

We will take a look at the anticipated two-deep at each of the cornerback and safety positions, as well as identify a couple of other student-athletes who could see playing time this season.

2019 UCLA Football Projected Defensive Backs Depth Chart

Cornerback Strong Safety Free Safety Cornerback
Cornerback Strong Safety Free Safety Cornerback
Elijah Gates Stephen Blaylock Quentin Lake Darnay Holmes
Patrick Jolly, Jr. Martin Andrus, Jr. Elisha Guidry Jay Shaw

Two-Deep Corner Backs

Darnay Holmes, Junior

Darnay Holmes, who has played from game one of his true freshman season, is now a junior a will be the leader in the defensive backfield. Holmes, who also returns kicks and punts, has five interceptions on his career, two of which were pick-sixes. He was credited by eight passes defended last season, up from two in his freshman year.

There is a buzz around Holmes who, for the second straight season, has been named to the Paul Hornung watch list, along with 43 other candidates. The Hornung Award is given to the most versatile player in major college football.

Elijah Gates, Redshirt Sophomore

Redshirt sophomore Elijah Gates came on strong in the second half of the season in 2018, starting at cornerback in the final six games of the season after appearing in the first six games. Expect Gates to continue to start opposite Holmes as the other cornerback in 2019.

Gates had 39 tackles on the year in 2018 (29 solo, 10 assisted), picked off a pass against Arizona, and defended six passes. In 2019, Gates will look to continue to improve on an impressive second half of the 2018 season.

Jay Shaw, Redshirt Sophomore

Redshirt sophomore Jay Shaw, who saw spot duty in all twelve games last season as both a nickel back and on special teams, will back up Holmes. Shaw had two pass breakups in the final game of the season versus Stanford.

Patrick Jolly, Jr., Redshirt Freshman

Although he redshirted last season and did not see action, Patrick Jolly, Jr. turned heads and made strides in Spring Practice and could push Gates for a starting spot. We think Gates will win the job based on experience, but Jolly should be a mainstay in the UCLA defensive backfield for years to come. In 2019, expect Jolly to see a ton of the field in both nickel and dime packages and when Gates needs a breather.

Two-Deep Safeties

Quentin Lake, Junior

Bruin legacy Quentin Lake will start at free safety for the Bruins. Now in his third season, Lake has often times looked a lot like his father on the field. Lake’s dad, of course, is UCLA Bruin legend Carnell Lake, who also had a wildly successful career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, after being converted to defensive back.

Lake is looking to make a name for himself. Last year, he was third on the team in tackles with 51. He also had two interceptions and defended seven passes. After Holmes, Lake has the most experience in the defensive backfield.

Stephan Blaylock, Sophomore

Sophomore Stephan Blaylock looks to start at strong safety for the Bruins in 2019. Blaylock played in all twelve games last season in both the secondary and on special teams. Blaylock played well for a true freshman, recording five tackles in a winning effort on the road versus UC Berkeley and racking up another five tackles in a loss at Oregon. Blaylock has tons of talent and this could be a breakout year for him while paired with Lake at the safety position.

Elisha Guidry, Redshirt Freshman

Redshirt freshman Elisha Guidry, who played in four games primarily as a special teams player during his redshirt year, recording one tackle, figures to back up Lake.

Mo Osling III, Junior

Mo Osling III took a bit of a step back last season under Chip Kelly. In Jim L. Mora’s last campaign with the Bruins in 2017, Osling played in all thirteen games as a true freshman, recording 18 tackles. Last year under Kelly, Osling only played in ten games, garnering seven solo tackles. Osling looks to back up Blaylock.

Also In The Mix

Redshirt sophomore Shea Pitts and redshirt freshman Rayshad Williams are also in the mix at cornerback, while redshirt freshman Kenny Churchwell III could see time as third string safety. Pitts saw action in eleven games last year, all on special teams, and Williams appeared in four games, primarily on special teams, while Churchwell did not see action in 2018 due to a preseason injury.

Let’s look at the full roster of UCLA defensive backs:

2019 UCLA Football Defensive Backs Roster

# Player name Height Weight Year
# Player name Height Weight Year
1 Darnay Holmes 5-10 199 Jr.
3 Rayshad Williams 6-2 190 R-Fr.
4 Stephan Blaylock 5-10 187 So.
7 Mo Osling III 6-1 186 Jr.
12 Elijah Gates 5-10 177 R-So.
19 Alex Johnson 6-0 180 R-Fr.
19 Jelani Warren 6-0 199 Fr.
23 Kenny Churchwell III 6-1 183 R-Fr.
24 Jay Shaw 5-11 192 R-So.
27 Patrick Jolly, Jr. 6-1 186 R-Fr.
28 Shamar Martin 5-10 179 Fr.
30 Elisha Guidry 5-11 183 R-Fr.
31 Zack Huffstutter 5-10 200 R-Fr.
31 Kaleb Tuliau 6-0 172 Fr.
32 William Nimmo, Jr. 6-1 187 Fr.
35 Carl Jones 6-0 196 Fr.
37 Quentin Lake 6-1 193 Jr.

Conclusion

Although there are no seniors in this group, it is led by two juniors, Holmes and Lake, who are talented and have two years of experience under their belts. Some of the younger guys namely, Blaylock, Gates, and Jolly, could really have breakout years for the Bruins.

This has the makings of a potentially elite unit for UCLA in 2019.

Of course, your secondary is only as good as your pass rush. Given enough time, a college quarterback is going to find an open receiver. The relative success of this group will depend, in large part, on whether UCLA is able to generate a pass rush.


Go Bruins!