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Getting Ready for Spring and Beyond: UCLA's 2014 and 2015 Depth and Recruiting Needs - Part I: Offense

Spring football is fast approaching, with Jim Mora and our Bruins returning to Spaulding Field on April 1. As we get ready for what should be an elite, special year in the third year of the Jim Mora era in Westwood, Bruins Nation takes a look at how our 2014 and 2015 depth chart projects to look like, all to assess where our coaching staff will need to focus their recruiting efforts. The first part of our three part series takes a look at the fun side of the ball, as we get ready for the third year of Heisman Trophy candidate Brett Hundley and Noel Mazzone's high-flying spread-it-out offense.

Signing Day is officially long gone and out of sight in our rear view mirror, and Mora and his staff are not only hitting the recruiting trail for the Class of 2015 (making a big push to land consensus top QB recruit Josh Rosen, who is slated to announce his commitment tomorrow), but looking to get the Bruins set up for what is projecting to be an elite, special college football season this fall. Of course, as we find out every year, while our depth chart for 2014 has some definite known starters (for example, barring injury, Heisman Trophy candidate Brett Hundley will be UCLA's starting QB, Jake Brendel will be starting at C, and Devin Fuller will be getting a lot of looks out of the slot WR position). But, in many positions, the Bruins' starter is still up-in-the-air (with the biggest holes being the ones left by Xavier Su'a-Filo and Shaq Evans), so any depth chart projection for both this upcoming fall and the fall of 2015 will be fairly speculative. But, as we know from the failed Karl Dorrell regime, to succeed in Westwood, Jim Mora will need to intelligently recruit and make sure that the Bruins are stocked with talent across the board. The only way to do that is this speculative effort: projecting how the depth chart will look and then addressing those needs.

So with that in mind, we take a look at how our depth chart projects on the offensive side of the ball, both this upcoming season (with spring practice tantalizing close) and the following season, all to gauge how Jim Mora and his staff are holding up in recruiting the Class of 2015. We begin this three-part project with a look at Noel Mazzone's spread offense, led by our Heisman Trophy candidate, Brett Hundley.

As with the any projection, this is way-too-early, with some key position battles still to be fought out on Spaulding Field. But, it will give us a very rough idea of how the offense will look this fall and where we'll need to add bodies to the program to keep UCLA marching toward returning to being in the mix for the national title. So let's take a look at how the Mora/Mazzone offense looks, beginning with the projected depth chart for fall of 2014:

Offensive Line

Torian White (RS JR) Malcolm Bunche (SR) Jake Brendel (RS JR)
Caleb Benenoch (SO) Simon Goines (JR)
Conor McDermott (RS SO) Kenny Lacy (RS FR) Scott Quessenberry (SO) Alex Redmond (SO) Poasi Moala (RS FR)
Colby Cyburt (RS SO) Kevin McReynolds (RS JR) Najee Toran (FR) Carl Hulick (RS SO) Kolton Miller (FR)

John Lopez (RS FR)
Ben Wysocki (RS JR)

Obviously, there's a huge XSF-sized hole on the offensive line, but it's been nicely filled by Miami-transfer Malcolm Bunche, who is likely to slot right in at LG. For now, Torian White is the projected starting LT, given that he has returned from injury but also it seems that his legal issues may be resolved in his favor. If White is indeed back, it will allow Goines to take the other tackle position and permit Benenoch to slot back to guard. Obviously, that situation could change, but there are a handful of options to slot in at LT, with the easiest being Benenoch bouncing back out to tackle and Alex Redmond, who got significant time as a freshman, slotting in with the first-team line. Simon Goines and Jake Brendal are as close to locked in starters as they come, while Benenoch and Redmond both got significant time with the first-team line last season. Behind the starting five, there's a lot of depth across the board, and UCLA added two big bodies in Najee Toran and Kolton Miller, who are both likely to redshirt this season. Yet again, Adrian Klemm has brought the Bruins a wealth of good options along the offensive line, a real credit given that the OL was in shambles for pretty much the entire Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel eras.

And things look just as good in the fall of 2015:

Torian White (RS SR) Caleb Benenoch (JR) Jake Brendel (RS SR)
Alex Redmond (JR) Simon Goines (SR)
Conor McDermott (RS JR) Kenny Lacy (RS SO) Scott Quessenberry (JR) Carl Hulick (RS JR) Poasi Moala (RS SO)
Colby Cyburt (RS JR) Kevin McReynolds (RS SR) Najee Toran (RS FR) Ben Wysocki (RS SR) Kolton Miller (RS FR)

John Lopez (RS SO)

The following season the Bruins will only lose Bunche, which will give UCLA's next QB, who will have huge shoes to fill following Heisman Trophy candidate (hopefully, winner) Brett Hundley, a very experienced and deep offensive line. By the time fall of 2015 rolls around, this might be the best offensive line unit that UCLA has had in the past two decades, assuming we don't lose anyone to the NFL early or suffer too many medical retirements.

Receiving Corps (WR and TE)

TE (Y)
Jordan Payton (JR) Devin Fuller (JR)
Thomas Duarte (SO) Devin Lucien (RS JR)
Eldridge Massington (RS FR) Jalen Ortiz (SO) Nate Iese (RS SO) Kenneth Walker (RS SO)
Logan Sweet (RS JR) Darren Andrews (SO)
Tyler Scott (RS JR)
Austin Roberts (FR) Roosevelt Davis (RS JR)
Alex Van Dyke (FR)
Jordan Lasley (FR) Ahmaad Harris (RS SO)

The biggest loss will be Hundley's top target in Shaq Evans, but the Bruins return a lot of experienced guys in the receiving corps, with Jordan Payton and Devin Lucien likely to be the starting receivers on the outside, while the electric playmaker Devin Fuller returns to operate out of the slot, where he did a lot of damage last season. Thomas Duarte comes back with a very solid freshman campaign under his belt, with Nate Iese also in the mix. They'll have to hold the position down until 5-star, top-TE recruit Alize Jones joins UCLA in the fall of 2015.

The Bruins will get dynamic playmaker Kenneth Walker back after he sat out the 2013 campaign due to injury, while Jalen Ortiz looks to build on a solid freshman year operating out of the slot and in the flats. While Mazzone likes to spread it out and use a lot of WRs, there should be sufficient depth, especially with Massington in the mix, to allow the three incoming freshmen (Roberts, Van Dyke, and Lasley) to all redshirt. So let's look at how the 2015 season looks:

TE (Y)
Jordan Payton (SR) Devin Fuller (SR)
Thomas Duarte (JR) Devin Lucien (RS SR)
Eldridge Massington (RS SO) Jalen Ortiz (JR) Nate Iese (RS JR) Kenneth Walker (RS JR)
Logan Sweet (RS SR) Darren Andrews (JR) Alize Jones (FR) Tyler Scott (RS SR)
Austin Roberts (RS FR) Roosevelt Davis (RS SR)
Alex Van Dyke (RS FR)
Jordan Lasley (RS FR) Ahmaad Harris (RS JR)

Yes, you're seeing that right. It's the exact same depth chart. Brett Hundley's replacement is going to inherit a pretty experienced receiving corps with a lot of depth and options, especially if Devin Fuller returns to Westwood for his senior year. The talent level is pretty good, but the Bruins could really use another big-play threat to emerge from this group if this unit wants to become an elite unit. Still, overall, things project very well for UCLA over the next two seasons.

Offensive Backfield (QB and RB)

If there is any one position that is completely locked down for the 2014 season, it's here. Brett Hundley returns to Westwood, turning down millions in the NFL as a likely late-first round to middle-second round pick, as one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy and will be the key cog in UCLA's offense as the Bruins look to go to the next level and make a push for not just the Pac-12 conference title, but the whole damn thing. Of course, we all pretty much know this is Hundley's last season for the Blue and Gold and who replaces him in 2015 is going to be big question mark. So, with that said, here's how the QB and RB situation projects as, going into fall of 2014:

Brett Hundley (RS JR)
Jordon James (RS SR)
Jerry Neuheisel (RS SO) Paul Perkins (RS SO)
Asiantii Woulard (RS FR) Craig Lee (RS FR)
Mike Fafaul (RS SO) Nathan Starks (FR)
Aaron Sharp (FR) Steven Manfro (RS JR)

Melvin Emesibe (RS JR)

It's pretty much a no-brainer at who is going to be starting in UCLA's backfield when the Bruins take the field against Virginia on August 30. Hundley will be looking to start his season off strong to build his Heisman resume, while Jordon James is set for the starter's carriers at RB, although Paul Perkins will get a lot of looks as well. The Bruins will be adding Craig Lee to the mix, while true freshman Nathan Starks might see playing time as well.

As for the running game, you'll again notice (as with the projections from last year and the season prior to that), that the traditional FB has been left out. Mazzone's offense typically does not utilize the FB, so we've left it off this preview. As for the back-up QB situation, Neuheisel served as Hundley's primary backup last year, although one would expect the coaching staff to promote Woulard to the primary back-up spot since he's likely to be the one taking over for Hundley after the season is over. As for 2015, it looks like this:

Asiantii Woulard (RS SO) Paul Perkins (RS JR)
Jerry Neuheisel (RS JR) Nathan Starks (SO)
Josh Rosen (FR) Craig Lee (RS SO)
Aaron Sharp (RS FR) Steven Manfro (RS SR)
Mike Fafaul (RS JR) Melvin Emesibe (RS SR)

Of all the offensive positional groups, this will be UCLA's biggest question mark heading into 2015. Barring injury, Hundley will certainly be on his way to the NFL, James will have graduated, and Jim Mora will need a new starting QB and a new starting tailback. Neuheisel is a solid, dependable back-up QB, but it's doubtful he has the skill-set to become the Bruins' primary starter, and if practice reports are any indication, Woulard should be ready to take the reins of the offense by the fall of 2015 as a redshirt sophomore, if he can beat away competition from super-freshman Josh Rosen (assuming he commits to UCLA and not Michigan, which isn't certain at this early stage). Running back is wide open, with Perkins leading the group with the most experience. Starks and Lee will certainly get a lot of carries, and it wouldn't be surprising to see one of them grab the job and make it their own.

So, that's your preliminary look at how our offense will line up over the next two seasons. Feel free to pick it apart, put up your own projections, and tell us how UCLA will need to recruit in the Class of 2015 to help the offense become the offensive juggernaut we're hoping for. Stay tuned for our depth chart looks for the defense and the special teams units as we begin gearing up for the beginning of spring football practice on April 1.

Fire away in the thread.