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UCLA Football Spring Preview: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

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We continue our Spring Preview series with the receivers and tight ends and we give projected depth charts.

Darren Andrews is UCLA's top returning receiver from last season.
Darren Andrews is UCLA's top returning receiver from last season.
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Just joining us?

Catch up with some previews: Wavingbruin's Top 10 QuestionsNicoG's coaching power-ranking and my Coaching Preview; and GBruin's QB & RB Preview.

Next up are the receivers and tight ends.

We are losing two remarkably consistent players in Jordan Payton and Thomas Duarte who led the team last season with 1106 and 872 yards, respectively. There was a big drop-off to the third top receiver, redshirt junior Darren Andrews, who had 429 yards on 42 receptions. Many peg him as a potential break-out star on receiving but there's a long list of talent stock-piled who are waiting to break out as well. Rosen, as the clear #1 QB going into the Spring, will get the lion's share of the snaps so will have plenty of time to build chemistry with his arsenal of weapons. I consider every spot wide open (har har) so who will step up?

On the roster

Name Height & Weight Year
Kenneth Walker III 5-10 180 RSr.
Darren Andrews 5-10 185 RSr.
Eldridge Massington 6-3 210 RJr.
Alex Van Dyke 6-4 210 Jr.
Mossi Johnson 6-0 185 Jr.
Jordan Lasley 6-1 200 RSo.
Austin Roberts 6-2 215 RSo.
Aaron Sharp 6-3 205 RSo.
Stephen Johnson 5-11 195 So.
Demetric Felton 5-9 178 Fr.
Theo Howard 6-0 174 Fr.
Dymond Lee 6-2 175 Fr.
Damian Alloway 5-10 170 Fr.
Adewale Omotosho 6-2 190 Fr.
Colby Cyburt 6-3 250 RSr.
Nate Iese 6-3 250 RSr.
Jordan Wilson 6-5 215 Fr.
Jalen Starks 6-1 240 Fr.

To try to sort through this highly speculative exercise we'll work through the positions.

Split End (or X)

1. Kenny Walker, RSr.

2. Theo Howard, Fr.

3. Jordan Lasley, RSo.

Kenny Walker III is fast and can get behind the defense for some home run plays. However, you hold your breath every time the ball is thrown his way since we has the tendency to drop balls when wide open. As a redshirt senior, I think KWIII will get plenty of chances to keep the starting role. But, Theo Howard will get his touches. Howard is that "home run" talent that UCLA's been waiting a long time for. Some might even say he was the jewel of the 2016 recruiting class (sorry Mique we've just been spoiled by stud LBs for a while now). As an early enrollee, he'll have lots of time to build chemistry with Rosen and learn the playbook so he could, by Fall, be the starting split end receiver.

Flanker (or Z)

1. Eldridge Massington, RJr.

2. Alex Van Dyke, Jr.

3. Mossi Johnson, Jr.

4. Adewale Omotosho, Fr.

We've been waiting for Massington to have a break-out season for a while now. He will be given every opportunity to be the man this year so hopefully reaches his potential. But watch out for Alex Van Dyke who was a top 300 WR blue-chip 4* recruit that's been in the program for a couple of years now and could be ready for more responsibilities. Mossi Johnson has made a few catches and will be part of the rotation. I know that we probably will not play this many true freshman but I'm very intrigued by blue-chipper out of Texas, Omotosho. He's a strong possession receiver that has the potential to be even better than Jordan Payton. Payton played in his freshman year (18 catches, 202 yards, 1 TD) so I can see him playing, maybe even a lot if Massington and Van Dyke don't impress.

Y Receiver

1. Austin Roberts, RSo.

2. Aaron Sharp, RSo.

Roberts is another top 300 blue chip recruit who's been patiently waiting for his opportunity. He's got a big frame and should have added enough weight by now so I can see him finally getting some big catches. Will he be as good as Thomas Duarte? Doubtful, but this year we don't really need him to be. Just need him to be a solid possession receiver. Aaron Sharp is really athletic and a former QB in HS, but has moved to receiver so he doesn't waste his athleticism. A great scout player with a big frame, he can probably make some big plays in the middle of the field.

Slot Receiver

1. Darren Andrews, RSr.

2. Theo Howard, Fr.

3. Stephen Johnson, So.

4. Damian Alloway, Fr.

After Payton and Duarte, Andrews was lead the pack with 429 yards. He certainly qualifies as having a 'break-out' season so can he build on that campaign and be the number 1 man? I think he has that potential. Yes, I know I listed Theo Howard twice! He's got that kinda talent and will see the field all over the place so I can see him playing slot too. Rumors say he's already added 10 pounds and is up to 180ish pounds. Seems like he'll be ready for Fall. So, just how awesome will he be in the Spring? Damian Alloway was another big recruit (top 300, blue-chip 4*) that's a downfield threat with some shifty moves. He might get on the field just to see what happens as Mora isn't affraid to burn redshirts and play talented youth.

Tight Ends

1. Colby Cyburt, RSr.

2. Nate Iese, RSr.

3. Jordan Wilson, Fr.

4. Jalen Starks, Fr.

With new OC Kennedy Polamalu we know we'll see more power formations and the use of the TE. But how much, how fast? I don't really know. Expect to see Colby Cyburt return to his natural position as UCLA plays with a true TE more often. Iese, who will see plenty of reps, has the body of a Greek God and has made some tough catches for us in the past. Many are just waiting for Iese to get even more opportunities. After that, we'd have to rely on two true freshman in Jordan Wilson and Jalen Starks (who is more of a fullback). They probably both redshirt so we'll rely on Cyburt and Iese and any other OL/DL who can't break into their rotation. I'm skeptical that Breland Brandt would be such a candidate, but who knows. We might find out in the Spring practices. This is a fun position to watch out for!


Conclusion

Lots of unknowns, lots of excitement. I don't think Polamalu will start on offense from scratch. As you can see above, the receiving corps is quite young so I think that they will keep much of Mazzone's playbook the same (I never had a problem with Mazzone's playbook--it was his play calling that was mind numbing) so that he doesn't overburden the youth with trying to learn too much too fast. There will be more pro sets, but I think he'll add them as tweaks. Besides, the bodies are built for speed--so use it! Let the running backs punish the defense :-)

As always, I'm sure I've missed something big so let me know in the comments.

Go Bruins!