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2018 UCLA Football Spring Preview: Rebuilding the Secondary

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The secondary did not perform as well in 2017 as it did in 2016, which means that Paul Rhoads will have to prepare the unit to re-establish its dominance in 2018.

Darnay Holmes will be back for his sophomore season. Hopefully, Paul Rhoads can help him avoid targeting penalties this year.
Joe Piechowski

2017 in Review

The UCLA defense was bad in 2017 and it wasn’t just the rushing defense. The Bruin passing defense took some serious steps backwards this past season.

In 2016, UCLA was ranked seventh in the nation in Team Passing Efficiency Defense. That was due in large part to three components. The first was passing touchdowns allowed and the second was interceptions. The third was completion percentage which was 55.5% (255 out of 441). UCLA only allowed 12 passing touchdowns allowed in 2016 while making 15 interceptions.

In 2017, UCLA dropped to the bottom half of the FBS. The Bruins were ranked 72nd out of 129 FBS schools. UCLA increased the number of passing TDs they allowed to 19 and their interceptions fell to just 8. On top of that, opponents increased their completion percentage to 57.1%.

What’s more amazing is the fact that opponents’ TDs increased more than 58% despite the fact that opponents completed 17% fewer passes last season. Wow. That’s a big difference.

If we’re looking for a reason why that could have happened, it might be because the unit was primarily made up of underclassmen, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that there was a significant drop-off in the performance of the pass defense from 2016 to 2017.

It’s also likely the reason that Demetrice Martin is no longer coaching in Westwood.

Who’s Gone?

For better or worse, there’s only one player from last season who’s departing and that’s Jaleel Wadood.

So, on the good side, the Bruins don’t lose much in terms of talent in the secondary. On the bad side, it means that UCLA needs to get better in the secondary.


Who’s New?

Enter Paul Rhoads. Rhoads is the Bruins’ new defensive backs coach. He comes to Westwood with extensive experience coaching defensive backs.

While the 2018 recruiting class contains 5 talented defensive backs, none of them have enrolled as of yet and, therefore, won’t be eligible to participate in Spring Practice.

Who’s Back?

Well, the short answer is everyone but Wadood. That means, the unit will be led by redshirt seniors Adarius Pickett and Denzel Fisher as well as true seniors Nate Meadors and Octavius Spencer. There are only two juniors in the secondary and both are redshirt juniors. They are Will Lockett and Colin Samuel. There are also two redshirt sophomores in Keyon Riley and and Michael Mapes.

The rest of the unit is made up of guys who were freshmen last season. Of course, no look at the secondary would by complete without mentioning Darnay Holmes, Mo Osling and Quentin Lake. These three guys were the only true freshmen who saw action last season. The remaining players did not see action and will likely be considered to be redshirt freshmen.

Outlook

With a year more experience under everyone’s belt, the unit should be poised to perform better than last year. Having a coach with as much experience as Rhoads should also help.

I’m not going to even try to offer a projected secondary depth chart because I believe that the coaching change will result in most positions being up for grabs.

That said, here’s the expected secondary roster for the start of Spring Practice next Tuesday.

2018 Spring Practice Expected Secondary Roster

Number Name Height Weight Year (as of Fall 2018)
Number Name Height Weight Year (as of Fall 2018)
1 Darnay Holmes 5-10 195 Sophomore
6 Adarius Pickett 5-11 195 R-Senior
7 Mo Osling III 6-2 185 Sophomore
9 Elijah Gates 5-10 180 R-Freshman
10 Colin Samuel 6-3 205 R-Junior
18 Octavius Spencer 5-11 180 Senior
22 Nate Meadors 5-11 195 Senior
23 Will Lockett 5-11 190 R-Junior
24 Jay Shaw 5-11 185 R-Freshman
25 Denzel Fisher 6-1 175 R-Senior
28 Keyon Riley 6-0 200 R-Sophomore
29 Ryan Parks 6-0 200 R-Freshman
33 Chase Ault 5-11 195 R-Freshman
37 Quentin Lake 6-1 185 Sophomore
39 Michael Mapes 5-8 175 R-Sophomore
47 Shea Pitts 5-11 180 R-Freshman

Hopefully, we’ll learn more about how this unit will perform as Spring Ball progresses.


Go Bruins!!!