As the spring game inches closer and closer, Bruins fans are itching to have their questions answered—and they will be soon. Less than eight hours before the Spring Showcase, former UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. One of the biggest unknowns for UCLA this year is who will fill his shoes. That question and more will be ironed out tonight at the Rose Bowl. From break-out players to the storylines of the upcoming season, this article should give you a full run down of what to watch for.
The Running Back Battle—Count on somebody, be it Jordan James or Paul Perkins, to step up and attempt to set themselves apart. Watch for the minor details though, as spring games are never all-out, must-win affairs. If someone is struggling to hold onto the ball, either fumbling or dropping passes, that could pose an issue if they dont improve by fall. It may be RB by committee this year, especially if there is no obvious standout in tonight’s showcase.
All Eyes on Brett Hundley—Make sure to watch how Hundley’s composure has changed. See if he has shown progress from being a freshman to a seasoned veteran who knows what he’s doing. After a full season taking snaps, he has sought out to improve the necessary areas—and his passes have a lot more “zip” on ‘em. It goes without saying that UCLA’s success is closely related to Hundley’s development.
Keep Tabs on Anthony Barr—Both today and all throughout the season, follow the footsteps of LB Anthony Barr. His decision to return to the Bruins as a senior is sure to have a major influence on both his draft stock and the team. Will he play like the emerging stud LB he was last year, improve immensely, or regress? That’ll be a huge talking point going forward.
Take a Look at the Offensive Line—How has UCLA improved in trenches? The Bruins have been riddled by injuries this spring, and the freshman aren’t coming until the fall. Can the O-Line give Hundley just a few more seconds in the pocket? Just enough time to find Shaq Evans downfield or Jordan Payton streaking up the sideline?
My two breakout players this season share the same name—Devin Lucien and Devin Fuller. Neither are particularly unknown or underrated, but you can expect a lot from each of them this season. Here’s what to watch for from the Devins.
Fuller has the ability to size up and beat anyone on the field, and his soft hands are a sight to watch in action—not to mention his ability to cut on a dime. He should be a favorite target for Hundley this year.
Lucien is the perfect specimen for a receiver. He can catch anything thrown his way, has a huge wingspan and can hurdle his way downfield. He doesn’t have sheer speed like Fuller does, but he can catch in traffic and more importantly hold onto the ball. Expect plenty of highlight reel plays from this budding star.