There are now five more days until UCLA football hosts the Nevada Wolf Pack to start off the 2013 campaign. And, really, we it can’t come soon enough.
What that means, though, is that there’s five more days to speculate and predict what these Bruins will look like this year. Five more days of fodder, and five more days to take one real hard look at this squad before they’re sent off to battle.
So let’s go step-by-step and preview this team position-by-position. First up? UCLA’s receivers.
The Depth Chart
According to Jack Wang of the LA Daily News, the projected depth chart looks a little something like this:
WR1: Shaq Evans. (BACKUP: Devin Lucien)
WR2: Jordan Payton. (BACKUP: Eldridge Massington)
F Receiver: Devin Fuller. (BACKUP: Darren Andrews)
Y Receiver: Thomas Duarte. (BACKUP: Darius Bell)
Likely nothing will change for Noel Mazzone. In the passing game, he’ll look to get the ball out of quarterback Brett Hundley’s hands quick, and he’ll want to spread the field (and the ball) as much as possible.
With that, don’t expect a single receiver to be targeted astronomically more than any other receiver. Instead, expect an ensemble cast contributing to the passing game, mainly by gaining major yardage in open space. Also, try not to get too frustrated with the screens and the dump-offs; this is Noel Mazzone’s spread, after all.
Who could explode this season?
But don’t be surprised if Shaq Evans explodes this year. Last season, he proved brilliant when he was targeted. Most notably, in a terrible offensive outing against Oregon State at the Rose Bowl last year, Evans was the lone bright spot, earning six receptions for a whopping 148 yards. While he never matched that kind of production, he came close against USC later on with an eight-reception, 114-yard performance. While he won’t get targeted significantly more than, say, Jordan Payton, he’ll have chances to prove he’s a star.
Don’t count out Devin Fuller either. Noel Mazzone’s offense gives quick athletes a real shot to succeed, mainly due to the fact that the majority of big gains come from short passes which forces defenders to cover such quick athletes one-on-one. Given Fuller’s athleticism, and increasing experience at wide-out, he could break out in 2013.
Who could disappear?
This space is designated for players who we figured to be major contributors but wound up fading away, likely due to performance.
The No. 1 candidate here? Devin Lucien, who, according to Wang, has been very inconsistent this offseason. This comes after a shoulder injury midway through the 2012 campaign; prior to that, Lucien was poised to start the entire season, meaning the injury may have set Lucien back far more than we anticipated.
(Steven Manfro is also in danger of fading out, but he’s back with the running backs after a stint at F receiver.)
This unit seems to be OK. There’s a healthy mix of youth and experience at receiver, with Shaq Evans, a senior, leading the way. The newcomer, Eldridge Massington, won’t have to carry much of the load, and Devin Fuller, perhaps the youngest and most inexperienced in the group, earned some playing time and got to develop his skills at receiver this offseason.
We deem this unit to be a strong point for the Bruins.