I’ll come right out and say it… UCLA football has a lot of great running backs and they will all do great things as Bruins. Now I will not get crazy and call the them “Running Back U” (at least not yet), but you must realize the Bruins have a lot of talented players on the roster that can run the ball.
Let’s start with a player that will be “The Man” next year and not just on this team, but in the Pac-12 as the conference’s leading rusher in 2014 returns for his junior season. With 1,575 yards, Paul Perkins was the most efficient runner in the conference last season. He never had a bad game in 2014 and was the one consistent positive throughout the season for UCLA football. This fall he will be looking to do even more.
During the recent Spring Practice, though he was seldom used (most likely to save him from possible injury), he looks better than he did last season. He is smarter, stronger and looks to be a little bit faster. That spells trouble for the rest of the Pac-12.
With those expectations, Perkins is already getting attention for some exclusive awards in 2015, namely the Heisman Trophy. The online betting site Bovada has Perkins as a 12-1 odds favorite to win the Heisman next year, though the odds have since changed to 18-1 since it was released in January.
So as it is, UCLA has a star running back who will dominate when he gets his hands on the ball next season but it gets even better… he has a fantastic supporting cast.
Sep 25, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; UCLA Bruins running back Nate Starks (23) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Nate Starks was the #3 back behind Perkins and Jordan James last season. Though he only had 32 carries, he did a lot with the little time he had with the ball. He not only has an explosive set of skills, he also did his part smashing into defenders that were trying to tackle him. Not only would he deliver a crushing blow to the opposition, but he was able to get extra yards after contact. If explosive did not describe him in 2014, it will into 2015 and beyond.
As for this year’s #3 back, during Spring Practice it was clear that redshirt freshman Craig Lee would be in the running, no pun intended, for a top spot on the depth chart. Lee also has an incredible set of skills which is highlighted by his speed and could quite possibly be the fastest running back UCLA has on the roster. He still has a little bit to learn mastering that position, but he will definitely pick up a lot of solid yards when he hits the field in the fall.
Though they may not be as utilized as the three aforementioned players, the Bruins will also have a ton of experience with seldom used Roosevelt Davis (who looked very good during this Spring) and Steven Manfro who for returns from an ACL injury.
And do you think that is it? Oh my no! UCLA football will have two fantastic running backs coming in the fall, Bolu Olorunfunmi and Soso Jamabo (the #1 high school running back in the nation last year). Though it is yet to be seen how they will fit into the Bruin’s offense, you can be sure that the running back position is secured for the next few seasons.
This may appear to be a log jam at RB, but on the contrary, UCLA looks to have played this hand wisely as they not only have talent and experience, but with development from head coach Jim Mora and running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu, the Bruins will be set for years to come in the back field. That is not coincidence, that is the #BruinRevolution at work.