With UCLA Football players being excluded from various preseason award watch lists, it shows that the Bruins, although looking to improve in 2016, have several positional needs, specifically with a lack of elite position players.
Both this week and next week there will be several award watch lists announced. So far the UCLA Football team already has two players named to two big awards.
On Tuesday, QB Josh Rosen was named to the Maxwell Award watch list while DT Eddie Vanderdoes was named to the Bednarik. So far, with six award watch lists announced, only two Bruins have been named. Yesterday and today four more awards revealed their lists, but not a single Bruin was on any of them.
Not having a Bruin named to the Rimington (best center), Mackey (best TE), Lou Groza (best kicker) and the Ray Guy (best punter) award watchlist is not a bad thing. A team cannot have elite players at every position, unless your mascot is an elephant. But this does raise concerns about not having a necessary amount of elite positional players on the UCLA football team.
Let’s take the four awards above for example. The Bruins lost last year’s preseason Mackey award watch lister Thomas Duarte. Who is stepping up in his place? It is not Chris Clark, I’ll tell you that.
Clark, the former 5-star tight end, seemed to be the heir apparent at TE, but he left UCLA just after one game in 2015. Though it was an awkward exit, it did raise concerns with UCLA mainly as UCLA did not consistently use a TE.
It was only after his exit that UCLA hired a tight end coach and made the move to have a more consistent tight end position. This year we will see how Nate Iese or Austin Roberts or someone else altogether does with the position in this new offense, but right now it is a big unknown.
It is the same with the center and the kicking positions. It is hard to predict how good the next man up will be after the last players in those positions started for multiple seasons. So there’s a little bit of leeway here, but not a lot.
And what about positions like punter, wide receiver or linebacker? This year the Bruins will be without P Matt Mangel who is looking for an in with the NFL. Though we wish him luck, he did not exactly set the world on fire in 2015 and probably would not be named to the Ray Guy watch list this year even if he did come back to UCLA in 2016. Luckily, like the kicking position, the Bruins have a few good freshmen coming in the fall, but it is still unknown how they will perform in a game situation, which is why they are not on any of these lists.
With UCLA losing three wide receivers, they do not have that one guy that opposing defensive coordinators fear. Though they will add speed with Darren Andrews, Ishmael Adams and Theo Howard, aside from Andrews (who is good, bit did not have the production last year to be labelled “elite”) we just do not know about the rest of these receivers.
This may have a little bit to do with recruiting and development, but sometimes players just do not fulfill their (perceived) potential.
Still, the cabinet is not bare. The Bruins will have a few more names on some coming award watch lists. And in regards to the rest of the roster, the Bruins have a lot of youth with a lot of talent, despite not making watch lists. Right now, UCLA just needs to keep working with that talent to try and make it elite.