Last season Coach Mora used nine different Bruins to return kickoffs and punts. Ishmael Adams was by far the most successful. On 32 kick returns, Adams averaged 22.9 yards. He also returned 16 punts averaging 3.8 per attempt.
With Adams getting the majority of the returns, it gave little chance for others to gain any experience. Let’s take a look at a few potential suitors to return kickoffs and punts for the Bruins this year.
1. Adarius Pickett, DB, Jr.
While improving dramatically on defense from his freshman year, Pickett also had a few opportunities to show off his skills returning punts. He was second on the team with eight returns for 81 yards. His best game was against Arizona where he returned three punts for 46 yards.
Using his 4.6 speed, Pickett should be able to outrun a few would be tacklers if he is able to get through the first wave of attacks. Pickett may be Mora’s first choice simply because he is starting the season as UCLA’s leading return man.
After Pickett, the choices for experienced returners get very thin. In fact, no returning Bruin besides Caleb Wilson (3) had no more than one return last year.
2. Mossi Johnson, DB, Sr.
After making the switch to defensive back for the 2017 season, Johnson may still have the desire to use his offensive skills with the ball.
In his career at UCLA, Johnson has returned just nine kickoffs and one punt. In high school as one of the best athletes on his team, Johnson returned both kickoffs and punts, averaging 17.9 yards and 23.1 yards, respectively. Rated by ESPN.com as the #51 athlete in California coming out of Crenshaw HS (CA), Johnson still has the ability to become an elusive returner if given the opportunity.
3. Octavius Spencer, DB, Jr.
Spencer has played sparingly in his first two years at UCLA, appearing in seven games last year. During his sophomore campaign, Spencer recorded 11 total tackles.
He has only returned one punt in his Bruins’ career so experience is something not on his side. But a lack of experience will be the theme for UCLA’s kick return squad to start the season. Spencer, like many Division 1 players, returned punts while in high school. At Monrovia HS (CA), the former three-star recruit was also able to show off his 4.56 speed on the track team.
At 5’11’’ 185 lbs., Spencer isn’t the biggest guy. But with his speed, strength, and (albeit limited) game experience, Spencer could be a guy Mora gives an opportunity to return both punts and kickoffs.