UCLA Football: Three players who need a fresh start in 2018

PASADENA, CA - OCTOBER 21: Royce Freeman
PASADENA, CA - OCTOBER 21: Royce Freeman /
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PASADENA, CA – NOVEMBER 24: Patrick Laird
PASADENA, CA – NOVEMBER 24: Patrick Laird /

DeChaun Holiday

Another highly prized recruit from the 2015 class, Holiday was a one of former DB coach Demetrice Martin’s most coveted recruits. A big bodied, athletic player who played both WR and CB in high school, Holiday was going to continue to help continue the trend of talented UCLA Football secondaries. Already weighing in at 200 pounds as a freshman it was unclear if Holiday would continue to add weight and be forced to change positions or if he could survive at corner.

Those concerns were quickly realized and Holiday was moved to safety but coupled with the depth in the defensive backfield and some issues in coverage, playing time was hard to come by. He did see some action in 2016 mostly on special teams and occasional work in a linebacker role closer to the line of scrimmage. 2017 saw that move become permanent.

However a shoulder injury would cost Holiday most of his off season workouts and the first five games of the 2017 season. The Bruins were woefully short on depth at the linebacker position and a healthy Holiday could have given the defensive staff another tool in the kit. As a former DB Holiday has retained his smooth and rare athleticism but in my opinion struggles being physical enough at the point of attack. He has a solid frame but in many cases would rather use his athleticism to get around blocks rather than take them head on which can lead to poor gap discipline.

You’d like to see him being more decisive in attacking downhill and that will likely come with more experience and coaching but the physical portion has to be his choice.

Chip Kelly has had coached players who have moved from the secondary to the LB group before, namely Eddie Pleasant. The former defensive back grew into a rover/LB role and thrived as an undersized LB at the college level. Holiday is bigger, more athletic but doesn’t have that “want to” as far as hitting goes that made Pleasant such a feared tackler in the PAC-12. Will a hopefully healthy offseason and more time removed from surgery bring out the hitter in Holiday? If it does he can thrive in this defense.