UCLA Football: Christian Pabico has more than earned a chance for a scholarship

PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 26: Wide receiver Jordan Lasley
PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 26: Wide receiver Jordan Lasley /

UCLA football’s walk-on WR Christian Pabico has been an inspiration for the Bruins and because of his work ethic and production on the field, should be offered a scholarship.

The UCLA football team is in an interesting position with their receivers during spring practice. One could say the receiving corps are in “limbo” because (1) they lose five receivers to graduation and the NFL Draft and (2) they are waiting for their highly-touted freshmen receivers to get to Westwood.

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Until then, WR coach Jimmie Dougherty has to work and develop with only a handful of players during spring, and among them, only three caught a pass last season: Theo Howard, Demetric Felton and Christian Pabico. Of those three, one is not like the others.

Pabico, the receiver that had a bit of break out season in 2017, is the only one that is not on scholarship.

Though #17 is only a walk-on, he was part of the reason UCLA had a stellar passing attack in 2017 (344.5 yards per game through the air, 4th in the nation) which was directed by soon-to-be first round NFL Draft selection Josh Rosen. After a disastrous 2016 season, former head coach Jim Mora brought in Jedd Fisch and Dougherty to change the direction of the offense and it paid dividends.

UCLA had talented receivers, but there was not a lot of depth. Darren Andrews, Jordan Lesley, Eldridge Massington, Austin Roberts and Alex Van Dyke had the skills and experience, but they needed help. That is when the walk-on rose up.

During the 2017 fall camp, Pabico was called upon because he not only had the drive, but he was turning heads with the connections he was making with Rosen and was working quite a bit with the first and second teams.

By the time the season started, he was a key member of the receiving corps. His appearance was not an accident or a need to fill a spot because of depth, he had become part of the game plan. That became more and more evident as he not only saw time on the field (he played in all 13 games last year), he was getting more looks.

Pabico finished 2017 with 18 receptions for 280 yards (5th on the team), averaged 21.5 yards per game (5th on the team) and had one touchdown (that went for 31 yards). He was also second on the team in yards per catch (for a receiver with over ten receptions) with 15.6.

On top of that, he has showed that he can move with the ball as he had a long reception of 49 yards and a season-high of 99 yards (on four catches) against Oregon. But it is not just the stats that he has put up which makes him vital to UCLA’s passing game, it his understanding of the offense. Check out this block he put out for Lasley during the Cactus Bowl back in December…

So one year later, as he is now one of the veterans, it is time to reward him for his efforts. Though I am not in position to tell a coaching staff what to do, it is time to offer Pabico a much reserved scholarship, and not just because he was a reliable receiver, but because he has put on the time and effort like everyone else on Spaulding Field.

UCLA had a exemplary class of receivers sign with the Bruins back in February, which includes Kyle Phillips and Chase Cota, who are currently participating in spring practice, but this fall will also have the services of Bryan Addison, Michael Ezeike and Delon Hunt. So there will be more options with the receivers, but you can’t substitute for experience.

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Even if Pabico is in a limited role, what he brings to the Bruins will make the team better. So with that in mind, hopefully the soon-to-be redshirt senior can celebrate his final season in Westwood as a bona fide scholarship player.