It is almost time for Spring Training, so Go Joe Bruin takes a look at six players that should standout and will likely be next season’s top playmakers.
It is just over a week until the UCLA football team gets back on the gridiron and prepares for the 2019 season as Spring Training is set to begin on Tuesday, March 5.
With the Bruins entering Year 2 of the Chip Kelly era, UCLA looks to take a step forward on offense and defense and that will manifest with these six players leading the way…
More from Go Joe Bruin
- UCLA Football: It’s time for the nation to meet Dante Moore
- UCLA Football: Where are they ranked heading into week 4
- UCLA Football: Position battle breakdown for Utah showdown
- UCLA vs. Utah: Location, time, prediction, and more
- UCLA Football: Highlights from Chip Kelly’s appearance on the Jim Rome Show
Krys Barnes, ILB
The UCLA linebackers had a lot of injuries and little depth, which forced younger and more experienced players into the fray. It also forced backup players into starting roles which gave them experience and sped up their development. One of those was Krys Barnes who was outstanding throughout the season as he grew up before our eyes. Barnes was a defender that was all over the field and making plays in every single game. Last year he was second in tackles (85) and tackles for a loss (10.0). Barnes was a good defender last year, but we should see him make the leap to great defender as well as a leader on defense. That all begins next week.
Theo Howard, WR
This is going to be Theo Howard’s year. This super-athletic receiver has had to play behind some talented pass catchers in his first three years, but now he will be the go-to guy. Last season, Howard was second on the team in receiving yards behind Caleb Wilson with 677 on 51 catches, so thise numbers will definitely increase next season. And by the way, Howard did not drop a single ball last season, expect this speedy handyman to build off of that in spring as he prepares for solid 2019 season. One that I predict will put him in the running for All-Pac-12 First Team next year.
Keisean Lucier-South, OLB
The KLS has rocked you and he will continue to rock you. Keisean Lucier-South was an iron man last year as he took the weight of the defense upon his shoulders when others went down with injuries. Though he was not the primary pass rusher, he led the team in TFLs (11.5) and sacks (4.0). He also had one interception, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, one of which was returned for a touchdown. On the pass rush or in coverage, Lucier-South was one of the most relaible defenders last season. So what is next for the KLS? More domination.
Though it was an up and down first season for Dorian Thompson-Robinson, it was one that he needed and this spring we will see how learning from an experienced QB like Wilton Speight will help him grow into the leader of the offense. Injuries kept DTR out of a lot of games, especially in the second half of the season, but when he was in control of the offense, he made major developments from game to game. Expect that prgoress to continue during training.
Darnay Holmes, CB
It can be argued that Darnay Holmes will be one of the best defenders on the team next year. The downside of this is that 2019 could he last year in blue and gold but the upside is that he should continue to best one of the best defensive backs in the Pac-12… and quite possibly the nation. Aside from being the Bruin with the fifth-most tackles on the team (48), Holmes was first in pass breakups (11) and interceptions (3). As the best pass defender on the team, Holmes is going to give the UCLA receivers a tough time in spring.
Joshua Kelley, RB
Probably the biggest star on this team is Joshua Kelley. After a breakout 2018 season, where he ran for 1,243 yards and averaged 113.0 per game, he has set himself up for a monstrous 2019. This spring, he will continue to be the featured back, though the reps should be evenly distributed among all the other RBs. But when the ball gets into Kelley’s hands, expect fireworks.
Here is the full schedule for UCLA football’s Spring Training.