UCLA Football: Six Bruins that need to step up and be great in 2019

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Dorian Thompson-Robinson #7 of the UCLA Bruins passes during the second quarter against the Fresno State Bulldogs at Rose Bowl on September 15, 2018 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Dorian Thompson-Robinson #7 of the UCLA Bruins passes during the second quarter against the Fresno State Bulldogs at Rose Bowl on September 15, 2018 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The UCLA football team is on the rise, but they will not take that next step into greatness unless six Bruins can be great themselves.

At the start of every season, UCLA football fans are usually quite optimistic about their team, despite what happened in the previous season. The 2019 season will be no different as we get to see the next phase of the Chip Kelly era.

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In 2019, the Bruins have a chance to build off the momentum they garnered at the end of the 2018 season. The Bruins have an opportunity to take another step forward in Kelly’s second year, but that won’t happen unless specific individuals step up and have a standout season. With that in mind, Go Joe Bruin looks at six players that need to be great individually to make UCLA great collectively next season.

JJ Molson, K

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The senior kicker has been reliable in every season he has been with the Bruins. He was even more of a commodity last season when it seemed field goals were the only way to get points on the board for the Bruins, especially early on. Molson hit a total of 14/19 from the field last season, with 7/12 from beyond 40 yards and 1/4 from 50+. If the Bruins once again struggle at the start of the season, Molson will have to have the hot foot and keep UCLA in several games, which is not very difficult for him. Either way, after three years with the program, he will be automatic in 2019.

Boss Tagaloa, C

It is a bit surprising that UCLA’s offensive line did so much better as the season went on. It is even more of a surprise that they did so well with a first-year OL anchoring the line. It is three times as surprising knowing that Tagaloa missed the first three games of the season due to suspension, and the line still made massive improvements. So with a full year under his belt, a whole spring advancing his skills at center (rather than learning on the job like last year) and an entire season to work with (fingers crossed he doesn’t face another multi-game suspension), Tagaloa will have the offensive line in top form. And if you have an OL in top form, that will do wonders for the run and passing game.

Keisean Lucier-South, OLB

It was unfortunate that we did not get to see KLS in the second part of spring practice as he was taking care of the academic side of the student-athlete label, but Chip Kelly said he would be back by summer so we can all take a deep sigh of relief. Lucier-South is arguably the best defender on the team. Not only did he take on a more significant load last season, especially with so many injuries (this shows leadership) but he was the best pass rusher on the team (this shows skill). If he can come back from his brief absence stronger and with a purpose, especially in his final season, we will see a very dangerous linebacker in the fall.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB

DTR is QB1. With Wilton Speight moving on, the reins of Chip Kelly’s UCLA offense are now in the hands of the sophomore dual-threat. Thompson-Robinson showed a lot of growth last season and this spring which he will need to lead the team in 2019. One of the knocks on DTR was his inaccuracy throwing the ball. If he can improve on that, which it looks like he has started to do, QB1 will lead UCLA to a lot of success.

Osa Odighizuwa, DE

There was not a de facto leader on the defensive line last season, so it is imperative that Odighizuwa becomes that leader. The Bruins’ defense struggled in maintaining a consistent pass rush and struggled a bit in their run defense. Although both of those aspects of the defense improved from the previous season, analyzing the Bruins’ potential shows that they are capable of so much more, especially Odighizuwa. He started to fit into his role under Jerry Azzinaro as 2018 progressed, but taking his talents to the next level will exponentially help the defense limit the run and get at the ball carrier, especially in the backfield. Odighizuwa only had 29 total tackles, six tackles for a loss and three sacks last season, but we expect those numbers to improve next season significantly, just because he has the potential to be a fantastic defensive end.

Theo Howard, WR

It is already assumed that Howard is going to be great, but he has to go out and prove it. Everyone knew that Howard would be a star coming out of high school and though he has had flashes of greatness in his first three years, his breakout season should come in 2019. With Caleb Wilson moving onto the NFL, Howard will be the go-to receiver. Last year, Howard had 51 receptions for 677 yards (56.4 yards per game), but what was an even more of a mind-blowing stat was the fact that he did not miss on the 51 passes thrown his way.

UCLA Football: 2019 Post-Spring Game Projected Depth Chart. dark. Next

That’s right, Howard did not have a drop in 2018, and that is some impressive stuff. If this is a prelude to what will happen in his final season in Westwood, then every man, woman, and child should be excited for Howard in 2019.