Imagining What Bruins' Starting Lineup Will Look Like in 3 Years
The future appears to be very bright for Jim Mora and the UCLA Bruins.
In only two seasons, the head coach and his staff have managed to replenish a roster that was initially void of young talent. Freshmen and sophomores are littered all across the current depth chart. Indeed, a majority of the roster from this past year was made up of underclassmen.
When taking a look ahead to 2016, it's easy to see why the Bruins should have a good shot at sustained success.
This piece will take a look at the potential starting lineup in 2016. The projected lineup for all units will not include potential or future recruits. Only 2014 signees and existing members of the roster will be included here.
Here's a look at the potential 2016 starting lineup for the UCLA Bruins.
Projected Starter: Asiantii Woulard, junior
As it would currently stand in 2016, Woulard and 2014 signee Aaron Sharp would be the only scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.
Conventional wisdom suggests the addition of other scholarship quarterbacks in the future. In this case, we can only go upon the two signal-callers on the present roster. Assuming Brett Hundley leaves after the 2014 season, Woulard will have had one year as the starting quarterback leading up to the 2016 season.
The Winter Park, Fla. native was named as the MVP at the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback competition in 2012. Not only does he possess a very strong arm, but he's also an intelligent athlete.
Although depth isn't strong at the position, Woulard gives UCLA a very capable option going forward.
Projected Starter: Craig Lee, junior
The running back position is somewhat up in the air going forward.
Lee—a 2013 signee—redshirted this past season. Paul Perkins played in a reserve role and rushed for 573 yards in 2013. UCLA also brought on Nathan Starks in 2014. Unlike Lee and Perkins, he is more in the mold of a power back.
Both Perkins and Starks appear to be complementary backs at this point. Perkins is adept at catching passes out of the backfield. He'd be a good option as a third-down back. Starks should be called upon in short-yardage situations.
Lee could be the most complete back of the trio. Based on his high school tape, the tailback from Redlands, Calif. hits the hole hard and explodes forward into open space. He also runs with surprising power for a back of his size.
All three should combine to make up a potent backfield for the Bruins in 2016.
Projected Starters: Eldridge Massington, junior; Alex Van Dyke, junior; Darren Andrews, senior
UCLA should have a deep and talented wide receiver corps by the time 2016 rolls around.
Eldridge Massington will be fully recovered from an ACL injury that he suffered in high school. The 6'1" receiver has explosive speed. Expect him to be a big-play receiver for the Bruins in '16.
Darren Andrews should assume the role as the slot receiver. Like Massington, he has a ton of speed. He should be dynamic on crossing routes underneath and on short passes in the slot.
UCLA signed Alex Van Dyke in 2014. The 6'4" receiver has excellent ball skills. With a bit of refinement, he should be a terror on jump balls and fades.
Jordan Lasley, Jalen Ortiz, Austin Roberts and Kenny Walker should also figure into the mix behind the aforementioned trio.
Projected Starter: Thomas Duarte, senior
Tight end is the easiest position to predict due to Thomas Duarte.
The Mater Dei High School product started this past season as a true freshman. He finished his freshman campaign with 16 catches for 214 yards and three touchdowns.
As he gets older, expect him to improve physically. He should be able get both bigger and stronger in his upper body. Duarte's ability to block on the edge should also continue to be enhanced.
Projected Starters: (LT) Poasi Moala, junior; (LG) Alex Redmond, senior; (C) Scott Quessenberry, senior; (RG) Kenny Lacy, junior; (RT) Caleb Benenoch, senior
This unit could end up as the most talented on the team by 2016.
Assuming UCLA doesn't have any early defections to the NFL, Benenoch and Redmond will have started since their freshman seasons.
Two four-year starters on the offensive line usually provide recipe for success. Quessenberry will have also played extensively since his freshman year. He'll be a seasoned player and should take over for Jake Brendel at center.
Lacy and Moala both redshirted as freshmen in 2013. Moala might have the most upside of any offensive lineman on the roster. He's long, athletic and blessed with wonderful mobility.
Again, this group should be very impressive in a few years.
Projected Starters: (LDE) Kylie Fitts, senior; (NG) Ainuu Taua, junior; (RDE) Matt Dickerson, junior
This is one of the most difficult groups to predict. It's feasible to surmise that both Eddie Vanderdoes and Kenny Clark will leave early for the NFL. The duo started as true freshmen and performed extremely well.
If Vanderdoes and Clark do stick around until 2016, they'll both be seniors. For the sake of this piece, I'll assume both move onto the next level before their fourth years.
Both Fitts and Dickerson are prototypical jumbo defensive ends in a 3-4 scheme. Taua, a 2014 signee, is an energetic, physical player. He will battle Eli Ankou for the starting nose guard spot.
This group does bring a lot of versatility. Taua and Dickerson have the ability to play at virtually every spot on the defensive line. Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich will have multiple options going forward from a schematic standpoint.
Projected Starters: (LOLB) Zach Whitley, junior; (ILB) Kenny Young, junior; (ILB) Isaako Savaiinaea, senior; (ROLB) Dwight Williams, junior
As it is the case with Vanderdoes and Clark, it's unrealistic to believe Myles Jack will stick around for a senior season. If he continues on the same trajectory for the next two seasons, he'll be a high NFL draft pick.
With that in mind, look for 2014 signees Zach Whitley, Dwight Williams and Kenny Young to play prevalent roles in 2016. It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see Whitley start as a true freshman in 2014.
His best position could be in the middle, but with Savaiinaea and Young also in the fold, Whitley could transition out to the edge. In essence, UCLA will want to get its top four linebackers on the field at the same time.
Savaiinaea will be the most experienced member of the bunch. As a senior in 2016, he'll be quarterbacking the defense as an inside 'backer. With Williams' athleticism, he should be a nice option rushing the quarterback and also dropping in coverage.
Keep an eye out for Cameron Judge, Jayon Brown, Deon Hollins and Cameron Griffin. Any of them could start at some point during their careers.
Projected Starters: Johnny Johnson, junior; Tahaan Goodman, senior; Priest Willis, senior; Adarius Pickett, junior; Ishmael Adams, senior
The secondary will likely be the deepest of any unit in 2016. UCLA signed four defensive backs in 2013 and five in 2014 (with the addition of grayshirt Mossi Johnson).
Ishmael Adams will be the veteran of the group. His best position eventually could be nickelback, especially since UCLA likes to play with five defensive backs a majority of the time.
Goodman and Willis have the highest upsides of the group. Goodman in particular performed very well toward the end of his freshman campaign.
Versatility is the defining characteristic of this group. Virtually every prospect has the ability to play as both a corner and a safety.
Although not listed in the initial starting group, Adarius Pickett, Jaleel Wadood and Denzel Fisher have the ability to become eventual starters down the road.
Projected Starters: (K) Unknown; (P) Sean Covington, senior; (PR) Jalen Ortiz, senior; (KR) Darren Andrews, senior
Special teams has been decent, although not spectacular, during Mora's tenure in Westwood.
Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn will have graduated by the time 2016 rolls around. He's been plagued by inconsistency throughout his first two seasons with the Bruins. As of now, there isn't another scholarship kicker on the roster.
Punter Sean Covington started this past season as a true freshman. He had an average of 41.94 yards per punt in his first year, per CFBStats.com. His arrival has solidified the position for the next three seasons.
Ortiz and Andrews should add a dynamic element to the return game, which has been sorely lacking for the past few seasons. Quicker than fast, the diminutive Ortiz is elusive in space.
Andrews is one of the fastest players on the roster. His overall pure speed is something to watch for in the future.