UCLA Football: 5 Players Who Should See Their Roles Expand in 2014
The UCLA Bruins are in an interesting position for the 2014 season.
Jim Mora's team is very young. The majority of the squad is comprised of freshmen and sophomores. As a result, there won't be much turnover when looking at this upcoming year from a lineup standpoint.
Not including freshmen or redshirt freshmen, four Bruins in particular have a chance to see an expanded role heading into 2014.
Here's a look at those five individuals.
UCLA has the monumental task of replacing all-everything linebacker Anthony Barr.
Aaron Wallace, Deon Hollins and Kenny Orjioke will all get a shot at winning the vacant starting spot. Of the three, Orjioke will see the most time.
At 6'4", 240 pounds, Orjioke has the prototype frame for the hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end position. He registered only 11 tackles last season in a reserve role. However, he did have two sacks and a blocked punt (which led to a touchdown).
Orjioke has immense upside. Now a junior, he's ready to take the next step in becoming an impact player.
The Two Devins
With leading receiver Shaq Evans graduating, the existing options at the position will have to step up and fill the void.
Two leading candidates include juniors Devin Fuller and Devin Lucien.
Fuller is the quickest and most agile receiver on the roster. He's equipped with the skill set to become a virtual nightmare to defend against in the slot and on underneath crossing routes.
Fuller was second on the team last year with 43 receptions. Expect him to become even more of a focal point in the offense this season for quarterback Brett Hundley.
Lucien has a chance to be the big-play receiver for the Bruins. His 17.8 yards per reception was among the best on the team last year. Now a redshirt junior, Lucien is primed for a breakout season.
Much like the aforementioned receivers, expect Thomas Duarte to expand upon his solid freshman campaign in 2014.
The Mater Dei High School product started much of last year at the Y position, and while he only registered 16 catches on the season, it was clear he has the ability to be an impact player down the line.
Duarte is a difficult cover for a myriad of reasons. He runs crisp routes and gets good separation from defenders. He is generally faster than linebackers and bigger than defensive backs. Depth at the Y is also relatively thin.
For all of the reasons stated above, it would be a mild surprise to not see Duarte double his statistical output from 2013.
How can Myles Jack be on this list?
The talented sophomore was in all likelihood the best true freshman in the country last season.
His ability on the field is unquestioned. It's very likely he will build upon a season in which he was named as both the Offensive Freshman of the Year and Defensive Freshman of the Year in the Pac-12.
Furthermore, his role as a leader will be enhanced this season. Gone are the likes of veterans Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt. Jack will pair with Eric Kendricks to form the heart of UCLA's defense in 2014.
It's expected Jack will need to be more vocal on the field. Though only a sophomore, his talent and impact dictates a role far greater than his academic year indicates.
People also fail to realize Jack played on offense in only four games last year. His involvement in the backfield will surely increase in 2014.