In honor of Thousand Oaks’ hottest new burger joint, here are five UCLA players to watch, and why…
1) Kevin Prince
Come on, is this really a surprise?
2) Nelson Rosario
No Bruin made bigger strides toward the end of last season than Rosario, who averaged nearly 88 yards per game over the last six contests. Rosario matured both physically and mentally, and that was the key for him – knowing how to position himself for the ball and running crisper routes. Against Kansas State’s slight cornerbacks – 5-8 Terrance Sweeney and 5-7 David Garrett – Rosario should be featured.
3) Damien Holmes
No player benefitted from offseason injury than Holmes, at least in playing time. Holmes was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school – Scout.com’s No. 56 recruit of ’07 – but was behind Datone Jones. Now, much is riding on his shoulders, and he’s looked great in camp.
4) Josh Smith
Smith’s burst and ability to change directions has already been on display, but just wait until he sees some live action. Game-changing returners do extensive damage early in the season, when tackling and special teams coverage work is largely ignored. Watch for Smith to get one or two solid returns, but don’t expect a touchdown – those are pretty hard to come by.
5) Micah Kia/Sean Sheller
So I cheated by listing two, but they’re equally important. They’ve each looked reliable during camp, but they’ll need to be more than reliable for UCLA to take the next leap. They’ll need to be downright good, as in, at least competing for all-Pac-10 honorable mention selections. In the new offense, they’ll be able to use their considerable size at the second and third levels, particularly Kia, who’s downright huge. If both can not only give Prihaut some decent protection, but also perform in the running game, UCLA will have a big day.