Spring Ball Preview: Running Backs

As part of my UCLA spring ball preview, we break down the position groupings. With a new coaching staff, the competition should be fierce in the spring, as few players did much too cement starting roles going into spring ball. The Bruins are going to more of a base spread offense and a base 3-4 defense – though they will mix packages and personnel frequently – so take into account the changes. This is only a spring preview, so only freshmen who are participating – T.J. Millweard and Marcus Rios – will be listed.

Running Backs

Looking Back
Johnathan Franklin 166 rushes for 976 yards (5.9 ypc) with five touchdowns
Malcolm Jones 25 rushes for 103 yards (4.1 ypc) with one touchdown
Jordon James 20 rushes for 54 yards (2.7) with one touchdown

Projected Depth Chart
RS Sr Johnathan Franklin
JR Malcolm Jones
RS So Jordon James
SR Dalton Hilliard
RS FR Steven Manfro

Coming In / Heading Out
In: FR Fabian Moreau
Out: SR Derrick Coleman (graduation)

For a senior running back who just came up short of his second straight 1,000-yard season, there is surprisingly little buzz on Johnathan Franklin. His decision to return to the team instead of entering his name in the NFL Draft was met with relatively little excitement, even though it was a crucial factor for the team’s fortunes. Franklin has developed into a true leader and entering his fifth year, he definitely has the respect of his teammates as a captain. Here in spring ball, though, we’ll see if he can adapt into more of a space runner, as Noel Mazzone’s spread offense creates openings for playmakers.
Malcolm Jones and Jordon James, meanwhile, have 15 practices to stake their claim as offensive factors after being surprisingly limited in their productivity last season. Dalton Hilliard and Steven Manfro can be considered X-factors, as neither are known quantities. Hilliard is a good athlete, but his lateral quickness will be a tell-tale sign of his value at running back, and Manfro is your classic undersized practice hero, and if he can escape the height stigma, maybe Mazzone gives him a shot.