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.
Aaron Hester 57 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1 INT, 7 PBU
Tevin McDonald 56 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 3 INT, 9 PBU
Dalton Hilliard 50 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PBU
Sheldon Price 47 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 1 INT, 6 PBU
Andrew Abbott 44 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 4 INT, 3 PBU
Projected Depth Chart
CB: SR Sheldon Price, RS SO Anthony Jefferson
FS: RSSO Tevin McDonald, RSFR Anthony Thompson
SS: RSSR Andrew Abbott, RSJR Stan McKay, RSSO Jared Koster
CB: RSSR Aaron Hester, RSJR Brandon Sermons, FR Marcus Rios
Coming In / Heading Out
In: FR Ishmael Adams, FR Justin Combs, FR Randall Goforth
Out: Tony Dye (graduation)
Heading into spring, perhaps no position at UCLA is more hot/cold than the defensive backfield. On one hand, you have a pair of senior cornerbacks in Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price who have started for multiple years – albeit with mixed results – and will be expected to be among the conference’s elite next season, especially if Demetrice Martin actually lets them be more physical.
But then you have the safety position, which just a couple years ago was supposed to undergo a seamless transition from Rahim Moore to Dietrich Riley and Co., and is now decimated by injury. With Riley questionable to resume play and Alex Mascarenas still on thin ice regarding his concussions, the Bruins are down two crucial players. Tony Dye’s decision to bypass a fifth season hurts; so does bouncing Dalton Hilliard to offense. Andrew Abbott moves to safety, but he’s undersized, and it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the run defense responsibilities.
If UCLA can make it through spring ball without any major injuries in its defensive backfield, it would be considered a minor miracle and with a talented freshman class coming in, the Bruins should be prepared going into the season. But it appears it will be a position of tension all season, given the numbers.