UCLA spring football position preview

UCLA starts spring football practices at 7 a.m. Today’s Daily News covers five questions going forward, as well as position battles and key gains and losses.

As the action kicks off at Spaulding Field, here’s a quick rundown of every position group.

Quarterback — Not much to worry about here. Brett Hundley has the No. 1 spot locked down, and the inconsistencies that sometimes plagued him last season likely won’t be tested sufficiently in a practice situation. Asiantii Woulard is the heir apparent, and has the chance to show how much he’s refined his pocket presence since his redshirt season.

Receivers — Devin Fuller, Jordan Payton and Devin Lucien each bring different skill sets to the starting lineup, but it’s Lucien that might be most interesting to watch. Though his focus can drift sometimes, he has the athleticism to make dazzling plays. Eldridge Massington could be in for a breakout spring if his knee is fully healthy. Thomas Duarte will build on a promising freshman season at Y-receiver, and should become an efficient red-zone weapon.

Running back — Though Jordon James gets the presumptive nod for No. 1 as a senior, this is an open field. Paul Perkins is a little less shifty than James, who erupted for 424 yards in his first three games, but was dependable for most of last season. Redshirt freshman Craig Lee might be the most talented runner returning; if he’s caught up to the others in pass-blocking, he could make a dent in the depth chart.

Offensive line — A deep, talented group even without All-American Xaver Su’a-Filo. Jake Brendel will start his third season at center, and Alex Redmond his second at right guard. Caleb Benenoch could reprise his role at starting role at right tackle, or be moved elsewhere.

The left side of the line is much more interesting. Graduate transfer Malcolm Bunche can play both guard and tackle, and will be crucial in spring as starting left tackle Simon Goines recovers from a broken leg. Rising sophomore Scott Quessenberry started six games at left guard last season. Redshirt freshman Poasi Moala and Conor McDermott also provide depth at tackle.

Tackle Torian White remains under investigation for sexual assault, and seems unlikely to return to the team.

Defensive line — Senior Owamagbe Odighizuwa could be a star at defensive end after sitting out all of last season following two hip surgeries. Kenny Clark turned out to be a stud at nose tackle.

Eddie Vanderdoes is out for spring with a broken foot, which gives Ellis McCarthy more reps at defensive end. The rising junior will likely back up multiple positions on the line, and improved dramatically over the second half of last season. Former four-star recruit Kylie Fitts will also figure into the rotation.

Linebackers — Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt are both training for the NFL draft. Rising senior Eric Kendricks had ankle surgery in late December, and also suffered a variety of other injuries.

Still, the unit figures to be in good shape. All-everything star Myles Jack is now the leader of the defense, though he needs someone to play opposite him now that Barr is gone. A good bet might be rising junior Kenny Orjioke, though Aaron Wallace and Deon Hollins could play for that outside spot. Isaac Savaiinaea is the leading candidate to fill the void left by Zumwalt inside, but four-star recruit Zach Whitley is already enrolled and could start turning heads immediately.

Secondary — Every starter is back: Anthony Jefferson and Randall Goforth at safety, Fabian Moreau and Ishmael Adams at cornerback. There’s plenty of depth too, after two solid recruiting cycles.

Four-star recruit Johnny Johnson is back after injuring his shoulder in San Bernardino, and could push for a starting spot. Priest Willis was buried on the depth chart after coming in as a top-50 recruit, and played mostly special teams with fellow freshman Tahaan Goodman. Both need to have strong springs to fend off incoming four-star recruits Adarius Pickett — already enrolled — and Jaleel Wadood.

Special teams — Ka’imi Fairbairn had a promising offseason last year, but looked more or less like the same kicker as a sophomore: very reliable inside of 35 yards or so, but hard to trust beyond that. Sean Covington, meanwhile, made the transition from Ray Guy semifinalist Jeff Locke about as smooth as imaginable.

Ishmael Adams will likely be the starting kick/punt returner after reeling off 315 yards over two games late last season. Randall Goforth could get a look there too.

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  • Jakub Ramir

    Exciting! Our present team is going to pummel dismantle and destroy!

    • NOBSisdaMAN

      Right. Layoff the Kool Aid.

      • Idaho88

        Didn’t you just tell someone else to find some new material? You mention Kool Aid a lot…

  • Bruin 34

    We should dominate most opponents!

  • Bruin 34

    Torian White released by Mora.

  • The Big Woof!

    I just heard that Joe/Nobs/Fake Bucket has just enrolled as a freshman at UCLA with four years of eligibility and plans to compete for the starting qb job next year. This absolutely assures us of 4 more seasons of trouncing sc and proves his unquestionable loyalty to the Bruin family.

  • Chris Le

    I second motion that big Woof