Freshman Nathan Starks could debut soon in UCLA backfield

After junior Steve Manfro tore his ACL on Tuesday, a spot opened up on UCLA’s running back depth chart. Nate Starks might be the most likely candidate to move up when the Bruins’ host Memphis this weekend.

“It’ll be fun to watch him play Saturday night,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said of the 5-11, 205-pound freshman. “A little bit bigger kid for us. Out of our norm. It’ll be fun to hand him the ball.”

Now out for the 2014 season, Manfro collected 107 rushing yards and 113 receiving yards in 2013. He had occupied the No. 3 spot behind senior Jordon James and sophomore Paul Perkins — who rushed for 80 yards against Virginia last Saturday and appears to have clinched a spot as the Bruins’ starter.

Starks hasn’t played yet this season, but was a four-star prospect who was rated the third-best 2014 recruit in Colorado. He is also the only tailback on the Bruins’ roster listed at more than 200 pounds.

“He’s really impressed me,” head coach Jim Mora said a week ago. “The first time we worked on Virginia (preparation) … all of a sudden, it was like, ‘Who are you? Where have you been?’ You’ve seen it out here in practice, when he’s doing service team stuff, working with the offense a little bit. He looks explosive. He looks more confident.”

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  • LCBruin

    I can’t believe nobody asked about the play calling to counter the blitzes. That has been the perceived short coming of Mazzone’s scheme and it has been the biggest topic of discussion on the various fan forums. We can expect many of our future opponents will learn from the Virginia game and attack our offense with similarly aggressive blitzing defenses. I am really disappointed that we didn’t get a change to understand Mazzone’s thought process on the subject.

    • Hogsman

      In light of how poorly the O-line was executing, it may not have mattered what plays were called. Hundley wasn’t getting any time to set his feet, and any running plays were dead in the water because of non-existent blocking. But I agree that they needed to stop running James – he just isn’t big or strong enough to break tackles. Maybe you were suggesting that they roll out Hundley more – I can agree with that.

  • jameskatt

    I hope that Nathan Starks can be UCLA’s first Power Tail Back. We have had a lot of finesse running backs. But I would like to see a runner who punishes the opponents and bursts for long runs, who will insure we make first down on third and 3 yards – even with a weak and disorganized front line. Such a running back would take a lot of pressure off Brett Hundley.

  • EncinitasBruin

    Look forward to seeing Starks. My question: what the heck happened to Jordon James? Last year at this time he was one of the leading rushers in the NATION, and looked spectacular (prior to his injury in week #4). Anyone?