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.”