UCLA spring football: Bruins looking for offensive weapons to aide Brett Hundley this spring

Doug Pensinger

The Bruins have a number of players who could step up at running back, receiver or tight end.

The return of Brett Hundley, despite the potential to be a Top Five draft pick in this year's draft has been the catalyst to many anointing UCLA as the clear cut favorite to win the Pac-12 South and a pre-season Top 10 team in 2014. Along with Hundley, the Bruins have young, but supremely talented and quickly tested offensive line, defensive line, linebackers and secondaries bolstering their pre-season hype. However, the Bruins have been lacking in offensive playmakers outside to help out Hundley and they are assuredly searching for playmakers to start emerging during spring practice.

The Bruins had some success running the ball with a running back by committee, especially with linebacker Myles Jack in the red zone, but they truly lacked a back like former-Bruin Johnathan Franklin that they could consistently count on, or a true big play back that could scare defenses. When healthy, senior Jordon James is probably their best overall option as a balanced back that can break big runs and rack up yardage and he ran for more than 100 yards in the first three games of 2013 before getting hurt.

If Jones can't step up or stay healthy, I think sophomore Paul Perkins has the best chance of the rest of becoming Hundley's best backfield mate. He is the best receiver of the group, with nearly 300 yards receiving in 2013 and ran for the most touchdowns of any of the true running backs on the roster. Junior Steven Manfro could also fill this role and he was the star of the 2013 spring game, but only lightly produced in 2013.

Of course, the biggest decision regarding backfield weapons this spring, might be the use of sophomore linebacker Myles Jack. Jack started carrying the ball for the Bruins out of desperation in late 2013 and emerged as one of the best red zone backs in the conference with seven touchdowns, but I'm sure the Bruins would prefer to have him primarily focus on defense. It will be interesting to see how Jack is used during the spring to get a hint towards how much they will rely on him in 2014.

Even with the running back situation being kind of cloudy, the Bruins are in even more dire need of emerging stars at receiver than running back heading into spring. Gone is 2013's leading receiver Shaquelle Evans, and left is a mix of receivers with potential, but little production.

Junior Devin Fuller is the best athlete of the group, the leading returning receiver and has the most big play potential. Watch for him to potentially start developing into a go-to-guy during the spring. Junior Jordan Payton is their big option at 6'1 212 and should start having more opportunities with Evans gone. Look to see if he will get more jump ball opportunities starting this spring. The third returning proven receiver is another Devin, Lucien, and could surprise and out-produce the other Devin as he really came on late in the season, accumulating almost all of his stats in the final five games of the season.

The Bruins also signed two heralded receivers in Austin Roberts and Alex Van Dyke in the Class of 2014, but I do not believe that either will take part in spring practice.

Hundley also has another young option at tight end that needs to start taking the next step this spring in sophomore Thomas Duarte. Duarte is smaller, receiving-focused tight end at 6'3 221 who could end up being the best pass-catching tight end in the entire conference if he can continue to progress.

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