<
>

How UCLA will replace WRs Jordan Payton and Thomas Duarte

In his first year, quarterback Josh Rosen was heavily reliant on a number of players who departed following last season.

The two most noteworthy, Jordan Payton and Thomas Duarte, combined for 131 catches for 1,978 yards. Those totals represented 43.7 percent of UCLA’s total receptions and 52.8 percent of its receiving yards. Darren Andrews had a nice season, finishing third on the team with 43 catches for 443 yards, but he’s the only returning player that had a significant statistical contribution in 2015. The Bruins’ fourth- and fifth-leading pass catchers, running back Paul Perkins and receiver Devin Fuller, are also gone, which further stresses the Rosen’s need for help.

The first big move UCLA made to address its lack of experience at receiver was bringing cornerback Ishmael Adams over to offense. With the secondary among the team’s strengths, the move made sense. Adams proved in the return game that he was dangerous with the ball in his hands and his role on defense was important, but not to the point where any drop off without him would have created insurmountable problems. There were some expected growing pains in the spring in terms, notably with route-running, but the transition drew overwhelmingly positive reviews from Rosen and the UCLA coaches. If he’s not a starter, he still figures to play a key role.

Eldridge Massington looked primed for a big year in 2015 after catching 25 passes and starting nine games as a freshman the year before, but it just didn’t materialize for the Texan. He caught just 11 passes, only four of which came in UCLA wins. That has to change. He’s too talented a player not provide more of an impact, and as an upperclassmen, will need to take on more of an assertive role on the team. If not, UCLA would have to look at younger players like Theo Howard, who was a much-anticipated early-enrollee this spring. Howard instantly becomes one of the Bruins’ fastest players and is expected to play in the opener against Texas A&M.

There are a few other guys with solid breakout potential -- Kenny Walker, Austin Roberts, Stephen Johnson, Alex Van Dyke, Mossi Johnson all have something to offer -- which allows for the possibility the ball will be spread around much more in new offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu's offense.