LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The UCLA Bruins open their 2016 season on September 3rd when they will visit the Texas A&M Aggies.
The Bruins lost several key starters from last season on offense and defense, so let’s take a look at the players most likely to have a vital role on the 2016 team.
Key Players Lost: Jordan Payton WR, Devin Fuller WR, Paul Perkins RB, Ka’imi Fairbairn K, Alex Redmond G, Caleb Benenoch T, Kenny Clark DT, Myles Jack LB, Aaron Wallace LB, Thomas Duarte TE/WR
-Josh Rosen, QB
The kid from Manhattan Beach had a stellar freshman year, and looks to build off of that success during his sophomore campaign. Rosen threw for 3670 yards in 2015, while also adding 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He was selected as the Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year, and was also a Freshman All-American last season. The Bruins have a special talent at the quarterback position, but it’s certainly going to be interesting to see how the sophomore adjusts to losing the majority of his receiving corps from 2015.
-Eddie Vanderdoes, DT
Vanderdoes is coming off a 2015 season during which he was only able to play in one game due to a torn ACL in his knee. The big defensive tackle will be entering his senior season with a massive chip on his shoulder after playing in all 13 games during his freshman and sophomore seasons. Vanderdoes has collected 2.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss, but is especially skilled at stopping the run up to middle. The Bruins were able to use Kenny Clark last season in this position, but are certainly glad to have Vanderdoes back to sure up the defensive front and lead the defense.
-Ishmael Adams, WR
Adams is an extremely talented athlete who found himself in a little bit of trouble in 2015. He looks to put that trouble behind him in 2016 as Adams will make the transition from defense to offense, as the Bruins lost a slew of wide receivers to the NFL. Adams collected two INT’s (running both back for TD’s last season), and averaged over 9 yards a return when returning punts. Adams is now taking regular snaps on offense, and could easily emerge as Josh Rosen’s top big-play target. Adams has elite speed and it’s going to be a lot of fun watching him on the other side of the ball this season.
-Darren Andrews, WR
As mentioned above, the Bruins lost almost the entire core of the wide receivers from 2015. Andrews is the lone survivor from last year’s core group that will be returning, and he should in turn expect an uptake in his production. Andrews caught 43 passes for 443 yards and 1 touchdown last season. However, with Fuller, Duarte, and Payton all moving on, Andrews will be one of the only familair targets QB Josh Rosen has in 2016.
-Deon Hollins, LB
Deon Hollins is going to be an extremely important piece of the Bruins defense this season. Hollins broke out in 2014 when he tallied 9 sacks and 10 tackles for a loss. However, his production dipped last season, when he had just 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. With the Bruins losing both Myles Jack and Aaron Wallace, Hollins is going to have to step up and lead the young UCLA defense. He should have some solid help from fellow senior LB Jayon Brown, as well.
-Jaleel Wadood, DB
The UCLA secondary has many familiar faces from last season, including safety Jaleel Wadood. Last year, he played in 13 games and collected 73 total tackles, with 4 pass deflections and 2 INT’s. His numbers increased tremendously from his freshman campaign (59 tackles. 1 PD, 0 INT), and many expect that to happen again this year during his junior season. With Ishmael Adams moving to receiver, Wadood could be the main playmaker of the Bruins secondary.