Jim Mora (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
The annual question was thrown at UCLA Coach Jim Mora this week. What freshmen have a chance to play?
It’s as a much a summer thing as fireworks on the 4th of July and higher gas prices.
This year, there are some givens: guard Caleb Benenoch, linebacker Myles Jack, defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes and cornerback Priest Willis, for example.
Then there are the on-the-cusp guys.
It’s hard to notice gnat-like freshmen receivers Darren Andrews and Jalen Ortiz until they start running plays. Then they then demand attention.
Andrews makes at least one “wow” play per practice. Monday’s was when he snatched a pass away from safety Stan McKay. Ortiz is hummingbird-fast, turning short passes into long gains.
“They are fluid and they have burst,” Mora said. “When you have guys with that kind of speed, you have to find a way to use it.”
The receiver corps is bulging with guys who have size and experience, as well as skill. Shaquelle Evans, Devin Fuller, Jordan Payton and Devin Lucien should all figure prominently in the game plan.
Ortiz and Andrews seem to bring similar skills, so they will likely compete for a role as a receiver and possibly a kick returner.
Mora’s problem is finding enough time for them to play to make it worth burning a year of eligibility.
“You got to make sure, if you’re going to use them, you can justify it,” Mora said.
Mora pointed to nose tackle Kenneth Clark, who has shown strength and ability so far in camp. But with senior Seali’i Epenesa and sophomore Ellis McCarthy already clogging the middle, will there be enough plays for Clark?
“We're here to win right now," Mora said, but "I’m not going to waste a guy for five plays a game."
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