Depth chart review: Receivers
August, 7, 2011
By Peter Yoon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Adam Davis/Icon SMI
Nelson Rosario, who over the spring seemed to figure out how to use his size and leaping ability, seems poised for a breakout season.
Current depth chart:
Nelson Rosario (Sr., 6-5, 219)
Randall Carroll (Jr., 5-10, 189) OR
Jerry Johnson (Jr., 6-3, 219)
Shaquelle Evans (So., 6-1, 196)
Taylor Embree (Sr., 6-3, 207)
Josh Smith (Sr., 6-1, 213) OR
Ricky Marvray (So., 5-11, 187)
Cory Harkey (Sr., 6-4, 270)
Joseph Fauria (Jr., 6-8, 252)
John Young (Fr., 6-4, 246)
The wide receivers unit was the most perplexing and disappointing group in a perplexing and disappointing 2010 season.
Loaded with speed, athleticism and the physical tools to make this among the top receiving corps in the conference, these players simply underachieved. There were flashes -- Randall Carroll and Josh Smith breaking big plays against Arizona, and Taylor Embree's 105-yard game against Arizona State -- but they were few and far between.
That 105-yard game for Embree was the only 100-yard receiving game by a Bruin all season. Only Embree and Nelson Rosario had more than six catches in a game. Far more often, you'd see a UCLA receiver dropping a pass in a key situation as stone hands became the norm in 2010.
As a result, UCLA's passing attack finished a dreadful 116th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, finishing ahead of only Navy, Air Force, Georgia Tech and Army -- all option-based teams. Much of the blame falls on inconsistent quarterback play and poor pass protection up front, but the receivers were certainly part of the problem.
New offensive coordinator Mike Johnson, who earned his chops as a wide receivers coach in the NFL, will take over command of this group in an effort to get more out of it. He inherits a unit that returns mostly intact. Morrell Presley and Christian Ramirez, both F-backs who combined for eight receptions, are the only players who caught passes last season who won't be back.
The breakout candidate here is Rosario, an outside player who over the spring seemed to figure out how to use his size advantage and leaping ability (he's a high jumper and long jumper on UCLA's track team). He made several aggressive leaps in the corners during the spring, including one in the spring scrimmage.
He sat out a good portion of last season with a high ankle sprain, but came back with 14 catches for 195 yards in the last two games. He was second on the team with 29 receptions even though he missed all of three games and most of two others with his injury.
Embree is the steady, if not flashy, stalwart. He's been the team's leading receiver the last two seasons and is a possession guy with good size. He has good instincts for reading defenses and finding open space, but he became one of the faces of the drop problems after a couple of crucial dropped passes.
Carroll and Smith are the speedy big-play threats. Carroll, a sprinter on UCLA's track team, had touchdowns of 68 and 45 yards last season and led the team by averaging 16.1 yards per catch. He's taken time to develop from a sprinter into a true receiver, but has begun to show an understanding of the position and in the spring began to display a maturity that had been missing early in his career.
Smith showed his playmaking ability with a 45-yard run on a reverse in the season opener against Kansas State and a 49-yard touchdown against Arizona, but couldn't seem to find the consistency to make a regular impact and seemed to find himself in the doghouse because of lapses in concentration.
Ricky Marvray is the rising star of the group. He's a tenacious competitor who makes up for his lack of size with his heart. He sometimes lets his emotions get the best of him, however, as he drew a couple of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties last season, but he also tied for the team lead with two touchdown receptions and his 20 receptions as a redshirt freshman ranked third.
Jerry Johnson and Shaquelle Evans are promising receivers. Johnson seemed to be a receiver on the rise in the middle of last season before he broke his ankle against Arizona and had to miss the last four games.
Evans, a transfer from Notre Dame, had shoulder surgery last season and hasn't yet been able to prove himself to the UCLA coaches. He could be one to watch in camp, however, as he was a high-level recruit out of Inglewood High in 2009.
At tight end, Cory Harkey returns after starting all 12 games last season. He is the best blocking tight end on the team with enough size to play as a sixth offensive lineman, but his hands are suspect as he dropped numerous catchable balls last season.
Joe Fauria is Harkey's mirror. He's the top receiving tight end on the team, but his blocking ability is a work in progress. Still, the tallest player on the team has the height to cause major matchup problems in the red zone and when he finally got healthy last year -- a nagging groin injury limited him early on -- he hauled in touchdowns catches in each of the last two games.
John Young could make a push for playing time if he can remain healthy. He missed last season after shoulder surgery and aggravated the injury in spring and missed much of spring camp.