Biggest impact players for UCLA: No. 3, RB Jordon James
AUG 18, 2014 12:40p ET
Jordon James has been stuck. The senior UCLA running back spent two seasons stuck behind Johnathan Franklin and most of last stuck one the sideline with an ankle injury. For a brief moment last season, he had nothing stopping him and was fifth in the nation in total rushing yards going into Pac-12 play.
Strengths: A hard runner who gets behind his pads, James showcased blistering speed in his first three games last season before injuring his ankle at Utah. He has good vision and can find creases. At 5-9, 196 pounds, he can right right through defenders and easily is the most explosive of the Bruins' backs.
Weaknesses: Pass blocking was something he struggled with last season and was the reason why he was so sparsely used in the past but new running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu has helped aid that part of his game.
"I think I've been better at pass blocking and a big credit goes to Coach Polamalu," James said. "He just brings a different mentality to pass blocking and I think we've all bought into it."
But James' biggest weakness is that he's still relatively unproven. James' numbers last season were gaudy, but it also was a small sample size. He started in just three games and faced two of the worst defenses in the country.
Key stat: James rushed for 425 yards through his first three games.
Quotable: James didn't want to talk about last season, insisting that he only wants to think about this season. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone felt the same. When asked if he possibly had projected what could have been had James never gotten hurt he emphatically said no, in a way that only Mazzone possibly could.
"I never project. Every time I project, I end up paying alimony."
Final thought: James will headline, but expect others to play supporting roles.
Steven Manfro, a speedy, versatile scatback is healthy again and Paul Perkins, who took the majority of the workload when James, Manfro and Damien Thigpen were all injured last year will has earned himself some snaps.
Cornerback Adarius Pickett also made the switch to running back, and his raw speed will be utilized in the Bruins' high-tempo offense.
"At the pace we play at, we can't really say, 'Well, this is our guy, he's going to get it 25 times a game,'" Mazzone said. "It's just hard because of our tempo. I like that we're developing depth there and I feel really good about three or four of those guys and Jordon is obviously one of those guys."