LOS ANGELES — Earlier this spring, UCLA head coach Jim Mora wasn’t happy with his redshirt freshman wide receiver Devin Lucien.
Mora ripped into his young freshman. Not for anything related to his play but his demeanor getting on and off the field.
“Yes sir,” Lucien replied as his coach expressed his displeasure.
Mora, still upset, didn’t take his eyes off of Lucien the next time he trotted onto the field.
On the ensuing play, Lucien caught a touchdown pass.
As far as competitors go, Lucien competes with the best.
The touchdown following a tongue lashing from his head coach represents his resiliency.
Lucien had a lot of pent up frustration coming into his first spring practice. He’s letting it all out on the football field.
Lucien’s first few months on campus were highly frustrating for him.
He wanted to be anywhere but Westwood. His mind, at times, was on the other side of the country.
Coral Gables to be exact.
“I committed to Miami on my visit. I don’t know why I didn’t go to Miami,” Lucien thought last fall.
The competitor in him wanted to immediately compete for a spot in the Bruins’ starting lineup last fall.
He thought he did.
“I felt like I was a top-three receiver (on the team) last year,” Lucien said.
The coaching staff elected to redshirt him. Lucien wasn’t happy.
“I hated redshirting with a passion,” he said.
Lucien always believed he had something to prove. Being forced to redshirt just added to that.
Coming out of Crespi High School in Encino, he thought he was overlooked in favor of other wide receivers across the country.
As a senior, he made 71 catches for 1,259 yards and 18 touchdowns. According to MaxPreps receiver rankings, he was in the top 10 nationally and second in the state.
Still, locally, he was overshadowed by receivers in his class such as George Farmer (USC), Devon Blackmon (Oregon) and Victor Blackwell (USC).
“I just always played with a chip on my shoulder,” Lucien said. “I hate people comparing me to other people because I think I’m the best. That’s the mentality anybody should have.
“I would be mad at another receiver if they didn’t have that mentality. You should think you’re better than me, and I should think that I’m better than you, and that’s what it should come down to.”
The reps that he’s taking this spring are deemed more valuable, now that he knows he’s going to play.
He credits his parents for keeping him levelheaded as a redshirt last season. He would be constantly reminded by his dad that “everything will pay off.”
This spring, you can make the argument that he’s been the best player on the field for the Bruins.
“He shows up on a day to day basis. He catches the ball well. He’s explosive. He’s very competitive. I like the way he blocks downfield,” Mora said. “I would say there’s no negatives so far.”
The edge is far from gone but his outlook is different.
“I could be as mad as I want and I’m still mad, but me redshirting was like a blessing in disguise,” Lucien said. “Coach (Noel) Mazzone, Coach (Eric) Yarber and a whole bunch of coaches here that recruited me out of high school . . . That’s crazy.”
Yarber, in his first season as the Bruins’ wide receivers coach, sees his potential.
“He wants to be great, and that’s a great starting point for me,” Yarber said. “He’s a very good player and at a young age, he’s showing a lot of maturity. He can be one of the better receivers to come out of UCLA, but right now is just the beginning, and he knows it.”
Lucien’s using his the past frustrations to help him reach a goal of cracking the Bruins starting lineup.
“I’m just trying to take a spot. That’s the motive right now, and that’s all that’s on my mind,” he said.