UCLA WR corps brings versatility to offense

Thomas Duarte (left) and Devin Lucien (right) are part of a deep wideout group on the Bruins' roster.

LOS ANGELES — UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone is known for his offensive scheme that requires an array of options at the receiver position. This season, Mazzone has virtually every option you can think of at his disposal and more.

The one loss of the regular returning receivers is a big one in leading receiver Shaq Evans, but redshirt junior Devin Lucien has already said he’s working to fill that role. And a number of coveted prospects are in practice this spring gaining valuable reps.

Redshirt sophomore Kenneth Walker and freshmen Eldridge Massington (redshirt) and Mossi Johnson have been the names on Mazzone’s radar. All three have fully recovered from knee injuries and are expected to contribute in the fall.

For Massington, it’s his second spring with the Bruins but he redshirted last season in order to fully rehab his knee after ACL surgery. He’ll fill the role of Evans somewhat as a deep threat but his combination of size and speed make him a versatile option.

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"He could be a weapon in the red zone because of his body structure," said receivers coach Eric Yarber. "He could hold defenders off and displace them and go up and get the ball. And hopefully he will be that deep threat that we really need."

The knee brace is off and Massington says he feels free. His speed and explosiveness has returned and he’s developed a strong bond with quarterback Brett Hundley. There’s only one adjustment he needs to make, according to Yarber: He needs to stop thinking so much.

"We just need him to play a little faster and stop thinking," Yarber said. Sometimes he has paralysis by analysis so he plays a little slower. But he knows what he’s doing, he knows his assignments and he knows the technique he needs to use, he’s playing well."

A converted cornerback, Crenshaw product Johnson caught Mora’s eye from the first day of spring practices. Johnson just wanted a chance to play and coaches say his athleticism could translate to several positions.

Mazzone, notorious for trying to lure defensive guys over to the offense, didn’t even have to steal one this time.

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"He just showed up on my doorstep," Mazzone said. "He was a defensive guy who wanted to play offense. I’m really excited about that guy."

Walker rounds out the group. A former high school track star in the Bay Area, he’s burned a couple defensive backs and with the plans to go even more uptempo next season, Walker could be a dangerous weapon in the right situations.

"Pure, unadulterated speed," Yarber said. "Last year, his progress was kind of hindered by that injury so he’s had a little setback but he’s learning the receiver position again. Right before he got hurt, he was really about to springboard. Now he’s picking up where he left off before his injury."

In addition, the Bruins return Lucien, slot receiver Devin Fuller, third-leading receiver Jordan Payton and Y receiver Thomas Duarte.

It’s an exciting group that shows significant depth and excitement for an offense already known to excite.