We are officially 2 weeks into UCLA spring practice and the Bruins are preparing for arguably its biggest season in multiple decades. With a lot of talent returning, coming from the transfer portal, and first-year recruits, UCLA’s roster is looking more loaded than your hungover In-N-Out Order after a rowdy night out. Given we are exactly 6 practices deep, I wanted to give my impression on who has been the 5 best players through spring ball thus far.
1. J. Michael Sturdivant, WR
The hype for the talented redshirt Sophomore WR transfer from Cal has been justified and then some. Sturdivant has been arguably the most dominant player at any position in the 7/7 and 11/11 portions of practice constantly torching any DB that comes his way while looking like an Olympic athlete in the process.
His 6 foot 3 frame, smooth route running, and “take the top off the defense” speed have been godsends for an offense that desperately needed an outside WR #1. This is high praise but from what I have seen, he has the chance to be the best receiver UCLA has had since JJ Stokes in the early 90s….get ready UCLA fans.
2. Darius Muasau, Middle Linebacker
Muasau, the returning LB from the 2022 season, looks to have taken a huge step forward from not only a leadership standpoint but his level of play as well. The former University of Hawaii transfer is embodying the term “sideline to sideline” covering a lot of ground with his underrated quickness and continually is shown blowing up plays from the run and the pass standpoint.
Muasau is the consummate contact guy and you can tell even in these padded sessions he is dying to hit somebody the way human beings need water. From what I have seen and with the tutelage of one of the best linebacking coaches in the country (ask USC fans!), don’t be shocked if Muasau ends up with first or second-team All-PAC-12 honors at year’s end.
3. Ethan Garbers, Quarterback
I know the UCLA faithful is ecstatic and incredibly excited about Dante Moore! I can confirm after watching 6 consecutive practices that I believe this kid is going to be a bonafide star and arguably the greatest transplant from Michigan to Southern California since Magic Johnson. The most consistent and impressive performer at the QB position through 6 practices, however, is Ethan Garbers.
Garbers, ever the competitor, has been exceptional moving the ball on offense, hitting not only the open man but making the tough throws in tight windows, and total command of the offense has me putting him at QB #1 today Sunday, April 16th, 2023. Now there is plenty of time between now and the opening game against Coastal Carolina on September 2nd and plenty can change, but Garbers has earned every bit of the job thus far through 6 practices.
4. Oluwafemi Oladejo, Linebacker
How is it possible after all of Cal’s whining and moaning to the NCAA of UCLA moving to the BIG 10 that UCLA may have secured their 2 best players in the portal? Oladejo has been special in what we have seen in spring practice as he is constantly disrupting plays for the offense and using his massive 6 foot 4 250 pound frame to fly over the open field and make plays.
The most impressive thing occurred in one of the practices this week though as he was putting other defensive players in position while on the field as he knew the spots others needed to be at despite just transferring. Oladejo has proven to be not only the first player you want off the bus but is also one of the last guys leaving the facility in terms of preparation and success. It’s going to be a big year on the horizon for Mr. Oladejo you can book it!
5. TJ Harden, Running Back
Harden has impressed early into camp after standing out against Cal and Pittsburgh for the final two games of the season last year. He looks quicker, more nimble, and has proven to be an under-the-radar sneaky good pass catcher out of the backfield which to me gives him the advantage of RB 1A to Carson Steele’s RB 1B.
Knowing the track record of Deshaun Foster putting RBs into the NFL, there is a case to be made that the next guy for UCLA to get there is Harden if he continues to progress in this offense.
Honorable Mentions: Laiatu Latu (OLB/DE) Kyle Ford (WR), Dante Moore (QB), Carson Steele (RB), Alex Johnson (CB), Devin Kirkwood (CB)