UCLA Secondary: Can This Recently Struggling Unit Turn It Around With A Potential Star And Two Huge Transfers?

Can UCLA's secondary turn around their recent struggles and turn the unit into a strength on defense?

Will Decker
UCLA's Caleb Johnson And Qwantrezz Knight In 2021 Against The Cal Bears. Photo Credit: Ross Turteltaub | UCLA Athletics
UCLA's Caleb Johnson And Qwantrezz Knight In 2021 Against The Cal Bears. Photo Credit: Ross Turteltaub | UCLA Athletics

UCLA Secondary: Can This Recently Struggling Unit Turn It Around With A Potential Star And 2 Huge Transfers?

There’s no way around it: the UCLA secondary has been a spot that has consistently struggled under Chip Kelly and it has been far from pretty. Through Chip’s first few years the Bruins have ranked 88th, 129th, and 113th, in passing yards allowed per game. Mind you, there are 130 Division 1 football teams…it’s not nuts to say that UCLA was horrendous at best in these areas.

Last year they made a little bit of a jump getting to number 74 in that same category, but with a new defensive coordinator in Bill McGovern and some new faces in the secondary this unit has the potential to be the best they have been in years at the Rose Bowl.

Handing The Keys Over

First, let’s take the guy everyone is slating to be the next defensive stud for UCLA: Devin Kirkwood. Kirkwood, a 4-star recruit coming out of high school, has the size and skill NFL scouts dream of. He stands around 6 foot 3 without cleats on, with the speed and ball skills to make scouts drool.

As a true freshman last year, Kirkwood flashed the potential in several games, most notably making an incredible game-saving interception against Washington on the road. If Kirkwood is anything like we believe he can be, this guy has first-rounder written all over him in 2023.

New Faces, New Contributors

To compliment Kirkwood, UCLA added a few new transfers in the likes of Azizi Hearn and Jaylin Davies. Hearn, who comes from Wyoming, was a 3-year starter at the position and via PFF had an impressive 82.2 coverage grade making him good enough for the 5th best ranking within the Mountain West for a corner. That level of leadership and play will not go unnoticed as he’s heavily rumored to play the Nickel position at 6 foot 1 and 200 plus pounds.

Jaylin Davies on the other hand is a corner that hasn’t seen much time but was a high-level recruit with offers from the likes of the big-name schools around the country. With Mario Cristobal leaving, it allowed him to look elsewhere eventually landing with the Bruins.

When we had Devin Kirkwood on the Bruin Bible podcast and asked him “Who some of the players that impressed him most were?” For spring ball. The first player he mentioned was Davies and he said he expects him to be a star. Having Davies in the fold competing with John Humphrey and with veterans Stephan Blaylock (31 career starts) and Mo Osling (appeared in 37 career games) shoring up the Safety positions, UCLA has the pieces to be the last to laugh when it comes to secondary play.

What grade would you grade UCLA’s secondary? Vote below!

UCLA's Caleb Johnson And Qwantrezz Knight In 2021 Against The Cal Bears. Photo Credit: Ross Turteltaub | UCLA Athletics
UCLA’s Caleb Johnson And Qwantrezz Knight In 2021 Against The Cal Bears. Photo Credit: Ross Turteltaub | UCLA Athletics