The UCLA Bruins cleaned up on National Signing Day, bringing in a Top 15 rated recruiting class and the top rated class in the Pac 12. Jim Mora went out and filled many of his top needs as he put together one of the strongest finishes to the recruiting season in the country. Despite all the great talent headed UCLA’s way this summer, however, the Bruins still have one glaring hole to fill.
Johnathan Franklin was one of the key pieces to UCLA’s successful run to the Pac 12 South title in 2012, rushing for 1,734 yards with 13 touchdowns and finishing as a finalist for the Doak Walker Award. With his graduation, there is a major void in the offense waiting for someone to step up into. While the Bruins have a few options available already on the roster, none are proven and the right recruit could step in and be an immediate impact player.
For now, however, Mora’s 2013 class has no running back signed. Four-star recruit Craig Lee out of Redlands, California, verbally committed to the Bruins back in August, but he has not sent in his letter of intent yet. While he will likely come into the fold at some point, it’s no guarantee until he puts pen to paper and faxes it in.
Even after he gets on campus, though, Lee is no guarantee to be an instant success at the next level. He has top-notch elusiveness and speed, but lacks the lower body strength for a physical running style that Mora would like from the every-down back. He has some bulking up to do if he wants to move any piles in the Pac 12, which means at least a year developing before he can be counted on to carry the load. And that’s assuming he comes through on his commitment and gets on campus at all.
UCLA has plenty to celebrate with their dominant showing on National Signing Day, filling needs on the offensive line, secondary and linebacker corps, but the one spot they failed to effectively reload is at running back. Will that keep the Bruins from returning to the Pac 12 Championship game in 2013?