As the UCLA Bruins look to defend their Pac 12 South Division title and get back to the Pac 12 title game for a third straight year in 2013, they will have to adjust their depth chart at wide receiver. Sophomore Kenneth Walker will miss all of next season following back surgery earlier this month. What will his absence mean for the Bruins in next fall?
While Walker didn’t have a significant role in the offense during his freshman seasons, the potential was there for him to move up the depth chart this summer. He caught only seven passes for 39 yards, but was used more often on kickoff returns, where he averaged 19.71 yards per return. He even had a pair of carries in his freshman season, though he only got two yards out of it.
Walker had been bothered by soreness in his back throughout the spring and doctors determined that he would need surgery soon after. The young wideout will still have three years of eligibility remaining, but will have a long way to go to get back to the cusp of breaking into the rotation like he was heading into next season. There was an opportunity to move up this fall as UCLA looks to replace three of its top four receivers from 2012.
Jim Mora has plenty of other options, however, to soften the blow of losing Walker. Senior Shaquelle Evans is back after leading the team with 60 catches for 877 yards and three touchdowns a year ago. He will be tasked with stepping up his game and becoming a scoring threat in the passing game next season. He’ll be flanked by sophomores Jordan Payton and Devin Lucien to start the season.
There will also be an infusion of young talent at receiver as incoming freshman Darren Andrews, Eldridge Massington and Jalen Ortiz join the roster this fall in addition to three more receivers UCLA has secured verbal commitments from in their 2014 class.