The UCLA Bruins enter the 2014 season with sky-high expectations on themselves. This is the year, they are hoping, that they break through and win the Pac-12 title game and possibly make a run in the College Football Playoff. To get there, however, the Bruins will have to address their depth issues at running back which were a major issue at times in 2013. This season, they have to have a running back emerge and take control of the running game. Can Jordon James get it done?
Injuries derailed what was looking like a promising 2013 season for James. He started the year with three straight 100-yard games and four straight games with a touchdown. He would ultimately dress for nine games on the year, recording a carry in seven of them, and finished the year with 534 yards on 101 carries with five touchdowns (all coming in the first four games). His 5.29 yards per carry average was second only to linebacker Myles Jack (who was called into two-way action due to the shortage of able bodies).
The problem that could arise in 2014 is an over-reliance on quarterback Brett Hundley. In addition to his aerial exploits in 2013, Hundley also led the Bruins in carries (160), rushing yards (748), and rushing touchdowns (11). That’s a lot of extra abuse that Hundley doesn’t need to be taking. If he were to go down with an injury and the team was still relying so heavily on him, the results would be disastrous.
This offseason, Jim Mora has raved about James’ improvement as a “one-cut” runner, able to make his reads and up the field on a dime. If he can stay healthy and use that decisiveness to get upfield, James has the ability to emerge as a true workhorse for the Bruins’ running game. Having that other option to take pressure off Hundley could take the UCLA offense to the next level in 2014.