This UCLA receiving group won’t stay under the radar the way they did early last season. Theo Howard was expected to lead the group in 2019, but his decision to transfer out of the program before conference play opened opportunities for Kyle Philips to take over as the lead option.
Receivers Chase Cota and Ethan Fernea also have familiarity with the offense and starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
“The chemistry has gotten better every single year,” Cota said. “I think this fall we have the most confidence we ever had as a unit.”
Fernea provided an unexpected spark during a stretch in the Bruins’ 2019 season when a 3-game win streak followed a 1-5 start.
“It’s the third year in the offense (under Chip Kelly),” receiver Ethan Fernea said. “I think we are all dialed in and getting on the same page.”
With a shortened season and every game seen as significant on the conference only schedule, the Bruins will need the passing game to be effective early.
Here’s a breakdown of where UCLA stands at wide receivers/tight ends going into the season opener:
Key returnees: Kyle Philips (WR, So.), Chase Cota (WR, Jr.), Jaylen Erwin (WR, Sr.), Jordan Wilson (TE, Sr.), Ethan Fernea (WR, R-Sr.)
Key losses: Devin Asiasi (TE, Sr.)
Newcomers: Logan Loya (WR, Fr.), Charles Njoku (WR, R-Fr.), Devanti Dillard (WR, Fr.), Colson Yankoff (WR, R-So.)
Biggest unanswered question: Who will be the Bruins’ next 1,000-yard receiver? The Bruins haven’t had a player surpass that mark since Jordan Lasley (1,264 yards) in 2017. The Bruins appear to have several options, but Philips is the most likely after leading the Bruins with 681 yards last season.
Why 2020 production could be better: Chemistry, experience and depth. The Bruins’ pass catchers can be considered one of the program’s true strengths going into the 2020 season.
Why 2020 production could be worse: Asiasi was the Bruins’ biggest loss from the 2019 roster. Jordan Wilson has played the past three seasons for the Bruins and has an opportunity to seize a bigger role with Asiasi’s early departure. Asiasi started all 12 games and accounted for 641 yards and four touchdowns on 44 catches before he was drafted by the New England Patriots in April.
Tight ends played a crucial role in the offense during conference play last season, including the final three games, when Asiasi had 18 catches for 312 yards. Wilson didn’t contribute as much the past two seasons as he did in 2017 when he made six starts and caught 16 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
Redshirt sophomore Greg Dulcich returns after playing 11 games as a reserve tight end and special teams player.