SAN BERNARDINO – After two seasons, Devin Lucien has two touchdowns and 527 yards to his name. The talent is there, but the numbers have yet to fully reflect that.
Yet listening to him talk during those two years, he could easily be mistaken for a Heisman candidate. His sessions with the media oozed with confidence and were littered with trash talk of his competition. But his competitors weren’t limited to the opposition. Lucien was just as quick to mention a teammate higher up on the depth chart.
With Lucien now entering his redshirt junior season and penciled in as a starting wide receiver, offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone offered a suggestion for Lucien to finally cash in on his potential.
“Devin needs to just be Devin. He needs to come out and work hard everyday,” Mazzone said. “Devin needs to just worry about Devin, and Devin getting better everyday.”
But Lucien hasn’t taken that advice. And Mazzone can’t be complaining.
With a glaring leadership void at wide receiver after Shaquelle Evans’ departure, Lucien, who was close friends with Evans, has found a way to put his words to better use, becoming a mentor for UCLA’s younger receivers.
Wide receivers coach Eric Yarber encouraged Lucien to take on the new role over the offseason as a way to help ease the loss of Evans.
“I said, ‘Hey listen man, your big brother is gone and you can make him proud if you just step in his shoes and be a leader, just like he was for you,’” Yarber said. “‘Mentor other kids just like he mentored you.’”
Through three days of fall practice, Lucien has frequently been seen pulling aside teammates on the sideline or after plays to offer advice. From taking freshman wide receiver Alex Van Dyke under his wing and ensuring he masters the playbook to suggesting to redshirt freshman wide receiver Eldridge Massington that he jump less while catching to have surer hands, Lucien’s impact has already been felt.
Leadership seems to have come naturally for Lucien. He was never afraid to share his opinion and he has three years of college experience to fall back on. But his true leadership abilities come from asking himself a simple question: “What would Shaq do?”
Using the strategies of his former mentor, as well as some of his own instincts, has helped Lucien pass knowledge on to his new proteges and learn what every younger receiver on the team needs to work on.
While he hasn’t yet shared these notes with Yarber, Lucien has noticed he’s beginning to share more and more traits with his coach.
“I’ve learned so much from Yarbs, I hear myself talking like him all the time,” Lucien said. “I’m like, ‘Devin, you sound just like him, shut up.’”
And shutting up is exactly what Lucien has done. Once renowned for his trash talking and celebrations, Lucien has been conspicuously quiet throughout both the spring and fall camps.
With the eyes of his teammates constantly watching, Lucien made an effort to mellow out in order to be a better role model for his growing number of disciples.
“I feel like a proud papa when it comes to Devin,” Yarber said. “He’s grown up, he’s matured.”
The maturity, leadership and lack of antics make Lucien seem like a completely different person than the one that loudly and publicly announced he was hunting for now-junior wide receiver Jordan Payton’s starting spot two springs ago. The trash talking, hyper-competitive, yet unproven, player is replaced with an older, wiser – and quieter – leader.
“Yeah, uh, I’m not a different guy. I’m definitely holding it in,” Lucien said, laughing. “I’m still ultra competitive. Trust me, if it was the same thing going on right now, I would have taken a different approach at going about it but I still would have had that fire. Let’s get that straight.”
News and notes
– Redshirt senior Malcolm Bunche switched from left guard to left tackle in Wednesday’s practice, a move offensive line coach Adrian Klemm speculated could be permanent.
“I think we found our left tackle,” Klemm said.
Klemm pointed to Bunche’s experience, maturity and his reach as some reasons for the switch. The move also shifted sophomore Caleb Benenoch to right tackle, a position he played for part of last season.
– Sophomore defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes was named to the Ted Hendricks Award preseason watch list Wednesday morning, one of 29 players listed.
The Hendricks Award is given to the nation’s top defensive end. As a freshman last season, Vanderdoes was named an All-Pac-12 honorable mention, finishing the year with 37 tackles. He was named a first-team freshman All-American by Sporting News and the Football Writers Association.