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2022 UCLA Football Position Preview: Wide receivers, tight ends

UCLA football redshirt senior wide receiver Jake Bobo walks at practice. In his first season with the Bruins, Bobo is expected to be a top target on offense. (Jon Christon/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Jon Christon

Aug. 19, 2022 3:40 p.m.

With the 2022 UCLA football season on the horizon, Daily Bruin Sports will preview the Bruins’ outlook at each position group as the countdown to football begins. Next up, senior staff writer Jon Christon breaks down the receiving corps.

Personnel

Although experienced at quarterback and running back, UCLA will have a blank slate at receiver entering 2022.

The Bruins will be without their top three pass-catchers from a year ago, with wide receiver Kyle Philips and tight end Greg Dulcich each opting to turn professional and wide receiver Chase Cota transferring to Oregon.

This spells opportunity for a number of newcomers and returners for the blue and gold.

UCLA welcomed in a pair of wide receivers via the transfer portal this offseason in redshirt senior Jake Bobo and sophomore Titus Mokiao-Atimalala from Duke and UCF, respectively.

Bobo already has experience as a high-volume receiver, catching 74 passes in his last season in Durham. The 6-foot-5 former Blue Devil should also provide a new dynamic to UCLA’s offense as a true mismatch out wide.

Mokiao-Atimalala, on the other hand, has less experience, with 12 catches and 102 career receiving yards to his name. But he was a four-star recruit in the class of 2021 and promises long-term potential for a fairly old roster.

Redshirt junior wide receiver Kam Brown is the most well-known among the returning wideouts and could be in line for a better season with more opportunity. Redshirt junior wide receiver Kazmeir Allen will continue to be a big-play threat while lining up all over the field, and junior wide receiver Logan Loya is a sneaky breakout candidate who will likely replace Philips in the slot.

(August Suchecki/Daily Bruin)
Redshirt junior wide receiver Kam Brown prepares to run a route at practice. (August Suchecki/Daily Bruin)

At tight end, coach Chip Kelly and company will be relying on internal development to fill the void left by Dulcich – and the fifth-year coach will have plenty of options to choose from.

While UCLA rosters only one tight end with a career reception in redshirt senior Michael Ezeike – the presumed starter at the position – the Bruins have a mix of young and old to help bridge the gap between Dulcich and the next generation.

In addition to Ezeike, redshirt junior David Priebe has paid his dues on special teams and could see some early playing time in his fifth year with the program. Redshirt junior Hudson Habermehl – who recently earned a scholarship after walking on to the program, just as Dulcich did in 2020 – is also someone to keep an eye on.

However, UCLA will be without Mike Martinez, a former high-ticket recruit who left the program this offseason.

Predictions

UCLA will not be able to replace the production of Philips, Cota and Dulcich with any individual players.

But that doesn’t mean the Bruins can’t reproduce their production in the aggregate.

With 119 receptions and 1,750 yards up for grabs, expect redshirt senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson to spread the wealth more than he has in past years.

Bobo will likely be the team’s leading receiver and Thompson-Robinson’s security blanket, with the transfer getting somewhere in the range of five to seven receptions per game. Behind him will be Brown and Mokiao-Atimalala, making up a trio of Bruins who should split the vast majority of UCLA’s production out wide.

Be on the lookout for Loya, though, who will likely be the biggest beneficiary of Philips’ departure and will almost assuredly outperform his three career receptions in 2022.

Like Loya, Ezeike – a preseason John Mackey Award watch list member – also projects to greatly increase his career totals. The former wide receiver caught just three passes last year but is the best route runner in the tight end room and should be deployed in a similar fashion as Dulcich was the past two years.

(Sakshi Joglekar/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Redshirt senior tight end Michael Ezeike prepares to block during a game against USC. (Sakshi Joglekar/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Kelly and Thompson-Robinson have always had a go-to tight end during their time in Westwood, from Caleb Wilson in 2018 to Devin Asiasi in 2019 and Dulcich in 2020 and 2021. The odds-on favorite to take those reins will be Ezeike.

That doesn’t mean other tight ends won’t see the field, however, with Kelly often using two tight ends in his run-first offense. Priebe should see a fair share of playing time as a blocker and could sneak his way into a few receptions. Habermehl has earned the trust of the coaching staff with his new scholarship and should see use in certain situations.

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Jon Christon | Sports senior staff
Christon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously the Sports editor on the men's basketball and football beats and the assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats. Christon was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and softball beats.
Christon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously the Sports editor on the men's basketball and football beats and the assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats. Christon was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and softball beats.
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