UCLA’s cadre of receivers come in all shapes, sizes, speeds. The plan each week is to flood the opposing secondary and spread the ball around.
UCLA had nine different players with receptions in a 44-30 victory over Washington last week.
“It’s like that every week,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said.
Yet, junior Jordan Payton has 58 catches, tying him for the ninth-best season in UCLA history. The Bruins entered the season wondering who would replace Shaquelle Evans, who is now with the New York Jets. Consider him replaced.
Payton is three receptions shy of passing Evans into eighth place on the single-season list.
“Every team always has that go-to guy,” Mazzone said. “We had Shaq the last couple years. Every team gets in third-and-eight and says, ‘Who are we going to throw it to?’”
Payton has often been that guy. Twelve of his receptions have been on third-down plays that resulted in first downs.
And for those who call him a “possession receiver,” Payton cites touchdowns that covered 80 and 70 yards, where he out-ran defenders.
“He is a really great fundamental receiver,” defensive back Anthony Jefferson said. “He uses his hands, he uses his body, and knows how to position himself to make a catch. It doesn’t matter if you’re behind him or in front of him. He is really technically sound when it comes to maneuvering around the field.”
Payton has had at least five receptions in nine of UCLA’s 10 games. He has led the team in catches in six games.
Besides being there for quarterback Brett Hundley as a receiver, Payton is also one of the team’s better down-field blockers. He is often there to spring Hundley for bigger gains.
Payton has 839 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. With two regular-season games remaining, plus a bowl game, Payton has a good shot to become the eighth UCLA receiver to top 1,000 yards.
Payton shrugged when told his numbers, though he is well aware of being only two receptions behind his friend, Evans.
“I put a lot of time into it,” Payton said. “I know a lot of guys can say that. But I put in the work during the week, and have seen so much stuff that I can put the finishing touches on it Saturdays during games.”
Running back Paul Perkins rarely wastes an opportunity to praise the offensive line for his season. He credits them for his 1,074 yards.
UCLA linemen throw it back to him.
“The way he runs, each and every down, means more to us than what he says,” guard Alex Redmond said. “He trusts us that we’re going to make blocks. All the linemen love him because he runs down hill and tries to run people over.”
Perkins could finish high up on UCLA’s single-season list. He has at least three games remaining and, if he continues with his yards-per-game average, he would finish with more than 1,400 yards. That would put him at least fourth on UCLA’s single-season list for rushing yards.
Perkins said he doesn’t keep track of his yards. But he does receive updates.
“My mom is the main person who keeps up on that,” Perkins said. “She’s always in the articles and keeps me up on those things. She loves seeing her son do good.”
UCLA ranks first nationally in red zone offense, having scored points on 38 of 39 possessions from inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. The Bruins have 25 touchdowns and 13 field goals. … UCLA players get Friday and Saturday off before resuming preparations for their Nov. 22 game against USC.