UCLA Bruins’ Top 10 Returning Players in 2024 Include J. Michael Sturdivant, Logan Loya

    UCLA enters a year of transition in 2024, and the Bruins will need these top 10 returning players to step up if they are to compete in the Big Ten.

    It is a year of change for the UCLA Bruins, who will head to a new conference in 2024 with a new head coach. Gone are the Pac-12 and Chip Kelly; in are the Big Ten and DeShaun Foster, who will take on his first head coaching position.

    It won’t be easy, as the Bruins have had an exodus of talent. However, if these top 10 returning players step up for UCLA, the Westwood program may be better than many expect.

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    UCLA Bruins’ Top 10 Returners in 2024

    Analyzing the returning players at every school is a difficult task in the transfer portal area. As such, we’ve included transfer-portal athletes on each team’s roster page to open spring camp in addition to the rostered players from last year.

    10) Collins Acheampong, DE

    Collins Acheampong, a defensive end, is a crucial addition to the UCLA Bruins. He transfers from Miami to help fill the void left by the NFL-bound Laiatu Latu and Murphy twins. With Choe Bryant-Strother reportedly entering the spring transfer portal, Acheampong’s role in the Bruins’ pass rush becomes even more crucial.

    Acheampong is the next man up, possessing all the traits to fill in. Standing at 6’7” and 275 pounds, he has impressive physical and athletic characteristics that will intrigue the NFL if he can play up to his physical abilities. He needs to become more consistent and stay healthy, but his ceiling is sky-high if he can realize his potential.

    9) Jaylin Davies, DB

    Jaylin Davies made 12 starts in 2023, his first year as a starter for the Bruins. The former Oregon transfer starred in the UCLA secondary and returns for his fourth year in 2024. A year ago, Davies posted 43 tackles, one for a loss, one interception, and one forced fumble, and jointly led the team with six pass breakups.

    While Davies is still developing, he has shown fantastic skills and is on an upward trajectory in Westwood, providing consistency and resilience on the boundary.

    8) K.J. Wallace, DB

    K.J. Wallace also joined through the transfer portal from Georgia Tech, where he played for two seasons. The two-time transfer began his career at Notre Dame and provides much-needed experience in the Bruins’ secondary.

    In 2023, Wallace recorded 42 tackles, one sack, one interception, two forced fumbles, and eight pass breakups, displaying playmaking instincts. The former four-star recruit should play the nickel in Ikaika Malloe’s defense.

    7) Ethan Gabers, QB

    Ethan Gabers returns in 2024 for his fourth season with UCLA and has had fluctuating success with the program. The former Washington transfer has thrown for 1,735 yards, 15 touchdowns, and seven interceptions (11 TDs and three INTs in 2023) in his career as he has drifted in and out of the starting lineup.

    However, with Dante Moore leaving in the transfer portal, Gabers is the presumed starter in 2024 off the back of an MVP performance in the LA Bowl win over Boise State.

    6) Logan Loya, WR

    Logan Loya led the Bruins in 2023 in receptions (59), receiving yards (655), and receiving touchdowns (five) and looks to produce even more in 2024 as he returns for his fifth year of eligibility. Last season marked the most productive year of Loya’s career, and he proved to be a safety net for his quarterback.

    MORE: 2024 Big Ten Weekly Football Schedule 

    Loya should thrive again on short and intermediate passes as a secure option underneath. With more offensive weapons on the roster, Loya can utilize the space and attention other players are getting to produce extra yardage.

    5) T.J. Harden, RB

    T.J. Harden finished second on the team in rushing yards in 2023 behind Carson Steele, and he will step up to become the starter in the fall. With 827 yards and eight touchdowns rushing, Harden showed his worth on the ground. Meanwhile, he also had 19 receptions for 142 yards and one touchdown receiving, proving he is a dynamic weapon.

    Expect an outstanding year for Harden in 2024, where he can utilize his play speed to get more touches, yards, and scores.

    4) Femi Oladejo, LB

    Femi Oladejo formed a great partnership with Kain Medrano as UCLA’s starting linebackers towards the end of 2023, and the formidable coalition returns to Westwood again in 2024. Appearing in 13 games but starting four, the 6’3”, 250-pound linebacker transferred from Cal last year and possesses all the physical intangibles to be even more productive in 2024.

    In his first year with the program, Oladejo had 54 tackles, 2.5 for a loss, 0.5 sacks, one interception, three pass breakups, and two fumble recoveries last season.

    3) Kain Medrano, LB

    Medrano was one of the top players on the Bruins roster in 2023 and has already caught the eye of NFL scouts. The dynamic linebacker offers production, leadership, and versatility while having intrinsic playmaking tendencies.

    In 2023, Medrano finished his incredible year with the second-most tackles on the team with 56. Meanwhile, he also had seven tackles for a loss, two sacks, one forced fumble, and two passes deflected. The Bruins will need that steady production again in 2024 as they transition to the Big Ten.

    2) Jay Toaia, DT

    Jay Toaia returns for his fourth year in Westwood after anchoring the Bruins’ defensive line for the last two seasons. He has started 24 games for the program and has been an influential leader and physical presence up front for UCLA. Despite having 28 tackles, four for a loss, and one sack in 2023, the stats do not tell the whole story of his impact on the overall team.

    KEEP READING: 2024 Big Ten Power Rankings 

    The Tongan native can be one of the best interior defensive linemen in the Big Ten in 2024, and Toaia’s success shouldn’t come unexpectedly. He comes from an incredibly athletic family, and his brother, Siaki Ika, played for LSU (2019-2020) and Baylor (2021-2022).

    1) J. Michael Sturdivant, WR

    J. Michael Sturdivant may not have had the production of Loya in 2023, but he flashed why his name continues to crop up in NFL scouting circles. At 6’3” and 205 pounds, the outside receiving threat has the most physical talent of anyone on the Bruins roster, and a breakout year is imminent as he becomes Gabers’ go-to weapon.

    The three-year player transferred over from Cal before the 2023 regular season and displayed why UCLA desired him in the transfer portal. While Sturdivant may only have had 36 catches for 597 yards and four touchdowns a year ago, he is overdue a breakout season in Westwood as he competes with elite receiver talent in the Big Ten.

    College Football Network has you covered with the latest news and analysis, rankings, transfer portal information, top 10 returning players, the 2024 college football season schedule, and much more!


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