The Rights (And Wrongs) of Spring, Pt. 2

* DL Hugely: Gotta say, I was pretty surprised by the performance of the defensive line, which looks markedly improved from last season, particularly in the middle. After a rocky start to spring camp, Cassius Marsh looked great for most of his reps, and as he continues to put on weight, he’ll be a force. But the veteran trio of Nate Chandler, Justin Edison and Donovan Carter makes it appear that the defensive tackle position can go two-deep with relatively little drop-off, as a guy at 100 percent is usually better than a guy at 70 percent. Joe Tresey talked extensively about using heavy rotation, and I think he has the guys to do it. Look, it’s pretty simple: If there’s any possible way to redshirt Kevin McReynolds or to use Sealii Epenesa and him on the scout team, you do it. Get them the reps against the first team, and you start getting that depth at the position, churning players in and out yearly. Very important.

* From the Outside in: I’m still not sold on the F-back position as a whole, and a bit confused as to what they’re doing with Anthony Barr. So much of Barr’s usage toward the end of spring ball was in the backfield, yet they called mostly outside runs for him. I get using him as a running back, and I definitely get the idea of getting the ball into his hands often, but he’s an upfield runner, and the line – particularly the second unit, or the first unit, when three guys are hurt – is not good enough to get the edge. I cannot remember a single outside run of his that made me raise an eyebrow, but at least four or five times he showed real moxie up the middle. I mean, the first time he ran outside I said to myself, ‘They shouldn’t do that again.” Use Damien Thigpen or Franklin or Jordon James to hit the edge. Makes no sense to me.

* Running on Full: Jim Mastro told me emphatically during spring ball that he needed four running backs to execute the Pistol properly, and he just might have that. Derrick Coleman was a force in his limited reps, and like Franklin, he doesn’t get enough credit for what he did last year. Look, 5.9 yards per carry is good ANYWHERE. He and Franklin will form a very potent 1-2 punch. I expect the rotational enigma to be improved – tell me again, why did he have just one carry in the second half against USC? – and for the carries to be more situational. That being said, James and Jones looked great toward the end of spring, and they should get some meaningful action in every game.

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UCLA gets late 2011 verbal from Downey’s Kyle Lewis

Just got off the phone with Downey running back/safety Kyle Lewis, who confirmed that he is heading to UCLA in the fall after giving a verbal commitment to Rick Neuheisel, who offered Lewis last week.

Lewis was an All-CIF 1st team pick for the Vikings after a 1,200-yard, 11-touchdown performance in 2010 and he
won the SPARQ competition at the Long Beach Nike combine last April. Poor grades, though, put Lewis’ future in doubt, and most Division-1 schools held off on offering him after it took Lewis until after signing day to get the grades up.

“Freshman and sophomore year were really tough for me,” said Lewis, who was clocked at 4.49 at the combine. “I got off-track with school, with football. I really didn’t care at the time. I didn’t think I could play D-1. But after junior year I was No. 1 out of 1000s in the nation at the SPARQ combine, and it turned me back on to football and how great life is. It got me right there.”

Lewis said that UCLA regarded him more for his free safety abilities, but he’s considered a true athlete, and that he will sign after he graduates in June.He said he chose the Bruins primarily because of the academics, as he’s back on track in the classroom and has turned a corner after hitting the books.

“I love UCLA man,” Lewis said. “There isn’t a higher ranked school for me. Academics is going to come first, I’ve been picking up my school work the last two years. I knew if I went to UCLA, I’d have a good future.”

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Ayers, Moore not selected in first round

Former UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers and junior safety Rahim Moore were not selected tonight in the first round of the NFL Draft at New York City’s Radio Music Hall.

Ayers, who is in New York City for the draft, was projected to go in the first round for much of the draft process, even as he slipped on the boards following a poor NFL combine showing. But in recent days, talk of Ayers falling to the second round started to creep in, and Ayers joined teammate Rahim Moore as one of only a few players left in the green room.

Ayers had 68 tackles, including 10 for loss, four sacks and two interceptions as a junior, after a breakout sophomore season. Saddled by myriad injuries for much of the second half of 2010, Ayers was not able to replicate the production of his sophomore season, when he had 75 tackles, six sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss and four interceptions.

Moore was not projected in the first round but thought he had a chance to sneak in, he said on Tuesday. Moore had 77 tackles but only one interception as a junior in 2010, a year after leading the nation in interceptions with 10.

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