I’ll make the introduction quick. I’m Miguel Melendez and I’ll be covering fall camp for the next two weeks for the L.A. Daily News (I covered several UCLA and USC spring practices earlier this year). I was previously the preps editor at the Pasadena Star-News where I covered Dietrich Riley (St. Francis) since his sophomore year and Ellis McCarthy (Monrovia) and Taylor Lagace (Arcadia) since their freshman year. Before that I was a staff writer at The Orange County Register where in addition to covering high schools and pro soccer beat I also did a little backup work for Robert Kuwada on the UCLA beat during the Karl Dorrell era. I’ve freelanced for the Boston Globe, Associated Press and Oakland Tribune, to name a few. Someone mentioned I should post a bio of myself in the comments section so I’ll post a link here and let you read if you’d like to do so. I’m big on Twitter so for those who want to follow me can do so @MelendezSports … Now on to the news ….
*The biggest news out of UCLA’s fall camp opener was that freshman linebacker Jeremy Castro did not report to camp on Friday at Cal State San Bernardino along with the rest of his teammates. UCLA released a statement in the middle of practice saying he “has yet to be declared eligible by the NCAA clearinghouse and as such is not presently at training camp.” The school did not comment any further so there’s no indication whether it’s in regards to grades or paperwork that’s yet to be completed. Castro was a touted linebacker out of Vista Murrieta who initially committed to Oregon before flipping to UCLA. With the Bruins switching to a 3-4 defense, Castro at 6-foot-3, 245-pounds would have provided an impact as a hybrid linebacker/defensive end. We’ll wait and see what turns out.
**The consensus was that today was more about getting acclimated to the new settings and conditions than it was about movement in the depth chart. The weather wasn’t as bad as some predicted it to be today, and there was even a small breeze through the first half of camp. A throng of fans lined up the end zone and watched the offense put some work. Mora was reminded that the weather is expected to shoot north of 100 degrees beginning Monday and was asked if the team would take any extra precaution. Mora said he was in the NFL when Kory Stringer died of a heat stroke during a training session with the Minnesota Vikings, adding that it’s important to be smart about how to push players in such conditions.
***Injury updates: Several players were held out of the camp opener. Lineman Colby Cyburt (back), fullback Luke Gane (hernia), receiver Ricky Marvay (back), Ellis McCarthy (knee), Ryan Medina (shoulder), safety Dylan Price (abdominal), Chris Ward (back), tackle Torian White (chest pains), receiver Shaquelle Evans (hyperventilation) and receiver Kenny Walker (fracture). Mora said White will need to be checked out by UCLA doctors before he’s allowed to continue with camp. As for Evans, Mora said he’s unsure if hyperventilation was heat related. Walker either dislocated or fractured his pinky and was then held out. Gane’s limited time is more about getting him in shape than it is about recovering from a hernia injury in spring. Marvay was in practice and limited to non-contact as was Ryan Medina (shoulder). Another unfortunate news came when it was announced that receiver John Young will miss the rest of the season after last week tearing his patellar tendon in what Mora called as a “freak deal.”
****Practice today went almost exactly 2 1/2 hours … There was a funny moment during the start of one-on-one drills. Devin Lucien caught a TD pass and defending was a determined Sheldon Price. The two tangled into the end zone with Price flipping onto an unlucky fan sitting in a lawn chair. He took it like a champ. The funny part is that nobody moved to get out of the way. Almost as if there was an invincible padded wall that would have saved the fans. True UCLA fans taking every bit of physical contact. I wonder if anyone got it on film. … There were two skirmishes during the late part of camp that particularly involved Dalton Hilliard and Malcolm Jones. The two got into when the defense wanted the receivers to stop stiff-arming. The two sides got into it before it was finally broken up, but on the next play, Hilliard was defending with Jones on the sideline. Jones took issue (not sure about what) and the two again had to be separated. Yup, fall camp is officially underway.