Monday Report: Three days and counting ….

*In the words of Jay-Z, what more can I say? We’re restricted on what we can write. So I posted video with UCLA coach Jim Mora above.

Mora’s opening statement:
“That would be a typical Thursday practice for us in a normal game week. A lot of situational work. We had the officials out here today which was good for us, and I think we were clean on a lot of things. One of the the things we have to be ready to adjust is when we substitute in and out how they stand over the ball with the umpire and how that affects our operation.”

On weather conditions at Rice:
It’s supposed to be a high of 96, a low of 76 and it’s supposed to be 71 percent humidity. There’s a 40 percent chance of rain during the day.

On preparing for playing in rain:
You don’t worry about rain. I grew up in Seattle. That’s the last thing I worry about.

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UCLA post-practice report

The only injury I can report was the bee sting to my hand. Mega pain, but I’m OK now.
UCLA coach Jim Mora, who hails from the NFL, is starting to crack down on injury reports and such from practice. You can tell it’s game week, eh?
Asked how Brett Hundley is doing, Mora said “fine.”
Asked if he’s decided which coaches will be in the pressbox and which are on the field, he just said “yes.”
It’s the NFL in him.
Players practiced today since UCLA opens the season Thursday at Rice in Houston. So today was like a Tuesday.
Brett Hundley said he’s not nervous yet, but he’s sure he’ll that fire in him come game time on Thursday.
Videos to come.

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UCLA DE Ellis McCarthy earns rave reviews

UCLA true freshman Ellis McCarthy took part in his first real college practice today. To say that was impressive really would be underselling McCarthy, a 6-foot-5, 326-pound behemoth who moved linemen as if they’re toys. Here’s what some had to say about McCarthy’s performance today.

“He’s a big powerful guy. He’s explosive and picked up the defense well. I think there’s a chance that if he progresses this week that he maybe can see a few plays.” — UCLA coach Jim Mora

“He’s got great flexibility for a man his size. He’s got tremendous strength. He uses his hands well and his awareness is very, very high.” — UCLA DL coach Angus McClure

“He’s so quick and so big one would think when they look at his stature that he’s just a two-gapper or power guy but he has some finesse to him. I’ve never seen nothing like it. I was just telling Datone (Jones) he reminds me ofNdamukong Suh.” — UCLA CB Aaron Hester

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

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Saturday Report: Ellis McCarthy looks scary good.

*The big news from practice today was the return of defensive end Ellis McCarthy. UCLA coach Jim Mora said McCarthy looked good when he returned Wednesday, but none of us on the beat saw him take part in team drills, at least not from our vantage point in the stands. We’ve seen him take part in individual drills, but today was the first time McCarthy really hit the field in 11-on-11s, and he looked good. Scary good. McCarthy is as good as advertised, maybe even better. He is a man among boys, making Owa Odighizuwa and Donovan Carter look small when lining up as the second unit. In his first series, McCarthy and Jeff Baca had a nice matchup that got pretty physical. The defense from the sidelines also was impressed, to say the least. Cassius Marsh and Aaron Hester were among the leaders cheering on McCarthy, who put on some impressive swim and spin moves. He saw a little double-team out there, though that’s nothing new for McCarthy. He also recorded a sack after pummeling two pass blockers during one series. Baca, Brett Downey and Simon Goines were among McCarthy’s fresh meat playing defensive end on the left side. That he’s so effective is a testament to the job that strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi has done with McCarthy working to get him back in shape after undergoing offseason knee surgery. With more conditioning and the quicker he adapts to the college tempo, McCarthy will be a force to be reckoned with. UCLA defensive line coach Angus McClure (below) talks about McCarthy’s intangibles.

**Linebacker Aaron Porter (sick) and Javon Williams (undisclosed reason) were not at practice. Ian Taubler left in the middle of practice with a right ankle injury.

***Linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich took a few minutes to praise Dalton Hilliard during special team drills. Ulbrich loved Hilliard’s technique, but even more his no-quit attitude. In other special teams news, Eric Kendricks lined up on special teams and returned a punt, but I can’t imagine that’s a serious move they’re considering.

****Randall Goforth made yet another interception at cornerback safety. He switched to safety from corner. The kid’s a stud, plain and simple. Andrew Abbott also recorded an interception off Brett Hundley, who had a quiet day after a strong start.

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OFFENSE: UCLA’s tentative depth chart for Rice

This is the tentative depth chart for the Rice game, per UCLA. When you’re going through it and you start asking yourself questions just remember: take it with a grain (pound?) of salt.

OFFENSE
X (receiver)
Jerry Johnson
Tyler Scott
Logan Sweet

LT
Xavier Su’a-Filo
Torian White

LG
Greg Capella
Jake Seydel

C
Jake Brendel
Tre Hale

RG
Jeff Baca
Alexandru Ceachir

RT
Brett Downey
Conor McDermott

Y (receiver)
Darius Bell
Joseph Fauria
Ian Taubler

F (receiver)
Steven Manfro
Kenneth Walker
Roosevelt Davis

QB
Brett Hundley
(backups listed alphabetically)
Richard Brehaut
Jerry Neuheisel
Kevin Prince

FB
David Allen
Phillip Ruhl
Luke Gane

TB
Johnathan Franklin
Jordon James
Damien Thigpen
Malcolm Jones

Z (receiver)
Shaq Evans
Devin Lucien
Ricky Marvray

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DEFENSE: UCLA’s tentative depth chart for Rice

DEFENSE
LDE

Datone Jones
Owa Odighizuwa
Ellis McCarthy

NT
Seali’i Epenesa
Brandon Willis
Kevin McReynolds

RDE
Cassius Marsh
Donovan Carter
Brandon Tuliaupupu

LOLB
Jordan Zumwalt
Nate Iese
Aramide Olaniyan

LILB
Damien Holmes
Aaron Porter
Todd Golper

RILB
Eric Kendricks
Ryan Hofmeister
Kenny Orijoke

ROLB
Anthony Barr
Keenan Graham
Aaron Wallace

LCB
Sheldon Price
Ishmael Adams
Fabian Moreau

SS
Andrew Abbott
Dalton Hilliard
Anthony Jefferson

FS
Tevin McDonald
Stan McKay
Brandon Sermons

RCB
Aaron Hester
Marcus Rios
Randall Goforth

SPECIALISTS
PK

Ka’imi Fairbairn
Justin Moreno

KO
Jeff Locke
Ka’imi Fairbairn

P
Jeff Locke
Justin Moreno

LS
Kevin McDermott
Christopher Longo

H
Jeff Locke
Jerry Neuheisel

PUNT RETURN
Jordon James
Shaq Evans
Steven Manfro

KICKOFF RETURN
Steven Manfro
Jordon James
Damien Thigpen
Johnathan Franklin

OUT
Dietrich Riley

Librado Borocio
Isiah Bowens
John Young
Sam Tai

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UCLA, Oregon tied among Pac-12 for most selections to Senior Bowl Watch List. Let the games begin.

UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin, Joseph Fauria, Sheldon Price, Datone Jones and Aaron Hester were selected to the Senior Bowl Watch List, the first of its kind. The list is represented by over 300 student-athletes and over 100 schools. UCLA is tied for most selections among the Pac-12. Oregon also had five players selected. The top 100 seniors in the country will be invited to participate in the 2013 Senior Bowl slated for Jan. 26 in Mobile’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium televised on the NFL Network. Invitations will be extended over the next few weeks and throughout the rest of the season. Below are some quick facts of the selected Bruins expected to have a breakout season.


#23 Johnathan Franklin
5’10, 205 pounds
Tidbit: Franklin is looking for a breakout year. He’s 1,062 yards away from becoming the school’s all-time rushing leader, a feat that currently belongs to Gaston Green. Franklin ranks ninth on the all-time UCLA rushing list and has produced 2,103 yards on the ground over the last two seasons. He has been named to the Doak Walker and Maxwell Award preseason watch lists.


#8 Joseph Fauria
6’7, 258 pounds
Tidbit: With NFL talent,it’s no wonder Fauria is listed on three award watch lists for the Lombardi, John Mackey and Ray Guy Award lists. He led the Bruins last season with six touchdown receptions, the most by a UCLA receiver since Marcedes Lewis had 10 in 2005. He was second on the team with 39 catches and 481 receiving yards.


#22 Sheldon Price
6’2, 185 pounds
Tidbit: Price started 12 games last year, 32 total in his career. He’s tied for 17th in the Pac-12 in passes defensed last season (0.67).


#56 Datone Jones
6’5, 280 pounds
Tidbit: Jones started all 14 games last season and topped the team with 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks. He led the defensive front with 41 tackles.


#21 Aaron Hester
6’1, 205 pounds
Tidbit: Hester ranked fourth on the team in tackles in 2011 and has 23 starts over the course of the last two seasons.

The Pac-12 is ranked fourth (31) among conferences with most selected to Watch List behind the SEC (71), Big 10 (46) and ACC (43). Here’s how the rest of the Pac-12 fared:

Arizona
WR Dan Buckner
FB Taimi Tutogi
QB Matt Scott

Arizona State
WR Jamal Miles

California
CB Marc Anthony
DT Aaron Tipoti

Oregon
LB Kiko Alonso
RB Kenjon Berner
S John Boyett
DE Dion Jordan
PT Jackson Rice

Southern California
QB Matt Barkley
OL Kahled Holmes
DE Wes Horton
S TJ McDonald

Washington
CB Desmond trufant

Washington State
DE Travis Long
QB Jeff Tuel

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Rose Bowl Walk-Through: “It was a beautiful day”

The conference call with UCLA coach Jim Mora lasted maybe seven minutes, but I have little to share with you guys. UCLA held a walk-through today at the Rose Bowl that was closed to the public and media. The team arrived presumably early in the afternoon since Mora said it was “pretty warm when we first started.” But you had to know the picturesque backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains coupled with the sun setting made it quite the scene at the Rose Bowl, and Mora — as I’m sure the rest of the team as well — took notice. “It was a beautiful day,” he said.

Mora was asked how the stadium looked: “The field is in amazing shape,” Mora said. “All the seats are in and they’re working hard on the press box.” As you know, the Rose Bowl currently is undergoing a $175 million renovation that will be completed in phases with as many as 280 crew members working throughout a 17-hour window. With 15 days left before UCLA’s home opener against Nebraska it looks promising.

Mora appears to be in game preparation himself, as evidence when asked how the three offensive linemen looked. Mora said that “they did great.” On Wednesday, linemen Jeff Baca, Greg Capella and Alberto Cid returned to the field in full pads and participated in individual drills for the first time since suffering concussions while in San Bernardino. Mora added that the trio did not participate in contact drills.

“We’re still tinkering with a couple spots along the offensive line,” Mora said, “but we’re settling in pretty much.”

Mora added that game plans are “just about complete” for Rice, which shares some similarities with the Bruins.

“They have an offense that’s up-tempo and splits the field much like ours does,” Mora said. “They’re fundamentally sound.”

Sam McGuffie figures to be an offensive threat for the Owls. He battled injuries last year but had a solid 2010 season when he led the team in receptions (39) and rushing (833 yards).

“If you look at him he reminds you of Steven Manfro a little bit,” Mora said. “He’s an excellent field runner, great quickness. They can hand him the ball and throw him the ball. It’s tough to defend him one-on-one.”

That’s it for now peeps. UCLA resumes practice Saturday at Spaulding Field. It’s closed to the public. I’ll be there, but I’m taking Sunday off. Someone at the DN will fill in for me, and I’ll be back Monday. Any questions feel free to hit me up on Twitter @MelendezSports

Sent from my iPad

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Patrick Larimore this morning on Dan Patrick Show


ABOVE: This is a tribute poster for Patrick Larimore that I found while searching for a photo to accompany this post. Thought it looked pretty cool. It’s from a die hard Bruin fan. At the bottom right you can see a quote LB coach Jeff Ulbrich gave us when asked about the unique player that Larimore was. (Courtesy photo)

Patrick Larimore, who medically retired a week into UCLA’s fall camp in San Bernardino, appeared this morning on The Dan Patrick Show and talked about the difficulty in making his decision. Larimore also talks about the lingering symptoms weeks after his first concussion in spring camp such as difficulty of sleep, confusion and, most recently, mood swings. The thing I found most shocking is that Larimore’s had six official concussions. Here are some snippets from the interview with a link to The Dan Patrick Show below so you can listen to the interview in its entirety.

On how difficult the past two weeks have been:
“The past two weeks have been very tough. I had a concussion at the start of camp. It really weighed on my mind. I had to fight internally even with my parents. Ultimately I felt like I was really letting my teammates down. That was what really hurt the most, but I had to make the decision.

On meeting with his teammates to deliver the news:
At first I thought I was letting them all down but I knew right away that they were more concerned about my long-term health which was a huge relief to me. Also I want to make it known that the UCLA coaching staff and UCLA as a whole was very positive towards me and really took the time, was cautious with me bringing me around and bringing me back. I don’t think that’s how it is everywhere in the country, and I just want to recognize that.

On talking with parents about coming to a decision:
Part of what happens when you go through personality changes, (you get) a lot of mood swings. Over the past two weeks I went from talking to my parents, them trying to tell me to stop and to yelling at them and not trusting them; a wide range of emotions I was going through. I (am) so lucky to have a family to help me through a time like this because it was such a hard decision to make. I imagine that there’s kids elsewhere throughout the country that are going through similar things that might not have the support that I have. I just want to do the best I can to spread some knowledge on the this issue.

On being around the team again:
“It’s important for me to get back around the team soon, and even though I won’t be able to play I’ve been with my teammates this whole year. I’ve really seen the commitment and the change, and just being around the program for the last year really has been just an opportunity to see how a real tam works and how real efficient coaches are. It’s just been a real opportunity for me, and even though I can’t play I’m confident my teammates are going to be very succuessful.”

Larimore later in the interview is asked how concerned he is with brain damage, how the mood swings went away and if he’ll let his kids play football.CLICK HERE to listen to the entire interview.

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Wednesday’s Practice Recap: UCLA gets Rice looks.

*UCLA squared up against scout teams on offense and defense. The teams were split up on two fields and they worked off of cards, giving the offense some looks that are different from UCLA’s own defense.

**The biggest news out of today’s practice was the return of Jeff Baca, Greg Capella and Alberto Cid. The trio have been out with concussions since San Bernardino. On Tuesday, UCLA coach Jim Mora said Capella was the closest to coming back and hinted he would do so today, which he did. There was no word on when Baca would return, much less Cid since Mora said he was the farthest along. But both Baca and Cid also returned today though their activity was limited. On the three linemen coming back, Mora said: “they looked good. They’re through the acclimation period.” When asked if they were ready to go, Mora simply said, “Yup.”

***Mora said Ellis McCarthy was back on the field for the first time, adding that he did a good job. McCarthy has been part of individual drills the last couple days but he didn’t take part in team drills today.

****Mora was asked if we can assume that the scout team will not in the game plan. Mora siad, “You cannot assume anything because guys will be on the scout team over working and moving back and forth.”

*****On players who might redshirt, Mora said some decisions have been made but nothing that’s going to be annoucned. “Probably at all all year. You can keep asking but you’ll probably get the same answer. I don’t want to announce anything and then reneg on it.”

******QB Brett Hundley didn’t get a lot of help in team drills or in 7-on-7s. There were a handful of dropped passes. He did make some pretty sweet passes for large gains to Steven Manfro and Darius Bell. Fabian Moreau keeps showing promise at cornerback with a Pick 6, his second in as many days.

UCLA will have a walk-through at the Rose Bowl on Thursday. It’s closed to the public and media.

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