Rose Bowl construction still behind schedule, over budget

For anyone interested in the Rose Bowl renovations, I wrote about it for the Sunday edition. Officials originally planned to have everything fully renovated in time for the 2014 BCS Championship and the 100th edition of the Rose Bowl. That was much too optimistic. Most of the stadium should still be done by then, but the city council needs to pass a crucial $30 million bond sale next month for that to happen.

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Franklin’s friendship with Hundley

Even a year ago, Johnathan Franklin and Brett Hundley weren’t as close as they are now. Then they became roommates and became more or less inseparable. Franklin said Hundley and redshirt sophomore Librado Barocio — another roommate — will likely be his best men at his wedding.

That sort of relationship is hard to come by, and has certainly helped in a season that have seen both Franklin and Hundley turn into stars.

“It’s great,” Franklin said. “That’s my quarterback. He’s going to give me the ball, so I know that he likes me a little bit. Just being able to keep each other accountable, call each other out on certain things and not be mad about it. …

“I tell them literally every day, I wish I had another year with y’all.”

Said Hundley: “I trust Jet with pretty much anything and everything. Just to have that relationship on and off the field … you’re sort of on the same level.”

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Lache Seastrunk declares Heisman candidacy, Bruins shrug

In a bit of delicious candor, Baylor tailback Lache Seastrunk recently proclaimed himself the 2013 Heisman winner. From the Sporting News:

“I feel like there’s no back who can do what I do,” he told SN. “I know I’m the fastest back in the country. I know I’m the best back in the country. Nobody’s going to work harder.” …

“I’m going to win the Heisman. I’m going to win it in 2013. If I don’t, I’m going to get very close. I’m shooting for that goal. I will gladly say it.”

Seastrunk, a former five-star recruit and Oregon transfer, certainly could factor into the conversation next year. Through the Bears’ three-game winning streak to end the regular season, the sophomore averaged 166 yards. He has yet to receive more than 19 carries in a game. (He also has one of the best highlights of the season, scoring a 76-yard TD against Oklahoma State after cramping at midfield.) Still, loudly proclaiming a Heisman win is a bit uncouth, albeit amusing. If the Bruins are using the proclamation as bulletin board material, they aren’t really letting on. Here are some reactions from players. Continue reading

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Weekly Q&A — 12/20/12 Answers

Q: What is the likelihood of Ben Howland getting fired? What is the benefit of firing a coach mid-season

A: The men’s basketball team will need to make some significant gains to save Ben Howland. With the Bruins trending up, they should be able to keep him safe until the season is over — even if his chances for staying beyond that are fairly low. (The two transfers in four days are more embarrassing than the record. Easy to attribute on-court struggles to youth. Hard to avoid blame for massive exodus.) Another Cal Poly-like loss could signal an abrupt end for Howland, but with Shabazz Muhammad looking better with each game, that’s an unlikely prospect. The advantage of getting rid of him early could give UCLA a head start in the coaching search, but that comes at the likely cost of creating even more havoc in what has already been a very bumpy season. Dan Guerrero isn’t under nearly the same pressure as Howland, especially considering how well the Jim Mora hire has gone.

If Howland is fired, I wouldn’t be terribly concerned about losing recruits, though that might be dependent on who replaces him. (VCU’s Shaka Smart and Butler’s Brad Stevens are the perfect-world hires, but they might be mid-major lifers.) UCLA still has clout as a historical program, and now has new facilities as well: the film room — basically a mini-theater — and new lockers are quite nice.

Q: How important is a Holiday Bowl win to recruiting?

A: Considering everything else that UCLA has done this season, the Holiday Bowl probably isn’t going to be as big of a factor. The win over USC was obviously huge given the stature of the game as well as the attention of the entire Southern California recruiting area, and making a run at the Pac-12 Championship helped as well. With a bowl that’s good but not great, there won’t be much to sway recruits significantly in either direction. (Anthony Barr said that when he was a recruit, he only watched the BCS bowls.) Unless the Bruins completely implode on Thursday — extremely unlikely — a loss to Baylor wouldn’t do too much to erase what Jim Mora has already accomplished this season. Five-star tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, for example, seems to be basing his decision much more on defensive coaching staffs as well as a chance to make an immediate impact.

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McDonald out for Holiday Bowl, violation of team policy

Starting safety Tevin McDonald did not make the Holiday Bowl trip due to a violation of team policy, head coach Jim Mora said Saturday. The Bruins are practicing at San Diego State leading up to Thursday’s 6:45 p.m. kickoff against Baylor, which kicks off at 6:45 p.m.

The redshirt sophomore is arguably the team’s best defensive back, and is second on the roster with 79 tackles. He leads the team with nine pass breakups and 10 passes defensed, also returning an interception for 50 yards against Houston. As a freshman, he tied the school’s single-game record with three picks against Cal.

“It’s big,” safety Andrew Abbott said of McDonald’s absence. “He’s a big player on our secondary and on our team.”

Added defensive end Datone Jones: “He’s a great player, but someone’s going to have to fill his void. He’ll be really missed, but we’ll have to go on without him.”

Mora said the team will likely fill the void by committee. Senior safety-turned-linebacker Dalton Hilliard will be available after missing the Pac-12 Championship with a shoulder injury, and should see increased time on the field.

True freshman Randall Goforth, who has four starts this year, will likely play a major role as well. Abbott gave him plenty of praise, saying that his confidence has stood out this season. The senior recalled a red zone play against Stanford in the title match that had Goforth matched up alone against All-American tight end Zach Ertz. Continue reading

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Ben Howland on way out?

From BruinReportOnline this morning:

UCLA is currently leaning toward replacing Ben Howland as its head basketball coach, and he could be let go before the end of the season, according to sources.

There is also an indication that UCLA has taken preliminary steps in investigating potential coaching candidates. …

This is not to say that it’s completely certain that UCLA will fire Howland, however. As long as Howland remains the coach, there is always the possibility that he could turn around the season and be successful enough to make it implausible for the UCLA administration to fire him.

In summary, the status is similar to most assessments of Howland’s future in Westwood. It still looks doubtful that he will be around in four months, but I’d still be surprised if UCLA fires him midseason. If Howland’s gone, the big names to go after are Butler’s Brad Stevens and VCU’s Shaka Smart, names that are tossed around for just about every marquee coaching vacancy. Both seem like coaches who could stick to their respective small ponds, but they’ve also named UCLA as one one of the premier programs in the country despite recent struggles.

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Bruins reel in four-star WR Eldridge Massington

Four-star receiver Eldridge Massington, a former USC commit, decided on the Bruins Tuesday night. He had previously planned to release his decision on Saturday, but had a change of heart and picked UCLA over Alabama and USC.

It’s quite a coup for the Bruins, who had the top offensive line class in the country but was low on offensive skill players for 2013.

Massington had decommitted from the Trojans because he wouldn’t have been able to enroll for spring semester. He missed his entire senior season at West Mesquite High with an ACL tear and wanted to be on a college campus to rehab.

A Dallas area recruit, he follows offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch as another four-star prize out of the Lone Star state. Go ahead and thank line coach and crack recruiter Adrian Klemm for both.

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UCLA 89, Long Beach State 70: Three Takeaways

The Bruins’ blowout win Tuesday night might have been their most impressive of the year. Long Beach State will be markedly better once it gets Keala King and Tony Freeland, but pounding the 49ers is a much heftier addition to the resume than doing the same to Cal State Northridge or Prairie View A&M.

LBSU has yet do much of note after losing four starters from an NCAA Tournament team, but it could very well end up winning its third straight Big West regular-season title. Considering that UCLA lost to Cal Poly and nearly lost to UC Irvine, it’s clear the Bruins are trending up.

Shabazz has arrived: The nation’s No. 1 recruit is finally rounding into shape. Continue reading

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