Jones returning as walk-on, eligibility unclear

Running back Malcolm Jones, who left the Bruins after playing just one game as a junior in 2012, had second thoughts after exploring options to transfer.

After the holiday season, he approached head coach Jim Mora about returning to the team. Mora said he didn’t have a scholarship available for Jones, but would welcome him back as a walk-on.

“Sometimes you get derailed when you’re young,” Mora said. “I don’t think any of us wanted to hold the fact that he left the team against him. We all wanted to give him that second chance because of the type of kid he is and because we believe in someone earning a second chance.”

A former Oaks Christian standout who was named Gatorade football national player of the year in 2009, Jones struggled to carve out a significant role at UCLA. In his first two seasons, the 6-foot, 220-pound back received only 80 carries. He had three carries for 10 yards in last fall’s season opener.

Jones would have only have one year of eligibility left unless he received an NCAA waiver for his three-carry 2012 season. Mora said the team has not yet begun looking into that possibility.

“I think there’s some special circumstances there, and hopefully they’ll take it into account,” Mora said.

Junior Jordon James will start the spring as the No. 1 tailback, although Mora expects to enter the season with a position committee. Freshman Paul Perkins and sophomore Steve Manfro will get reps as well, although the latter is still limited coming off a shoulder injury.

Senior Damien Thigpen is still recovering from a torn ACL and will not participate in spring camp.