UCLA football post-spring: Offense

Quarterback

Be happy that you have one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. Brett Hundley isn’t flawless, but not many players in the country have the same level of tantalizing potential. (I don’t think he’ll leave, but if Hundley declares for the 2014 draft, SI already has him as the No. 8 pick.)

A superlative freshman campaign — 3,745 yards, 29 touchdowns against 11 picks — proved that the 6-foot-3 dual threat is the quarterback the Bruins have long sought. Perhaps the biggest knock on him was his decision-making, whether that meant not throwing the ball away when he needed to or not sliding at the right time. In spring, he looked like he corrected some of that, drawing cheers from his teammates once when he slid on a scramble.

He also took 52 sacks last season — second-most in college football, and something that did start to affect him later in the fall. Continue reading

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(Bi-)Weekly Q&A Answers — 4/28/13

Q: What are realistic expectations for the football team this year?

I think double-digit wins and another Pac-12 South title are both very much attainable. I’ll wait and see how the running back committee and offensive line develop before picking UCLA for the Rose Bowl though. The secondary could be noticeably better than it was last season, if the freshmen are as good as expected and guys like Anthony Jefferson and Ishmael Adams can build on what they showed in spring.

Q: Who looks to be the leader to be the main running back this year or will it by committee? Whatever happened to Craig Lee the running back recruit who was retaking his SATs?

UCLA will definitely use a committee, but if you had to pick someone right now, it’d be Jordon James. Still, I doubt anyone gets more than 10-12 carries per game. Craig Lee is still trying to get a high enough score on his SAT.

Q: Is Steve Manfro injured? I’ve not noticed any news about him this spring. Continue reading

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UCLA ‘Spring Showcase’ notes

– Brett Hundley looked sharp, completing 16 of 23 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. He did take three sacks, however, which is mildly concerning considering that Jim Mora admitted the team did “basically nothing” in terms of defensive schemes. That said, the offensive line only has seven bodies right now.

Quarterbacks coach Taylor Mazzone said the 52 sacks Hundley took started to affect him late last season, as he got a slight case of “happy feet.” He’s up to 230 pounds and down to 8 percent body fat, which should help.

– Cornerback Marcus Rios is out for the season with a rare fungal infection. He told the LA Times that the infection started in his sinus, but then reached behind his eye and brain in what sounds like something out of “Contagion.” He added that only 12 people have ever had it, and eight died. He didn’t say exactly what the infection was, so I’m not sure how true that is or if his case is as serious. Best wishes to him. Continue reading

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UCLA free agent signings

Will be updated as news comes in. Most recent: 4/30, 11:52 a.m.
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Chicago Bears — safety/linebacker Dalton Hilliard (mini-camp invite)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers — receiver Jerry Johnson
Denver Broncos — cornerback Aaron Hester
Indianapolis Colts — cornerback Sheldon Price
San Francisco 49ers — long snapper Kevin McDermott
Detroit Lions — tight end Joe Fauria

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Vikings draft offensive lineman Jeff Baca

To continue the NFC North’s ongoing love affair with UCLA, the Minnesota Vikings picked offensive lineman Jeff Baca in the sixth round, 196th overall. He joins fellow Bruin Jeff Locke in Minnesota, while former teammates Datone Jones and Johnathan Franklin will chase their pro dreams less than 300 miles east in Green Bay.

Baca can play almost anywhere on the line, but has a bad penalties habit. He is the first UCLA offensive lineman drafted since 1999, when Pittsburgh took Kris Farris in the third round. Baca’s selection also marked the first time more than three Bruins were drafted since 2005.

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Johnathan Franklin: ‘It’s a blessing’

Johnathan Franklin joined defensive end Datone Jones in Green Bay as a fourth-round draft pick, and could end up being a better back than second-round Packers’ pick Eddie Lacy. Here’s a quick, post-draft Q&A with Franklin, one that caught him while his voice was still shaky with emotion.

Q: How does it feel to finally get drafted?

Words can’t describe how I feel right now. It’s a blessing. I’ve been in tears for the past 15, 20 minutes. It’s been my dream my whole life. My whole life. It’s what I’ve been waking up thinking about every day. Every day! I’m excited to play. I’m excited to go to the NFL. I love football. I didn’t just wanna get there, I wanna stay there. So I can’t wait to go up there and work and be used.

Q: Are you excited to be reunited with Datone Jones? Continue reading

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Punter Jeff Locke becomes third Bruin drafted

The Minnesota Vikings took Jeff Locke with the 22nd pick of the fifth round, making him the third UCLA player drafted in 2013 and the first punter. Selected 155th overall, Locke will compete with Vikings incumbent Chris Kluwe — a fellow Bruin signed as an undrafted free agent in 2005.

Locke’s punt average of 44.2 yards ranks second in school history.

UPDATE: Kluwe will likely get cut, but told ESPN1500 that he’s eager to compete. He also tweeted the following.

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Johnathan Franklin’s draft wait ends, joins Datone Jones in Green Bay

Johnathan Franklin’s draft wait finally ended at the 125th overall pick, going to Green Bay as the fourth round’s 28th selection. UCLA’s career-leading rusher was the seventh running back off the board, and joined first-round pick Datone Jones as new Packers. It is the first time an NFL team took two Bruins in the same draft since 2006, when Jacksonville took Marcedes Lewis and Maurice Jones-Drew in the first and second rounds.

Franklin’s slide didn’t attract as much attention as USC quarterback Matt Barkley, who also fell to the fourth round, but — widely rated as a top-three tailback — he will likely to be one of the best values of the draft.

“One of the things I love about Franklin is the way he can pass-protect, which is rare,” said NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah. “When you pay Aaron Rodgers the money you just paid him, you want to protect him.”

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Datone Jones: ‘I feel like I carried a torch’

On Thursday night, defensive end Datone Jones went to the Green Bay Packers as the 26th overall pick in the NFL draft. Here’s a quick Q&A with him done after the pick was announced.

Q: Did you get nervous waiting to be picked?

I knew I could go anywhere from 25 to 32. Once pick 24 came up, I thought I’d be an Indianapolis Colt. I fit really well into that at UCLA. I was pretty sure that I was going to Indy. It didn’t even cross my mind that I was going to Green Bay. Just wanted to happen, the experience of being a first pick, I’m so honored. I just can’t wait to dominate.

Q: How does it feel to break the first round drought? Did you talk to Marcedes Lewis at all leading up to this process?

I just can’t wait to dominate. All the teams that passed up on me before, I’m not going to use them as my motivation, but I just want them to know they missed out on a great pick. I’m going to do as much as I can. I’m going to work as hard as I can so I can bring a championship to Green Bay.

Q: Have you talked to Marcedes Lewis recently? Continue reading

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