Packers take Datone Jones with 26th overall pick

UCLA’s first-round drought is finally over.

The Green Bay Packers took defensive end Datone Jones with the 26th overall pick of the NFL draft Thursday night, making him the first Bruin to go in the opening round since tight end Marcedes Lewis in 2006.

“If I was still coaching in the NFL, I would want Datone Jones on my team,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said this week.

Jones — a 6-foot-4, 283-pound defensive lineman — was one of several pass rushers taken in the first round. A versatile player who has seen time both as an inside and outside defender, he projects as a versatile lineman who can be useful in various schemes. The Packers were a popular landing spot for Jones in various mock drafts, and offer him an ideal situation as an end in their 3-4 defense.

He was also the fifth Pac-12 player drafted Thursday night.

“He’s my sleeper of the first round,” ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said. “He has NFL skills. … The Packers need a dominant inside defender. Good pick.”

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Where will Bruins go in NFL Draft?

DATONE JONES, DL
Size: 6-4, 283
Expected to go: Late 1st round

You can read more about Jones in today’s story on his draft prospects, but suffice it to say that the talented defensive end will likely become UCLA’s first first-round product since Marcedes Lewis in 2006. He impressed through fantastic post-season performances at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, and has even drawn comparisons to seven-time Pro Bowler Richard Seymour. A team like Green Bay at No. 26 or Denver at No. 28 could snatch him up.

JOHNATHAN FRANKLIN, RB
Size: 5-11, 195
Expected to go: 2nd round

Franklin reminds me of Shane Vereen, whom the Patriots took as a second-round pick out of Cal. Vereen rushed for 251 yards and three touchdowns in his first regular season. After running atop the UCLA record books, “The Mayor” could easily eclipse those numbers if he ends up on a team that doesn’t use as deep a backfield rotation as New England.

“You can use him in the passing game,” said Chris Burke, NFL writer for Sports Illustrated. “You don’t have to plan to pair him with someone else who’s a better blocker or a pass-catcher. …

“You’re not gonna give him the ball and expect him to move the pile five yards. If you can get him outside, let him find the hole and make the one cut, he certainly has enough speed and shiftiness.”

JEFF BACA, OL
Size: 6-3, 302
Expected to go: 5th round Continue reading

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Offensive guard Alberto Cid to take medical retirement

UCLA offensive guard Alberto Cid will likely take a medical retirement after suffering multiple concussions. The rising senior and former Citrus College transfer has missed nearly all of spring camp, and Tweeted yesterday that he thinks his career is over.

Cid started seven games in two seasons with the Bruins, including December’s Holiday Bowl loss to Baylor. He was listed as a starter at the beginning of spring before being sidelined.

“We’ve had discussions. As of last night, he was sitting down with his family and discussing where they wanted to go,” head coach Jim Mora said today. “I haven’t talked to him yet this morning. If that’s what he tweeted, and it’s the official Alberto Cid Twitter page, I guess I’ll address it on Saturday when I talk to him.”

» Rising sophomore linebacker Kenny Orjioke stood out to Mora as one player who has stood out over the latter half of spring camp.

“He’s still 17 years old,” Mora said. “He’s still maturing, but you’re starting to see it. … All of a sudden, he looks like an outside linebacker who can play and help you win at this level. We’re hoping he keeps developing.” Continue reading

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Allerik Freeman released in ‘mutual parting of ways’

Here is UCLA head coach Steve Alford’s official statement on the release of Allerik Freeman, who decommitted from the Bruins on Tuesday:

Allerik is a fine young man with a tremendous future ahead of him. My coaching staff and I are supportive of his decision, and we feel that a mutual parting of ways is the best solution. I wish Allerik nothing but the best as he begins his collegiate career next fall.

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Wednesday practice notes: Evans besting Adams

Cornerback Ishmael Adams was one of UCLA’s week-one stars, but has struggled more recently. Shaq Evans, in particular, seems to have made it his mission to abuse Adams after giving the redshirt freshman an earful of trash talk last week. On Wednesday, Evans’ best play was a tipped pass to himself for a score.

Adams should still be fine, but his lack of size is showing. He has also spent all of spring in a red jersey, but defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin said Adams could play a game now if necessary.

Evans, meanwhile, should figure to be a bigger red-zone target this season. Receivers coach Eric Yarber also said this about the senior: “I need him to be one of the leaders of the team. Even last year, all these young kids looked up to Shaq. If Shaq wasn’t having a good day, it was almost like the whole group wasn’t having a good day.”

» Jordan Payton likely remains ahead of Devin Lucien on the receiver depth chart heading into summer camp. Payton made a nice catch on Wednesday while double-covered by Anthony Jefferson and Dietrich Riley. Riley was consistently beaten in pass coverage, which may or may not be due to injury rust.

» Eldridge Massington is still rehabbing his ACL tear. He had a minor setback last week, but the main obstacle will likely be more mental than physical. Continue reading

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UCLA adds new speaker system; drones to follow?

Drones?!

Should you spy a strange contraption hovering over Spaulding Field in the future, don’t panic — it may be the latest in UCLA’s embrace of technology.

The Bruins rolled out a new sound system on Wednesday, but head coach Jim Mora said that won’t be the team’s last high-tech addition.

“The next step — and we will get to it, it’s just going to take us a while — is they’ve got these drones now that can hover over your practice field with a video camera,” Mora said. “What we eventually want to do is get a drone because that’s another perspective.”

Tennessee tried a similar idea last week, using what looked like an eight-pronged helicopter at its spring practice. An upgrade on the cable-suspended Skycam used in television prospects, the “drones” also require that UCLA amp up its fundraising efforts. A Cinestar Octocopter, used in the film industry, can cost around $10,000. Continue reading

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Jim Mora: UCLA’s Devin Fuller in ‘mold of Percy Harvin’

At what point does hope trend into fantasy? Praise into hyperbole? On the topic of rising sophomore Devin Fuller, Jim Mora ventured this week into that hazy, indeterminate zone.

“I think I’ve said this before and it’s not fair to either guy, but I think he’s in the mold of a Percy Harvin,” the UCLA head coach said. “A guy that can play running back if you need him to, can play slot, can go outside.”

Fuller still has a ways to go before he reaches the same tier as Harvin — an eventual Pro Bowler who had over 3,500 all-purpose yards in three years at Florida — but the suggestion isn’t outlandish, ceiling-wise. Since arriving at UCLA as a quarterback who then turned into a 145-yard receiver, he has proved himself to be one of the most impressive Bruins in spring camp (This becomes especially true if you’re looking for someone that’s not an established star.) Continue reading

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Four-star Allerick Freeman decommits from UCLA

More than three weeks after the hiring of new head coach Steve Alford, four-star shooting guard Allerik Freeman has decided to re-open recruiting.

Freeman signed a letter of intent during the early recruiting period, but will be granted a release since UCLA went through a coaching change. ESPN’s Dave Telep first reported the news.

The 6-foot-4 Findlay Prep product is rated as Scout.com’s 15th-best shooting guard, but may have seen minutes at the one spot after the departure of senior Larry Drew II. The Bruins’ remaining guard rotation now consists of returners Jordan Adams and Norman Powell, as well as incoming freshmen Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford — none of whom are true point guards. Point forward Kyle Anderson might slide in as well.

Freeman, ranked 62nd in the country by Scout.com and 81st by Rivals.com, is now the country’s top uncommitted recruit after No. 1 Andrew Wiggins. UCLA will likely look to the junior colleges or other transfers for potential replacements.

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Wake Forest QB Brendan Cross transferring to UCLA

Per CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman, Wake Forest quarterback Brendan Cross will graduate in May and enroll in graduate school at UCLA. He will be eligible to play immediately.

The son of former UCLA great and College Football Hall of Famer Randy Cross, Brendan completed five of his 14 passes over three seasons with the Demon Deacons. A former three-star recruit on Rivals.com, Cross will enter a still-open competition for backup quarterback.

Through spring, Jerry Neuheisel and T.J. Millweard have more or less taken turns in having better practices. Walk-on Mike Fafaul is also in the mix, and four-star freshman Asiantii Woulard will arrive in the fall.

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