Safety Dietrich Riley easing back after shoulder setback

Dietrich Riley had already fought his way back from one injury. He didn’t think he’d suffer another just one week into UCLA’s spring camp.

After sitting out all of last season recovering from neck surgery, the rising redshirt junior safety separated his right shoulder on April 6 — just the third practice session this month.

Riley had gotten his arm caught up trying to pry the ball loose during one-on-one drills, and the pain he suddenly felt had him fearing the worse. He said he tried to think positively, but couldn’t contain all his emotions as the staff worked to pop his shoulder back in on the sideline.

“Sitting in that shade area with the trainer, I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I kind of broke down. I started crying because I’ve been working my tail off the whole offseason, just doing whatever I can to prepare myself mentally and physically. Then that accident happens.”

Luckily for him and the Bruins, the most experienced member of the secondary didn’t require surgery. Riley is gradually working back into practice with a red jersey. He said the shoulder feels fine, though he hasn’t gone full contact yet. He rehabs two to three times a day.

“He’s such a football-intelligent kid,” defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin said. “When we throw him back out there, it’s like he never fell off. It’s like riding a bike to him. The thing is, it’s going to be vital to get him back and get him healthy.”

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Jim Mora ranked among top Pac-12 coaches

The Sporting News released its ranking of all 125 college football coaches today, and UCLA’s Jim Mora came in at No. 28 — one spot ahead of Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez. In the Pac-12, only Stanford’s David Shaw (seventh) and Oregon State’s Mike Riley (14th) are higher.

I agree with this list more than the one Athlon Sports released earlier this month, which docked Mora heavily for inexperience. That ranking placed him at 54th in the country and — inexplicably — eighth among Pac-12 coaches behind Mike MacIntyre and Steve Sarkisian.

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UCLA gymnastics finishes fourth at NCAA Championship

UCLA finished fourth in the Super Six final last night, ending a season beset by injuries. Senior Vanessa Zamarripa, ranked No. 1 in vault, landed on her knees to end the Bruins’ night, but the team couldn’t have won its seventh title even if she had scored a perfect 10. (Full story here.)

“Emotionally, physically, mentally, we are spent,” coach Valorie Kondos Field said. “We left it all on the floor. As a coach, I could not ask for more from them.”

Florida, coached by former UCLA All-American Rhonda Faehn, won its first national title despite two falls off the beam to open the day. Oklahoma placed second, and two-time defending champion Alabama finished third.

You can also click through to a photo gallery of the event.

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Brett Hundley cutting off social media

Don’t bother tweeting Brett Hundley for at least another week. UCLA’s star quarterback has sworn off all social media for spring practice.

“Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter — everything,” he said. “I’m dying, man. I’m dying.”

The rising redshirt sophomore said he did the same last spring and summer, but has also enlisted some teammates to join him in staying off those sites. Freshman Eldridge Massington, an early enrollee, has already broken the pact. Continue reading

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Jim Mora announces SoCal launch of Count On Me Foundation

Jim Mora and his wife, Shannon announced Saturday the Southern California launch of their Count on Me Family Foundation, which helps children who are either mentally/physically challenged, at risk, or from low socioeconomic backgrounds. For more information, click through to the official website.

Shannon said the Celebrity Golf Classic, the foundation’s main fundraiser, was already sold out. It will be held at the Riviera Country Club on May 20, featuring names such as Terry Bradshaw, Warren Sapp and Joel McHale.

Dozens of kids were also out at Saturday’s UCLA football practice as part of the launch, which was adorable to see. A little girl even got Anthony Barr to autograph a picture of him ending Matt Barkley’s USC career.

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Battered UCLA trying for seventh NCAA women’s gymnastics title

UPDATE: UCLA advanced to the Saturday’s Super Six, tying Oklahoma for second in the evening semifinals with a 197.200. Coach Valorie Kondos Field called her team’s performance “phenomenal,” and said this was the most rewarding season of her career.

***

The UCLA gymnastics team will end its season this weekend at Pauley Pavilion, which is hosting its first national title event since its renovation.

To clinch the school’s 109th national championship, the sixth-seeded Bruins will first have to get out of their semifinal round at 6 p.m. (You can watch live online at NCAA.com.) If they can score in the top three of a loaded field that includes second-seeded Oklahoma and third-seeded Alabama, they’ll earn a spot in Saturday’s Super Six for a shot at their seventh title.

UCLA has little too lose after navigating an injury-riddled campaign. The team lost 2008 Olympic silver medalist Sam Peszek (Achilles) and promising freshman Christine Peng-Peng Lee (knee) before the season began, and then former world champion Mattie Larson (knee) in March.

“At this point, we just feel like it’s really natural and everything’s fun,” junior Olivia Courtney said, adding that this year’s feels like a more cohesive team. “It’s super exciting to have NCAAs hosted at Pauley. It’s just a really great feeling. Everyone’s excited. The adrenaline’s there.”

This weekend may also mark the end of senior Vanessa Zamarripa’s gymnastics career. (Story here.) The two-time Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year, ranked No. 1 in all-around and vault, is undecided about whether or not she will continue after successfully recovering from a torn Achilles two years ago.

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Adrian Klemm expects at least two freshman starters on offensive line

Adrian Klemm didn’t mince words. What took place Thursday morning was the worst offensive line practice the position coach has seen at UCLA.

Done without pads due to the Bruins’ increasing injury count, the sloppy session neared closing time with a brutal sequence of penalties, dropped balls and even a safety.

Klemm has established himself as one of the nation’s elite recruiters, but reinforcements won’t arrive until fall. Right now, an offensive line that allowed 52 sacks last season still doesn’t have any stable anchors besides center Jake Brendel and All-American Xavier Su’a-Filo. Continue reading

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Brandon Tuliaupupu out with torn ACL

Redshirt sophomore Brandon Tuliaupupu’s freak, non-contact injury at the end of UCLA’s Wednesday practice turned out to be a torn ACL — one that will most likely sideline him until 2014.

Tuliaupupu only made three tackles last season, but was getting increased reps through spring camp.

“It’s really unfortunate,” head coach Jim Mora said. “Boy, he was doing really a good job for us too. The competition between him and (Seali’i) Epenesa was outstanding.”

Epenesa is now the only nose tackle available in spring camp, although defensive end Eli Ankou was tried there on Thursday. Sophomore Ellis McCarthy is moving there once he returns from post-surgery rehab on his knee. Incoming freshman Kenneth Clark will also figure prominently in the depth chart come fall.

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Kylie Fitts talks about adjusting to UCLA campus

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Early enrollee Kylie Fitts talks about adjusting to UCLA’s spring practices, his favorite part about college life, and missing his high school prom. The freshman sprained his ankle last week, but is out of his boot and hopes to be back in full for Thursday’s session.

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DL Brandon Tuliaupupu injures knee

Brandon Tuliaupupu hurt his left knee on the last play of UCLA’s Wednesday practice, crumpling to the turf in an apparent freak, non-contact injury.

The diagnosis isn’t clear yet, but Tuliaupupu was driven off Spaulding Field in a cart.

“It didn’t look good,” head coach Jim Mora said.

Added linebacker Anthony Barr: “Those are the scariest ones, when nobody’s around. He was just running and he kind of falls. We hope for the best.”

Tuliaupupu only had three tackles as a redshirt freshman in 2012, but his exit leaves the Bruins hurting for depth on the defensive line. Senior Owamagbe Odighizuwa and sophomore Ellis McCarthy are also out for spring as they rehab from surgery.

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