Jim Mora, Brett Hundley appear in UCLA’s ‘You Can Play’ video

Of the more than 10,000 men playing major college football, none have yet come out as gay. UCLA football coach Jim Mora did his part to try and pave the way, appearing in the school’s “You Can Play” video this week.

Mora shows up at 0:20, while star quarterback Brett Hundley and defensive back Librado Barocio join in at 1:35. Women’s gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field and women’s basketball coach Cori Close open the video, which also features athletes from numerous other UCLA teams. Continue reading

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Shabazz Muhammad declares for NBA draft

In perhaps the least surprising announcement of 2013, UCLA star Shabazz Muhammad officially declared for the NBA Draft today.

“I am so thankful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play at UCLA and will always be proud to be a Bruin,” Muhammad said in a statement through the school. “From a young age, I have dreamed of playing in the NBA, and I believe that this is the right time for me to move to the next level.”

The announcement comes more than a month after former head coach Ben Howland said that he fully expected the freshman, once ranked the No. 1 recruit in the country, to go pro after one season.

“That was his last game at Pauley Pavilion, no doubt about it,” he said March 2 after a 74-69 win over Arizona. Howland was fired on March 24.

Muhammad is projected to go in the top 10 of the June 27 draft, signaling the end of a scrutinized one-and-done campaign that began with a three-game NCAA suspension. Throughout the winter, the Pac-12 Co-Freshman of the Year was also criticized for everything from wearing a Gucci backpack to not celebrating teammate Larry Drew II’s game-winner against Washington.

Nonetheless, he led the team with 17.9 points per game and helped the Bruins (25-10) to a Pac-12 regular-season title. UCLA lost to Oregon in the conference tournament final, and then to Minnesota in the NCAA tournament’s round of 64.

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Monday practice notes: Aaron Wallace ‘solid’ at outside linebacker

Before the start of spring practice, one question mark was the outside linebacker spot opposite All-American Anthony Barr. If UCLA started its season today, that spot would go to redshirt sophomore Aaron Wallace.

“He’s kind of quietly gone about his business,” head coach Jim Mora said. “At this point, he’s solidified his position.”

Wallace is listed at 6-foot-2 and 228 pounds, but looks significantly better than he did in his three-tackle freshman season. He’s also shown a decent ability to drop into pass coverage. Of course, Mora added that the depth chart is still fluid. Incoming four-star freshmen Myles Jack and Deon Hollins could both push for the spot too.

– Reserve quarterbacks T.J. Millweard and Jerry Neuheisel seem to alternate good practices, with the former perhaps having a slight edge at this point in spring. Position coach Taylor Mazzone said he still doesn’t see a frontrunner between those two and walk-on Mike Fafaul. Continue reading

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Receiver Jordan Payton confident in red-zone targets

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Sophomore wide receiver Jordan Payton, who had 202 yards and a touchdown last season, talks about how the offense changes without tight end Joseph Fauria as a 6-foot-7 red-zone target. He also gave some respect to position coach Eric Yarber for coaching in a wheelchair as he recovers from surgery on his torn quad tendon.

“We were like, man, he’s still coaching and he’s in a wheelchair,” Payton said. “He’s obviously a great competitor and a great coach and a great man. He’ll definitely get through it.”

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Weekly Q&A — 4/14/13 Answers

Q: What do you think are reasonable expectations for Alford’s first year (team record) — from a media, UCLA alumni, general fan, Morgan Center, and unattached viewer perspective? What about the second and third years?

A: Some early projections have UCLA behind Arizona and Colorado in the Pac-12, and that feels … about right. I can see the Bruins being better than the Buffs, but Tad Boyle returns every starter. I think Jordan Adams could be an All-Pac-12 first team selection after getting snubbed for the All-Freshman team. If I had to pick a record right now, I’d probably go with another 25 wins. Too hard to project years two and three right now with potential recruits and NBA departures still in flux.

Q: We have Noah Allen, Allerik Freeman, Bryce Alford, Zach LaVine coming in to a group including Norman Powell, Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson. That is seven players to play the two or the three. In your opinion who starts, who plays either the one or the four more, and who doesn’t see much playing time? Continue reading

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UCLA unveils Jackie Robinson mural

On Sunday afternoon, one day before the 66th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut in major league baseball, UCLA unveiled a new mural of the former Bruin and Dodger legend.

Situated just a few feet away from a statue of man who broke baseball’s color barrier, the new piece featured 25 colorful tiles depicting Robinson against a backdrop of eight circles. Each symbolized part of his story, from his number, 42, to team logos, to his Army past.

“We are truly honored to be able to play in a stadium that bears his name,” UCLA junior outfielder Brenton Allen said in a speech to the audience at Jackie Robinson Stadium. “His strength and talent is something we remember each and every day in our program.” Continue reading

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Former UCLA football captain Oscar Cabrera passes away

Oscar Cabrera, a captain of the 2000 UCLA football team, passed away Friday night. Just 35, the Los Angeles native and former three-year starter succumbed to complications from mixoid lyposarcoma, a rare cancerous tumor.

Cabrera was on the last Bruins team to reach the Rose Bowl, a 1999 game they lost 38-31 to Wisconsin. He won an All-Pac-10 honorable mention in 2000. In a Q&A on UCLABruins.com in November of that year, he said he considered himself a Latino role model, pointing to his childhood in Glassell Park and Highland Park. Continue reading

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OL Xavier Su’a-Filo gulping down protein

Here’s how Xavier Su’a-Filo is bulking up: three to four cups of whey protein dissolved in a shake, three to four times a day.

“I just continue to put down that protein like it’s nobody’s business,” he said. “It’s hard. You ever try to eat that much protein?”

The rising junior, already an All-Pac-12 first team selection last year, will enter the fall as arguably the conference’s top lineman. Capable of playing both guard and tackle, head coach Jim Mora called him “a rare football player.”

He’s accomplished this despite not being at peak strength as a sophomore, having spent two years on a Mormon mission in Alabama and Florida. Continue reading

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