VIDEO: Xavier Su’a-Filo talks about young offensive line


Thin and patchworked a year ago, UCLA’s offensive line has reinforced itself with a number of freshmen who are ready to play immediately. Those additions, talented as they may be, have also introduced new challenges.

“It’s a different learning experience,” said junior offensive guard Xavier Su’a-Filo. “We have a lot more younger guys than we did last year, so plugging them in, seeing who needs to learn more — or less — is going well. It’s nice not to have to take all the reps like we did in last year’s camp.”

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VIDEO: Brett Hundley stresses consistency


After nearly two weeks in San Bernardino, quarterback Brett Hundley’s main message coming out of fall camp was consistency. After a stellar 9-2 start in Jim Mora’s debut season, UCLA ended its season with three straight losses.

“We’re on to bigger and brighter things,” said the redshirt sophomore. “Last year was a learning year for us. We really did some good things, but we didn’t finish the way we wanted to.”

Wondering if Hundley will leave for the NFL next spring? “I haven’t really given it much thought to be honest,” he said. “I know this is a general answer, but we have to focus on the season, take it one game at a time. We’ve got to be consistent this year.”

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UCLA ranked No. 21 in preseason AP poll

For the first time since 2007, UCLA will open the season ranked in the AP top 25.

The Bruins slotted in at No. 21 in the country in the Associated Press preseason poll, the same spot they held in the previously released USA Today Coaches Poll. UCLA last made the preseason rankings in 2007, when they clocked in at No. 14.

It is also the first time since 2001 that AP voters put UCLA above USC, 24th, in a preseason poll. Ranked No. 14 in the country, the Bruins opened the season with a 20-17 win at Alabama. For perspective, Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’” was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 that weekend, Jeepers Creepers opened No. 1 at the box office, and Will Ferrell was still on SNL.

Oregon and Stanford unsurprisingly led the Pac-12 ranked third and fourth, respectively. Oregon State is No. 25.

The full AP poll: Continue reading

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Friday night notes: Eddie Vanderdoes commands double teams

Half a day after his first extended practice, Eddie Vanderdoes started turning heads.

Still working his way back from a tight back, the 6-foot-3, 310-pound defensive end commanded regular double teams — quickly backing up his ranking as the No. 21 recruit in the country. Even when going up against starting offensive linemen Caleb Benenoch and Torian White, Vanderdoes more than held his own.

Vanderdoes looked more bothered by fatigue Friday night than by the back issues (likely a herniated disc) that had sidelined him for over a week. If the injury doesn’t flare up again, the Auburn, Calif., native will be a beast.

– Before practice started, quarterback Brett Hundley tried to drill a fast-moving camera drone from at least 40 yards away. As teammates and coaches formed an eager audience, he missed the target by just two or three feet. Even got plenty and oohs and aahs out of the crowd.

– Devin Fuller is such a difficult cover coming out of the slot. Continue reading

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Damien Thigpen won’t set timetable for return from torn ACL


Running back Damien Thigpen, who tore his ACL last November, said his knee feels good but couldn’t set a timetable for his return. The senior was third on the team with 849 all-purpose yards last season and one of the team’s most dynamic weapons.

Though being sidelined has kept him from potentially moving up the backfield depth chart — led tenuously by junior Jordon James — he hasn’t dwelled on the what-ifs.

“It’s easy for me to just think there and think, ‘I should be there, I should be this,’” Thigpen said. “But the coaches, they know once I’m back, they’ll allow me to step in and produce. I’m not really worried about, ‘Oh, I need to get out there as fast as I can so I can compete.’”

Mora said Thigpen will likely be ready toward the earlier part of the season rather than the middle.

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Freshman DE Eddie Vanderdoes returns to practice

SAN BERNARDINO — Eddie Vanderdoes may have been a little too eager.

Limited by a tight back nearly all of fall camp, the freshman defensive end bull-rushed without pads on his first play Friday morning, his first significant taste of college football. After being scolded by Mora, he dialed the intensity back a little too much.

“As you guys noticed, he didn’t quite understand the tempo there,” head coach Jim Mora said. “He got a little bit aggressive, so we sent him off for a couple of plays. He told me after practice he feels good.

“We just have to really work him back in — not at a snail’s pace, but at a pace where we don’t overload him too early. You can certainly see the level of ability.”

Vanderdoes pegged his progress at about 85 percent. The five-star recruit wasn’t sure exactly what ailed him, but described symptoms that indicated a slipped disc. He said treatment included stretching and a lot of work on the trainer’s table.

“The last few days, I was still hurting a little bit,” Vanderdoes said. “I wanted to go in, but they wouldn’t let me.”

PASS-BLOCKING KEY FOR TAILBACKS

For weeks, UCLA has stuck with the message that it will use five different tailbacks. Through that time, however, junior Jordon James has taken the bulk of the first-team reps.

One reason? His pass-blocking is improving, which bodes well for his chances to become the official starter. Continue reading

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Darren Andrews and receivers coach Eric Yarber go way back


He also has strong ties to receivers coach Eric Yarber. Andrews’ father, also named Darren, grew up around the corner from Yarber in Los Angeles. The two first met each other when they were around seven or eight years old, and both attended Crenshaw High.

Always “Uncle Yarbs” to the younger Andrews, the 49-year-old sometimes can’t quite believe he’s coaching a kid he once held as a baby. Continue reading

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