Norman Powell says UCLA ‘closer’ this year


Junior guard Norman Powell said this year’s UCLA squad feels closer than it did last season.

“We’re doing more team-building activities, which means a lot more time together,” said Powell, who thought about transferring out until Ben Howland was fired. “Everybody’s helping one another. The freshmen don’t feel left out. … We’re closer as a family.”

But what team-building activities? “Pass the orange” was one.

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Basketball notes: Steve Alford talks guard rotation, schemes


UCLA officially started practicing this past Saturday, and the first 15 minutes of Monday’s afternoon session was open to the media. The Bruins didn’t do anything intensive to start, but freshman Bryce Alford manned the point while Kyle Anderson did individual drills at the other end of the court.

Anderson said he’s playing a lot more point guard than he did under former head coach Ben Howland, estimating the increase at roughly 90 percent.

Other notes: Continue reading

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8th annual Jim Mora Celebrity Golf Classic scheduled

The eighth annual Jim Mora Celebrity Golf Classic has been scheduled for May 19, 2014. As it was this past spring, the event will take place at the Riviera Country Club. It is the biggest fundraising event for the Jim Mora Count on Me Family Foundation, which benefits children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, who are mentally and physically-challenged children, or otherwise at risk.

The W Hotel in Westwood will host a VIP party the night before the golf tournament. For more info, visit countonmefoundation.org.

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Xavier Su’a-Filo (sort of) explains choosing UCLA

In today’s football notebook, Utah native Xavier Su’a-Filo talked about what it means to finally play in his home state as a collegiate athlete. A former state champion, his return will happen in the same place where he helped Timpview High to its third straight state title.

He also touched on his decision to leave the Beehive State for Los Angeles four years ago:

“I feel like the morning of signing day, UCLA felt like the right place for me. I couldn’t exactly explain to you why I felt that way. Even when my freshman year came, I was still a little curious why. I just felt like it was the right thing to do.”

He didn’t waver after his mission ended. Continue reading

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Pac-12 Power Rankings — 9/30/13

1. Oregon (4-0, 1-0) — De’Anthony Thomas’ status is unclear after he injured his ankle on Saturday and reappeared on crutches. Sophomore Byron Marshall carried the ball 19 times in his stead, racking up 130 yards and two touchdowns.

2. Stanford (4-0, 2-0) — Don’t look now, but Kevin Hogan is currently the Pac-12′s most efficient quarterback (174.58). The Cardinal also might have found a new target in junior Devon Cajuste, who caught two touchdowns, bringing his career total to three.

3. UCLA (3-0) — The Bruins still look like the consensus third-best Pac-12 team after the bye week, but Utah is a tough place to play. Forecasts predict a 50 percent chance of rain on Thursday. Continue reading

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Noel Mazzone praises Utah’s physical defensive line


Even without All-American tackle Star Lotulelei, Utah’s defensive front is still physical and disciplined.

“Maybe they don’t have the marquee name guy like they did last year,” Bruins offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said, “but I think the defensive line for them is probably the best front four we’ve gone against.”

Mazzone also pointed out the longevity of the Utes’ schemes. Head coach Kyle Whittingham has kept defensive coordinator Kalani Fifita Sitake on his staff for all nine of his years in Salt Lake City, though the latter spent the first four as linebackers coach.

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Defensive coordinator Lou Spanos talks Utah offense


UCLA defensive coordinator Lou Spanos said this year’s Utah team uses very similar personnel to the 2012 squad that lost 21-14 at the Rose Bowl. One key difference is the maturity of sophomore Travis Wilson, who went from averaging 3.3 rushing yards per game to 62.75 — third-best among conference quarterbacks. Continue reading

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Brett Hundley talks about UCLA run-pass ratio


Back in August, quarterback Brett Hundley admitted that he will have to shoulder a larger part of the offense. Without all-time leading rusher Johnathan Franklin by his side, the thought was that UCLA would have to become a more pass-happy team.

That hasn’t happened dramatically, even given offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone’s love for spreading the field. In 2012, the Bruins’ run-pass ratio was 1.21. After three games this season, it’s up slightly to 1.33.

The number is skewed by blowouts that allow UCLA to run the ball more late in games, but Hundley still thinks it’s the running game that sets the table in this offense. Continue reading

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Jim Mora talks about Utah’s offense and Dennis Erickson


Due to the short week of prep leading up to Thursday’s game at Utah, UCLA treated Sunday as it would a usual Tuesday practice. The Bruins had Friday and Saturday off after practicing last week, and moved into game prep for the Utes today.

Jim Mora spoke a bit after Sunday’s session:

– On early impressions of Utah: “They’re tough. They’re physical. They’re disciplined. They play hard all the time. Just like last year. They’re going to play good defense. They’re going to run the ball.”

– The addition of co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson has made Utah’s offense much more dynamic. In 2012, when former Ute quarterback Brian Johnson had sole schematic reins, the team finished with 19 pass plays of at least 25 yards and nine runs of at least 20 yards. Continue reading

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