Jim Mora ‘hopeful’ Brett Hundley will stay at UCLA

After UCLA’s win over USC on Nov. 30, head coach Jim Mora seized the moment. During a live postgame interview, he attempted to rope star quarterback Brett Hundley into committing to another year in college.

It didn’t work — Hundley demurred on his NFL draft decision — but a month later, Mora remained optimistic heading into a Sun Bowl matchup against Virginia Tech.

Asked today if he’s thought about the redshirt sophomore potentially playing his final game as a Bruin, the coach said: “I don’t think it will be. I’m very hopeful it won’t be.”

Earlier this week, Hundley said he had not yet received feedback from the NFL draft advisory board, and remains uncertain about his future. Continue reading

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Coordinator Noel Mazzone grades UCLA’s offensive line

Today’s notebook focuses again on UCLA’s trio of freshman linemen, whom offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone gave a B-/C+ grade.

– As he’s done all weeek, UCLA head coach Jim Mora continued lauding the virtues of El Paso and the Sun Bowl.

“What I’ve really enjoyed about the Sun Bowl is the events,” he said. “I’ll tell you why: a lot of bowl games — not that I’ve been to a lot — is you go to events and you kind of separate. They’ve done a great job at the Sun Bowl of creating events where you come together. Our team has gotten to spend a whole lot of time together.” Continue reading

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Tony Parker big down stretch in UCLA’s 75-67 win over Alabama

In the final minute against Alabama, Tony Parker had a block, two rebounds and made both of his free throws to give UCLA a 75-67 victory in the final tuneup at Pauley Pavilion before Pac-12 play begins.

Parker was a 43 percent free-throw shooter before Saturday’s game, where he made 80 percent (4 of 5), including two with 56 seconds left.

“That’s (been weighing) big on me,” Parker said. “I thought I was a better free-throw throw shooter. I keep shooting them in practice. It’s big for me and my game because I will get fouled a lot.” Continue reading

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Sun Bowl at a glance: No. 17 UCLA vs. Virginia Tech

No. 17 UCLA (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) vs. Virginia Tech (8-4, 5-3 ACC)
Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas; Dec. 31, 11 a.m. PT
TV: CBS (Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson, Tracy Wolfson)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Last meeting: This is the first meeting between Virginia Tech and UCLA.

Key storylines: Only seven UCLA teams have ever won 10 games in a season, the last one being the 2005 squad helmed by Drew Olson. Jim Mora has the Bruins on the right path with a second straight nine-win campaign despite a tougher schedule, but getting that double-digit milestone would make a nice selling point for the program. Continue reading

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UCLA running backs all healthy for the first time

At long last, UCLA will have a full stable of backs. Head coach Jim Mora said starter Jordon James, Paul Perkins, Damien Thigpen, Malcolm Jones and Steve Manfro should be 100 percent healthy heading into the Sun Bowl next Tuesday.

“They all looked really sharp out here today,” Mora said. “It’s probably been since training camp that we can say that. … It’s probably the first game that they’ve all been ready to go. So we’ll have to find a way to get them all reps.” Continue reading

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Isaako Savaiinaea ready for larger role in Sun Bowl

With inside linebacker Eric Kendricks sidelined following ankle surgery, UCLA will rely instead on true freshman Isaako Savaiinaea.

Replacing the team’s leading tackler won’t be easy, but Savaiinaea has some experience trying to fill the void. After playing nearly an entire half at Stanford on Oct. 19 after Kendricks left with injury, the Hawaii native got his first career start two weeks later in a win over Colorado. He had six solo tackles.

“It was night and day,” Savaiinaea said of the two outings. “There was a big difference (in) … my patience and my feet. I had a little happy feet at Stanford. Just calming that down. Technique. That was the main thing.”

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Defensive lineman Brandon Tuliaupupu to transfer out

After sitting out this season with a torn ACL, redshirt sophomore Brandon Tuliaupupu will transfer out of UCLA. The defensive lineman has already been removed from the team’s official roster. According to the Los Angeles Times, his likely destinations are Cal Poly, UC Davis or Sacramento State.

During spring practices, Tuliaupupu had split first-team reps at nose tackle with senior Seali’i Epenesa before injuring his knee. Once the season progressed, however, even Epenesa lost reps to true freshman Kenny Clark — who ended the season with two official starts, but was playing a de facto first-string role by the end of the season.

Redshirt freshman Eli Ankou is the only other nose tackle listed on the depth chart, though sophomore Ellis McCarthy can also play there. UCLA has a verbal commitment from 2014 tackle Ainuu Taua, rated the ninth-best prospect in California by Rivals.com.

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Pac-12 links: Wilcox, Aliotti leaving Washington, Oregon

– Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti will retire after 21 seasons (over three stints) with the Ducks. The 59-year-old spent the 1998 season at UCLA prior to his most recent stretch in Eugene.

– Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox will join Steve Sarkisian at USC after the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

– Forbes examines the importance of luck in the rise of Oregon football. Continue reading

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