Two weeks through spring camp, NaJee Toran has been a pleasant surprise on UCLA’s offensive line.
A three-star recruit out of the Houston area, Toran has found a spot as a backup right guard, mixing in some first-team reps along the way. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound lineman doesn’t overwhelm most opponents in size, but makes up for that with a relentless motor.
He’s been that way ever since he started playing football.
“I think it was my seventh grade year, I just exploded through somebody,” Toran said. “They just fell back. Since then, I’ve just been doing the same thing.”
The habit may have actually started on the basketball court. Though Toran usually had a physical edge over players his age, he felt like he had something to prove when matched up against older, bigger opponents.
“The feeling of overpowering somebody … of making somebody look weak — it puts a feeling inside me that I like,” he said.
— Receivers had a great showing in one-on-one drills on Saturday, with several players creating tons of separation off of just one cut. Devin Lucien, Thomas Duarte and Mossi Johnson were among the standouts, but almost nobody fared poorly. Linebacker Myles Jack probably performed better than most of the defensive backs during one-on-ones.
The competition evened out more in live scrimmages. Safety Tahaan Goodman dropped a near-interception of Brett Hundley’s misplaced throw, then laid a big hit on fullback Nate Iese — who has more than 40 pounds on Goodman.
— Ishmael Adams broke out as a return man late last season, and is doing everything necessary to hold on to that job. He found a seam on the right side early on Saturday, and took a punt back essentially untouched. He stopped just short of the end zone, but likely would have broken punter Adam Searl’s tackle for a score if the session had been fully live.
— Defensive back Johnny Johnson had his right arm in a sling on Saturday. The former four-star recruit had shoulder surgery that erased all of his 2013 season, and left practice earlier this week holding his wrist.
Left guard Malcolm Bunche needed to have his ankle taped at one point, but didn’t look noticeably bothered by it once he went back onto the field.