Running back Craig Lee improving pass blocking after redshirt season

Last season was the first since 2009 that a UCLA running back didn’t clear 600 yards on the season.

There are a few caveats: Jordon James injured his ankle after collecting 424 through three games, and quarterback Brett Hundley finished with a team-high 748 and 11 touchdowns. Still, the Bruins want someone to spell Hundley in the backfield more capably and keep him from the sort of abuse he’s taken over the last two years (88 sacks).

The answer may be Craig Lee. The former four-star recruit looks like the best runner on the roster after redshirting last season, but still needs to prove he can help in protection. Offensive Noel Mazzone has said in the past that it takes most players about a year to get comfortable with pass blocking in his scheme. Lee has about nine months in the program, and both Hundley and head coach Jim Mora said they’ve seen progress.

“He’s still developing as a young running back, but he has such an upside to him,” Hundley said. “Once he gets it, and understands the game and gets the concepts and everything that we’re running, he’s going to be lights out.”

— For another potential breakout player, here’s the story on Kenneth Walker and UCLA’s search for a deep-threat receiver.