» In what was a relatively quiet Saturday morning practice for UCLA, the team’s most notable development was a position change: cornerback Adarius Pickett switched to running back.
The true freshman enrolled early at UCLA as one of the country’s top defensive back prospects, rated eighth at his position nationally by Rivals.com and No. 126 overall. But given how deep the Bruin secondary has become over the last two years, there may be a better chance for him to make an impact on special teams and in the offensive backfield.
“I don’t know that he’d get in the rotation at defensive back,” head coach Jim Mora said. “Running back is still a spot where we’re looking for some depth. He seemed like the perfect guy. …
“We’re looking for reasons not to redshirt guys, rather than redshirt them.”
The move isn’t set in stone, but Mora said Pickett took the news well: “He certainly was open to it. His quote to Coach Meat last night was “I’ll leave here the starter” — not in an arrogant type of way, but a determined type of way. He’s excited about it.”
Of course, UCLA’s coaching staff has a good track record with moving players across the line of scrimmage. Anthony Barr turned into a top-ten NFL draft pick after moving from F-back to outside linebacker, and former running back Fabian Moreau looks like a potential pro at cornerback.
» Former starting tackle Simon Goines had surgery on Friday to remove bone spurs from his ankle, the latest in a series of leg injuries for the junior offensive lineman.
However, Mora wasn’t high on the idea of potentially redshirting Goines to get him fully healthy. The coach said he wants him to be mentally prepared to play by the the Bruins’ Sept. 13 game against Texas.
“I think we’re taking a little bit different tactic with our offensive line this year, because it is a good group,” Mora said. “There are some good players. We don’t want to lose them. We just have to be a little more conscious of where they’re at physically and not grind them into the ground.”
» Freshman linebacker Cameron Griffin will also require surgery on his shoulder.
Left tackle Malcolm Bunche has missed two practices with a strained hip, but will likely be back Saturday night. Defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy was sore, and spent the Saturday morning practice on a bike.
Offensive linemen Carl Hulick and Alex Redmond are still out with heat exhaustion symptoms, and should be return Monday. Running back Jordon James and inside receiver Thomas Duarte remain out with hamstring injuries.
» Asked if true freshman Jaleel Wadood reminded him of any other undersized defensive backs he’d seen in the past, Mora brought up 5-foot-9 Kevin Ross — a former two-time Pro Bowler for the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I think Jaleel’s got a lot of skills,” Mora said. “He’s smart and he’s got contact courage. He’s not afraid to go in there and mix it up with the big guys.”
» Safety Tahaan Goodman is gaining a reputation as a big hitter. The safety said he’s still holding back a bit so as not to risk injuring teammates — something Mora said he hasn’t been too worried about.
“There’s going to be collisions, but if everyone’s playing at the same tempo, then we should be OK,” Mora said. “I guarantee you this: I’d much rather have to pull a guy off, pull him back, than push him to go.
“Tahaan, you certainly don’t have to push him to go. He’s got some violence to him.”