UCLA notes: Two linebacker spots still ‘wide open’ in Jeff Ulbrich’s defense

» UCLA doesn’t have a lot of question marks, but one position group that’s still unsettled are the linebackers.

Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich called competition at outside linebacker (opposite Myles Jack) and inside linebacker (opposite Eric Kendricks) “wide open” — naming five candidates for the former and three for the latter.

Outside linebackers have shuffled up and down the depth chart this week, but on Friday, redshirt junior Aaron Wallace and sophomore Deon Hollins got more play than 19-year-old junior Kenny Orjioke. Wallace has gotten love from both Ulbrich and head coach Jim Mora this week, but he doesn’t look like he has the speed to be a great pass rusher. That’s an area that Hollins excels at, and he’s looked better than he did in spring.

The competition inside is crowded, but true freshman Kenny Young has been fun to watch. He’s not the same type of do-it-all stud that Myles Jack is, though his work ethic has sparked comparisons.

» After leaving Thursday’s practice following a hit to the head, linebacker Zach Whitley wore a neck brace on Friday. Not an encouraging sign, but it could have been precautionary.

Bumped in midair, walk-on receiver Sam Handler landed awkwardly on his right leg and appeared to injure his knee. He couldn’t put any pressure on the leg as he was helped off the field by a pair of staffers.

Starting tackles Malcolm Bunche (undisclosed) and Conor McDermott (shoulder) were both held out on the sidelines. Redshirt freshman Poasi Moala got some work at first-string left tackle in place of Bunche. Starting guard Alex Redmond also missed another practice recovering from heat exhaustion.

Running back Jordon James and inside receiver Thomas Duarte were out with injured hamstrings.

» In case anyone was worried, Myles Jack is still great at football. There was one play during 11-on-11s Friday where 5-foot-10 receiver Kenneth Walker tried to juke around Jack, and the linebacker simply reached out and pulled him back around.

» Eldridge Massington made some nice plays, including one grab over Jalen Ortiz that required him to turn around, jump up and stretch out. An impressive play even considering the six-inch height advantage. He also leaped up for a sideline catch, but couldn’t get a foot down inbounds.

His biggest mistake was tipping a pass up into the air, creating an easy interception for cornerback Marcus Rios. Rios also played well on Friday, snagging another interception.

» Former five-star prospect Priest Willis has struggled at cornerback, something even head coach Jim Mora has admitted, but had arguably his best day of training camp on Friday. The sophomore made a good play on a deep route against receiver Kenny Walker.

He’s still being overshadowed by fellow 2013 classmate Tahaan Goodman, who looks like he could push for a starting safety spot.

» Junior Fabian Moreau still looks like an elite shutdown corner, and completely blanketed starting receiver Devin Lucien on Friday.

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  • VB

    …. And Nate Iese is a BEAST!!! That is all.