UCLA started spring camp today, and while the starting quarterback race is still in its very early stages, but here are some other developments from this morning session.
— Myles Jack will be working a lot at inside linebacker this spring, although head coach Jim Mora said the junior will get reps outside as well. It’s a significant move for the UCLA defense, but not one that’s overly surprising given Jack’s skill set.
For all his talents, the 6-foot-1 linebacker has never been the most dangerous pass rusher. On the other hand, he matches up well in coverage even against some top receivers, and is so versatile moving sideline to sideline. The stats bear this out: he only has one sack in two season, but has 18 pass breakups in that same period.
No other Pac-12 linebacker can match that statistic in that same span. Second place goes to USC’s Hayes Pullard, who had 14.
“It gets him to the middle of the field where we can utilize his speed and things like that,” Mora said of Jack’s move. “If there was a disadvantage — some of the things he does on the outside puts him in man-to-man coverage situations. He’s a little less involved with that when he’s in the middle of the defense.”
Deon Hollins and Aaron Wallace are playing outside now, while sophomore Kenny Young is next to Jack.
Jack was also responsible for one of the session’s most notable plays. During one-on-one drills, he got tangled up with receiver Mossi Johnson on a contested ball. Both came down with at least one hand wrapped around the pass, and essentially wrestled each other for 15-20 seconds before Jack came up with it.
— Other position changes: offensive lineman Colby Cyburt is switching to tight end; offensive guard NaJee Toran is moving to the defensive line; linebacker Dwight Williams is moving to safety.
— Randall Goforth is back in a non-contact red jersey after undergoing surgeries on both shoulders. He’s getting a waiver for 2014 — a season that only saw him play two games — and will be a redshirt junior this upcoming season. When he did line up during practice, he was in the first-string secondary alongside safety Jaleel Wadood and cornerbacks Ishmael Adams and Fabian Moreau.
The second-string defensive backfield looked like Priest Willis and Marcus Rios at the corners, and Tahaan Goodman and Adarius Pickett at safety. Former four-star recruit Johnny Johnson got some work too, but looks like he has a ways to go after losing essentially his first two seasons to shoulder injuries.
— Running back Steve Manfro and receiver Austin Roberts are both practicing with braces over their left knees as they recover from torn ACLs.
Cameron Griffin is back after sitting out 2014 with a shoulder injury. He lined up today as the second-string outside linebacker. That unit still looks fluid, but featured Isaako Savaiinaea and Jayon Brown inside, and Cameron Judge on the opposite end.
Kene Orjioke — this is the new spelling listed on the roster — did light work on the sideline as he continues form the torn ACL he suffered last October.
— In addition to receiver Devin Lucien deciding to transfer out, defensive back Ron Robinson is also no longer on the team.
— Caleb Benenoch and Scott Quessenberry are recovering from offseason surgeries, so that disrupts the offensive line a bit. In the meantime, here’s what the first- and second-string lines looked like on the first day of camp.
1: LT Conor McDermott, LG Kenny Lacy, C Jake Brendel, RG Alex Redmond, RT Simon Goines
2: LT Kolton Miller, LG Poasi Moala, C Giovanni Gentosi, RG Cristian Garcia, RT Zach Bateman
Goines should be healthy again after sitting out all of last season, and Brendel called him the most powerful lineman UCLA has. Gentosi and Garcia are walk-ons, while Bateman is a JUCO transfer from Orange Coast College trying to earn a spot in the rotation.
— Mora said he was not allowed to comment on the status of Adrian Klemm as the investigation continues regarding the offensive line coach’s alleged NCAA rules violations. The staff will work as a committee to coach the unit. Graduate assistants Blake Bentz and Dave Marsh took some of the hands-on duties today, but Mora said running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone will also pitch in.
— Former All-American linebacker Robert Thomas, who was picked out of UCLA in the first round of 2002 NFL draft, has returned to campus to finish his degree and assist the football staff. Former defensive back Librado Barocio (graduated) and defensive lineman Ian Taubler (medical retirement) are also back.