UCLA spring camp notes: Myles Jack moves to inside linebacker

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.

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  • WordsofWisdom

    I don’t get how Fabian is still a starting CB… he’s terrible. Hopefully this changes as the new guys get reps in

    • CaliGrown

      Terrible is a lil harsh. He started out the season struggling but actually played much better the final few games. A 3rd year starter I think he will be one of the better corners this year.

    • Laker Rod

      What makes you think a new guy will do better? Rick Neuheisel always tried to put new guys in and they often did worse. Mora has often retained veterans at the starting spots. Hester and Sheldon Price both seniors started in 2012 for Mora.

      Anthony Jefferson finally showed what he could do as a redshirt senior in 2014. UCLA’s DB coach is good. You can see the actual development and improvement of the players. Moreau will have a fine senior year.

    • Jack Wang

      He struggled a lot last season, but came on a bit at the end. He definitely has more promise as a starter there than Marcus Rios/Priest Willis … and asking an incoming freshman to displace an all-conference senior would be tough.

  • Aero93

    thanks for the recap. any word why ron robinson left?

    • Laker Rod

      Pretty sure just lack of projected playing time.

  • bruinbiochem06

    What happened to OG John Lopez? He can’t break the 2 deep?

    • Laker Rod

      Was wondering that myself. Amazing how with all the recent O line recruiting that some how 2 walk ons end up on the 2 deep. I’m telling everybody…we are in trouble on the O line come spring 2017. Mora and staff better take a serious look at this. Redshirting Quessenberry or Benenoch this year would be good and maybe one can redshirt in 2016. This way both will be here for spring 2017. UCLA needs at least 5 freshmen O line recruits for 2016 one can be a grey shirt. Need a JC transfer also where they are available in spring 2017.

    • Jack Wang

      He looked really out of shape when he first arrived on campus. That was a while ago, but he hasn’t undergone a significant offseason transformation the way, say, Caleb Benenoch did last year.

  • CaliGrown

    Nice write up Jack, what’s the word on Ron Robinson? Also surprising to see Dwight Williams at safety, didn’t know he had that kind of speed. Myles at inside linebacker is such a huge fit for this team, that alone makes the unit that much better. Finally I hope Tahaan Goodman gets his due this season. We are deep at secondary but he needs to be on the field! It’s barely baseball season and I’m thinking Sepetember (kinda)

    • Jack Wang

      Just usual offseason attrition with some guys figuring they’re getting crowded out of the depth chart. Dwight looks a bit slimmer than he did last season.

  • Laker Rod

    Jack moving inside is more just a formality. He was effectively playing inside even last year. Jack and Kendricks were often the two lone linebackers with Hollins more like a stand up pass rush defensive end. We had 5 DB’s often.

    Jack inside allows Orjioke and Wallace to man the OLB spot.

    I am shocked and disappointed Lucien has decided to transfer out. To me the WR coach is garbage who is unable to retain and develop even 4 star athletes like Lucien. Has Fuller improved? Payton has gotten better but it’s hard to tell if it’s just him as the exception. What’s going on with Kenneth Walker also.

    • JPKB

      It is doubtful the decision was entirely Lucien’s. As you know, UCLA gave out about five more scholarships this February than they had departing players and there is depth at WR. You have to find those scholarships somewhere and Lucien has not been happy with the number of times he has been thrown to.

      He hinted in a tweet that he wanted to quit (“It’s not worth it…”) and I am sure that was not lost on the coaching staff when they started to look at where to find a scholarship.

      • Laker Rod

        Not a chance. If you heard what Mora said no way the coaches pushed him aside. There was a spot for him. Again…perhaps Lucien felt 2015 was going to be the same as 2014. The irony in all this is that back as a redshirt freshman there were tons of Bruin fans who kept saying Lucien was a beast and was going to start over a lot of other older guys.

        Bruin fans in general put too much hope in freshmen. They go off of their high school highlight films.

  • Vinicius Carvalhosa

    What about Sam Tai? I thought he moved to OL, is he still with te team?

    • Jack Wang

      He’s no longer on the roster either. I believe he graduated, or is at least very close to graduating.

  • commentar

    Hey Jack, anything going on with Paul Perkins? Our season pretty much rides on his shoulders.

    • Jack Wang

      He still looks good, and I pretty much expect that to be the case through spring. No pads on Tuesday, so hard to say if much has changed re: RBs.

  • stephen

    Hey jack do u think there’s gonna be a lot more formation s for the TE.. .since were getting Clark..and that O line slimming down and changing positions..?

    • Jack Wang

      Yeah, seems like Colby Cyburt (6-3, 265) moving to TE gives UCLA a chance to simulate some of that.

  • jameskatt

    Go Bruins! I’m excited for this year!