UCLA misses on Texas recruits Malik Jefferson, DeAndre McNeal

UCLA currently has a top-15 class coming in next spring, but it missed a chance to vault even higher on Friday morning.

Linebacker Malik Jefferson and receiver DeAndre McNeal announced in a ceremony at Mesquite (Texas) Poteet High that they would both be attending Texas, choosing the Longhorns over the Bruins as well as Texas A&M. Jefferson is the consensus No. 1 outside linebacker in the country, while McNeal is rated a three-star athlete by Rivals and a four-star prospect by Scout and 247Sports.

The two teammates visited UCLA together last weekend. A few days before that, Jefferson hosted an in-home visit and got to place his high school Butkus Award next to Bruin linebacker Eric Kendricks’ version of the same trophy.

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Weekly Q&A — 12/16/14 Answers

Q: How is UCLA doing with their allotment of Alamo Bowl tickets? Any estimate as to how many Bruins will be in San Antonio for the bowl game?

A: I don’t have estimates on tickets sold yet, but the Alamo Bowl contract allots 6,000 tickets to the Pac-12 representative and 12,000 tickets to the Big 12 team.

Q: Has Jim Mora said anything about the ridiculous suggestions that he might be the next Michigan head coach?

A: He hasn’t made any public statements, but he’s not going anywhere. Don’t even worry about it.

Q: In your opinion, with regard to football, who was the most underachieving player and who was the breakout player this season? As of now, who do you think will the breakout player next season?

A: I think the biggest underachiever was Fabian Moreau, even though he turned things around a bit in the second half and was still made the All-Pac-12 second team. But he looked so, so impressive during camp, and coupling the eye test with the “All-American” hype that Jim Mora gave him just set the bar too high.

For simplicity, let’s define “breakout” as someone who played at least sparingly this season making a big jump — i.e., no Josh Rosen. It wouldn’t shock me if everything clicks for Moreau, but freshman Jaleel Wadood seems like a safe bet to take over Anthony Jefferson’s vacated spot in the secondary. I still like Thomas Duarte to put up some big numbers if he can stay healthy.

Q: Looking back on Stanford game week, did you sense any sort of letdown by the Bruins leading up to the game? Or did the Bruins simply suffer the misfortune of facing a Stanford team that everyone thought would show up before the 2014 season started? Continue reading

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Eric Kendricks named first-team All-American by Sporting News

UCLA’s Eric Kendricks was named a first-team All-American today by the Sporting News, part of a clean sweep by Pac-12 linebackers.

Alongside Kendricks on the Sporting News list are Washington’s Hau’oli Kikaha and Arizona’s Scooby Wright — both of whom were tabbed as unanimous All-Americans.

Kendricks became UCLA’s all-time leading tackler this season and won both the Butkus Award and the Lott IMPACT Trophy, but settled for second team on most of the five major All-American teams. In addition to the Sporting News, the other lists used to determine consensus and unanimous All-American status are the Walter Camp Football Foundation, the Associated Press, the AFCA and the FWAA.

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Three-star athlete Octavius Spencer commits to UCLA

Three-star athlete Octavius Spencer has committed to UCLA, announcing his decision on Tuesday morning.

The 5-foot-11, 176-pound prospect is rated as a safety by Rivals.com and a cornerback by Scout.com, but also caught eight touchdowns and tallied more than 700 return yards at Monrovia (Calif.) High — the same school that produced current UCLA defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy.

Spencer is UCLA’s second commitment in a little over a week, following four-star defensive back Colin Samuel’s announcement for the Bruins last Tuesday.

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Weekly Q&A — 12/16/14

For anyone that didn’t know, UCLA will resume formal football practices on Saturday after this finals week, then break for a few days for Christmas. The Bruins are scheduled to hold one more practice after that before flying to San Antonio on Dec. 28.

Anyway, comment with questions below and I’ll post answers tomorrow. Thanks.

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Eric Kendricks wins UCLA’s second straight Lott IMPACT Trophy

The Eric Kendricks award tour just keeps on rolling.

On Sunday, UCLA’s senior linebacker won the Lott IMPACT Trophy, becoming the second straight Bruin to win the award after former All-American Anthony Barr. Given each year to the top defensive player who also exhibits off-the-field character, the award was founded in 2004. This is the first time two players from the same school have ever won.

RELATED: Eric Kendricks may be just the latest piece in UCLA’s new linebacker pipeline.

Kendricks beat out three other finalists: Alabama defensive back Landon Collins, Duke linebacker David Helton, and Washington linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha. The Lott IMPACT Trophy also comes with a $25,000 contribution to UCLA’s general scholarship fund. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Steve Alford talks about UCLA’s 87-74 loss to Gonzaga

After UCLA’s 87-74 loss to No. 9 Gonzaga on Saturday, head coach Steve Alford said he was more pleased with the Bruins’ performance than he had been after Wednesday’s win against UC Riverside. UCLA staged a few comeback attempts, but never led against the Bulldogs — and tied for just 1:17.

» From Mark Whicker’s column: “UCLA seems less of a national factor than it has been in a long time, on any level, including the bright, blue and empty seats in many regions of the new Pauley, and the taken-for-granted nature of a loss like this.”

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Can UCLA get a marquee win against No. 9 Gonzaga?

UCLA hosts No. 9 Gonzaga tonight at 7:05 p.m., the first part of a tough five-game stretch that will tell everyone a lot more about what type of team Steve Alford has on his hands.

Kenpom.com currently projects the Bruins losing all five: to the Bulldogs (44% win probability), No. 1 Kentucky (12%), Alabama (44%), Colorado (44%) and Utah (27%). The latter four games are all away from Pauley Pavilion.

» Can UCLA handle Gonzaga’s big men, Przemek Karnowski (7-1, 288) and Domantas Sabonis (6-10, 231)?
» Mark Whicker looks back at UCLA’s memorable Sweet Sixteen win over Gonzaga in 2006, the last time the two teams met.
» Freshman Kevon Looney has been a consistent force inside for UCLA, and is one double-double short of the national lead.

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UCLA’s Anthony Jefferson likely won’t apply for sixth year

Anthony Jefferson missed all but three games in his first two seasons at UCLA due to foot and back injuries. But asked if he would consider applying for a sixth year of eligibility, the defensive back laughed.

The 6-foot-1, 192-pound senior has become one of the most dependable Bruins in the secondary over the last couple of seasons, moving between safety, cornerback and nickelback depending on what his team needed. He was awarded with an All-Pac-12 honorable mention in 2013, followed by a second-team pick this month.

Jefferson said he’s on track to graduate at the end of this quarter, but hasn’t thought much about the Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2 being the final game of his collegiate career.

“I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” he said. “Maybe when I get out there in San Antonio, but at this point, I don’t know. Not yet.”

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