Ben Wysocki commits to Utah State as graduate transfer

Former UCLA offensive lineman Ben Wysocki has committed to Utah State to play his final collegiate season as a graduate transfer.

Once a three-star recruit out of Los Alamitos High in 2011, Wysocki played sparingly as a Bruin, shifting to various positions across the line as a reserve. He notably filled in during UCLA’s 35-14 win at USC in 2013, after Caleb Benenoch was ejected for throwing a punch at J.R. Tavai.

Wysocki’s father, David, announced his son’s commitment to the Aggies on Twitter.

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UCLA 72, Colorado 59: Steve Alford talks about Bruins’ ‘next step’

UCLA beat Colorado easily on Saturday night, finishing off a 72-59 decision that didn’t look as close as the final score. The Bruins have only lost one game at home this season, but have only won once outside of Los Angeles in nine tries.

“That’s the next step that this team’s got to do,” Alford said.

The Bruins visit Stanford on Thursday and Cal on Saturday, both of whom they were able to beat at Pauley Pavilion this month.

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Linebacker Victor Alexander flips from UCLA to Georgia Tech

Three-star linebacker Victor Alexander committed to Georgia Tech today during a visit to the campus, ending what had been a longtime verbal to UCLA.

The news was first reported by In The Game Magazine, which covers prep sports from Central Georgia down to Northeast Florida. Alexander, who played at Jacksonville Trinity Christian, first committed to the Bruins back in November 2013. The 5-foot-10, 220-pound middle linebacker is ranked No. 22 at his position by Scout.com.

UCLA currently has linebackers Josh Woods and Cassius Peat committed to its 2015 class, but both project as outside linebackers. Four-star prospects Jeff Holland — who was Alexander’s high school teammate — and Roquan Smith have listed the Bruins as finalists for their Signing Day announcements.

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At a glance: UCLA vs. Colorado

UCLA Bruins (12-9, 4-4) vs. Colorado Buffaloes (11-9, 4-4)
Tipoff: Saturday, Jan. 31, 7:35 p.m., Pauley Pavilion
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Roxy Bernstein, Bill Walton)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

Scouting report: Colorado is one of several teams jostling around the middle of the Pac-12, and are thus unsurprisingly pedestrian in most statistical categories — although it is the best in the conference at keeping opponents off the free throw line. Conversely, it is third-to-last in forcing turnovers.

Big man Josh Scott has been sidelined for a month with a back injury, and did not travel to Los Angeles. When healthy, he is Colorado’s most efficient scorer. Forward Wesley Gordon has stepped in to fill the rebounding void, and is averaging 11.5 boards in his last four games.

The Buffaloes haven’t beaten a team ranked top-100 in RPI except UCLA.

The Bruins just notched their biggest win of the season in Thursday night’s 69-59 upset of No. 11 Utah. One major victory isn’t enough to change the course of the season, but UCLA looks like a team that can conceivably clean out the rest of its home schedule — especially given that they don’t host Arizona this year.

Norman Powell entered his senior season as the presumptive leader of Steve Alford’s team, but hasn’t become the dominant go-to option the team had hoped for. Although he’s become a better 3-point shooter overall, he’s only hit one of his last 16 attempts from beyond the arc (over five games). Continue reading

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Paul Perkins on Las Vegas’ early shortlist of Heisman favorites

UCLA tailback Paul Perkins (24) runs during a 38-20 win over USC at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 22, 2014. Perkins finished the game with 93 yards and a touchdown. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA tailback Paul Perkins (24) runs during a 38-20 win over USC at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 22, 2014. Perkins finished the game with 93 yards and a touchdown.
(Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Despite becoming the Pac-12′s leading rusher, UCLA’s Paul Perkins settled for an all-conference honorable mention — shut out of the first and second teams in favor of four other tailbacks.

He might not stay under the radar much longer. Online sportsbook Bovada released some way-too-early Heisman Trophy odds this week, and the Bruins’ soon-to-be redshirt junior was given the fifth-best shot at college football’s preeminent award. The star tailback was listed with a 12-to-1 shot, tied with USC quarterback Cody Kessler and Georgia running back Nick Chubb.

The trio trailed Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott (6/1), Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott (7/1), LSU’s Leonard Fournette (7/1), and TCU’s Trevone Boykin (15/2).

Perkins figures to be the centerpiece of UCLA’s offense in 2015, as the Bruins to find a replacement for three-year starting quarterback Brett Hundley. The 5-foot-11, 198-pound back finished his first season as a starter with 1,575 yards, the second-highest single-season rushing total in school history.

See the full list of Heisman odds below, courtesy of Bovada: Continue reading

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Signing announcements set for UCLA’s 2015 recruits

UCLA fans will want to tune in to ESPNU on Signing Day.

The network has locked down commitment announcements for nearly all of the Bruins’ remaining targets, setting up what could be a program-altering day. UCLA already has a solid 2015 class that includes No. 1 quarterback Josh Rosen — who enrolled earlier this month — but getting the signatures of a few more stars next Wednesday will push it to one of the best in the country.

Here’s a look:

DeChaun Holiday, CB, 6-2/207, San Marcos (Calif.) Mission Hills
Rating: Four stars, No. 76 national / 11 position (Scout) … No. 102 national (Rivals)
Announcement: Feb. 1
Finalists: Arizona State, UCLA, USC, Washington
Latest: Regarded as a strong UCLA lean, Holiday is the only Bruin recruit left whose announcement won’t be televised on Signing Day. He’s a big athlete who could shore up UCLA’s secondary immediately. The defensive backfield was inconsistent in 2014, and could use a shutdown corner.

Chris Clark, TE, 6-5/253, Avon (Conn.) Old Farms School
Rating: Five stars, No. 23 national / 1 position (Scout) … Four stars, No. 79 / 1 position (Rivals)
Announcement: 5:30 a.m. PT, ESPNU
Finalists: Michigan, UCLA
Latest: Clark visited UCLA last weekend, but that still left Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh with plenty of time to make a push. The former 49ers and Stanford has a history of developing tight ends, and made an in-home visit to Clark on Wednesday. This race could go down to the wire, but the Bruins offer a better situation with Rosen already enrolled.

Sotonye Jamabo, RB, 6-2/201, Plano (Texas) West
Rating: Five stars, No. 18 national / 1 position (Scout) … No. 22 / 4 (Rivals)
Announcement: 6 a.m. PT, ESPNU
Finalists: Texas, UCLA
Latest: Top dual-threat quarterback Kyler Murray opted to stick with Texas A&M rather than flipping to Texas, which takes a bit of the steam out of the Longhorns’ recruitment. Still, trying to wrangle Jamabo out of his home state against local pressure won’t be a gimme. Continue reading

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UCLA 69, Utah 59: Steve Alford talks about Bruins’ biggest win yet

Head coach Steve Alford talked after UCLA’s 69-59 win over No. 11 Utah, easily the Bruins’ biggest win of the season and their first against a ranked opponent.

Key to the upset was senior guard Norman Powell, who scored a game-high 23 points and opened scoring with a steal and a fast-break layup. He also helped hold Utes point guard Delon Wright to four first-half points.

“He’s a senior and he made a lot of big plays for us tonight,” Alford said. “As a senior, when you get that kind of leadership, guys are going to follow. I thought it was even more than Norman. it was a tremendous team effort. Everyone trusted each other.”

Full game story here.

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VIDEO: Jonah Bolden practices with UCLA after being cleared

Jonah Bolden practiced for the first time in front of Los Angeles media on Tuesday, providing a glimpse at the type of player that could have changed the arc of UCLA’s season.

A four-star recruit, the 6-foot-10 wing was ruled ineligible to play this season, but this week the NCAA cleared him to begin practicing. Bolden said that he had been able to get individual training with assistant coach with Ed Schilling over the past few months. He described those as being tailored for his frame and body type, name-dropping Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo as a pro comparison.

Added head coach Steve Alford: “He’s a big guard, or he can play a stretch four and really do a lot of things helping both bigs and guards.”

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Steve Alford talks about UCLA’s big men, preparation for Utah

Steve Alford talked to reporters today before UCLA’s practice, touching on the Bruins’ preparation for Thursday’s 7 p.m. tipoff against No. 11 Utah at Pauley Pavilion. The Utes blew out UCLA in Salt Lake City on Jan. 4, winning 71-39.

Some of the main notes:

– Center Tony Parker is still “day-to-day” with back spasms. He returned to practice with UCLA on Tuesday, but only did non-contact work. Senior guard Norman Powell did not practice on Tuesday with an illness — the latest setback for him after a bruised hip and two dislocated fingers.

– If Parker isn’t ready to play against Utah, true freshman Thomas Welsh will likely make his third career start. But at this point in his career, the 7-footer is more of a jump shooter — one who isn’t capable of anchoring the inside-out offense that worked well during UCLA’s three-game winning streak. He has taken just 39.4 percent of his shots at the rim this season, making 45.9 percent of them.

The key for Welsh, Alford said, is learning to initiate contact rather than bouncing away from it. The coach sees Welsh as a player who could be averaging around seven or eight points off the bench this season. Continue reading

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VIDEO: UCLA’s Jonah Bolden talks about being cleared practice

Jonah Bolden was cleared to practice with UCLA this week, four months after being ruled ineligible to play this season by the NCAA.

Today, the four-star wing spoke to reporters for the first time, touching on what he’s been working on in his game and what he sees in his future.

Asked if he’s considering entering the NBA draft over returning to UCLA next season, the 6-foot-9 Bolden said: “Most definitely, my goal is to get to the NBA, but my main priority right now is here at UCLA.”

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