About Clay Fowler

Clay Fowler is a Dallas native, graduated from the University of Texas and joined the Southern California News Group in 2006.

Patriots trade up to pick UCLA’s Conor McDermott in NFL draft


The defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots wanted Conor McDermott badly enough to trade up for UCLA’s left tackle, sending their sixth- and seventh-round picks to the Dallas Cowboys in order to move up for him in the sixth round.

The Patriots selected the three-year starter at UCLA with the 28th pick of the sixth round, 211th overall. They gave up the 33rd pick of the sixth round and the 21st pick of the seventh.

McDermott may be a long-term project for the Patriots, but his 6-foot-8 frame and exceptional athleticism give him plenty of upside. A tight end weighing around 240 pounds when he arrived at UCLA, the 307-pound fifth-year senior needs to make significant gains in the strength department in order to be an NFL-caliber offensive tackle.

READ: Conor McDermott has upside with height, athleticism

A second-team All-Pac-12 selection his junior and senior seasons at UCLA, McDermott was expected to go anywhere from the fifth round to the seventh round. The Patriots made him their second offensive tackle of the draft after picking Troy tackle Antonio Garcia 83rd overall in the third round.

The two draft picks will have plenty of competition with four other tackles on the Patriots roster: Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle. McDermott’s quick feet – he won a basketball state championship at Ensworth High School in Nashville, Tenn. – give him plenty of upside should he add weight and get stronger.

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Titans pick UCLA’s Jayon Brown in 5th round of NFL draft


Jayon Brown had to be pleased to hear his name called as early as the 11th pick of the fifth round.

The UCLA linebacker was selected by the Tennessee Titans with the 155th overall pick of the NFL draft on Saturday, near the top of his projected range. The undersized linebacker, who led the Pac-12 with 119 tackles last season, was worth the Titans trading their fifth- and sixth-round picks to the Eagles in order to move up nine spots to select Brown.

An athletic linebacker good in coverage and a solid tackler with his 6-foot, 231-pound frame, Brown has hope to quickly find his way into Titans packages designed to defend the pass.

READ: Jayon Brown can help Titans’ weakness in the middle

When former UCLA linebacker Myles Jack went down with a torn meniscus in September of Brown’s junior season, he filled in well enough to lead UCLA with 93 tackles. He was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection as a senior and impressed the Titans enough to warrant selection near the top of his projected range in the draft. It didn’t hurt Brown that Titans linebackers coach Lou Spanos was the defensive coordinator at UCLA his freshman season.

Concerns about Brown’s lack of size and ability to shed larger lead blockers in the NFL made him a probable late-round pick ranging from the fifth to the seventh round. Going to the Titans near the top of the fifth was close to best-case scenario for Brown. The Titans traded the 20th pick of the fifth round and 31st pick of the sixth round to the Eagles for the 11th pick of the fifth round.

Tennessee needs help defending the pass in the middle of the field, where he will fit nicely as an athletic inside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. He had six passes defensed each of the last two seasons at UCLA. Brown also has a knack for causing turnovers, intercepting three passes and recovering two fumbles last season alone.

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UCLA basketball 2017 report card: Steve Alford

Steve Alford bounced back from a losing season in a big way, but fell short of realizing his 2016-17 team’s potential. (Mark J. Terrill/The Associated Press)

Strengths: It’s not as gratifying as wizardry with Xs and Os, but there is no shame in a college basketball coach’s greatest strength being recruiting. Steve Alford landed three five-star prospects in 2016, but that doesn’t begin to do justice to their talent. All three UCLA freshman last season are expected to be first-round draft picks in June and Lonzo Ball could be the No. 1 overall selection. No matter how good the coach, he can’t succeed without good players. Alford is clearly gaining momentum on the recruiting front, following his best class at UCLA with a 2017 haul ranked No. 2 in the country.

Weaknesses: Alford was consistently slow to make in-game adjustments this season, showing reluctance to take risks when things were going in the wrong direction. USC flummoxed Alford with a simple zone defense in the Bruins’ ugliest loss of the season Jan. 25 at Galen Center. As UCLA’s defense reached its lowest point of the season, a 96-85 loss at home to Arizona, Alford stuck with an offensively oriented lineup while Aaron Holiday and Ike Anigbogu played just 23 and 12 minutes, respectively.

Best moment: Deep into the season when UCLA’s weaknesses had been thoroughly exposed, Alford led his team to a win in the most improbable of circumstances. Continue reading “UCLA basketball 2017 report card: Steve Alford” »

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UCLA basketball 2017 report card: Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball may prove himself to be a once-in-a-generation player. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Strengths: Lonzo Ball should be flattered by the Jason Kidd comparisons, but UCLA’s point guard more than justified them by leading the NCAA in assists and surpassing Kidd’s best single-season total at Cal. Passing ability is where comparisons between the two end. Ball doesn’t just have otherworldly vision, he shoots a high percentage, stands two inches taller than Kidd and possesses the athleticism to play above the rim. Even as dynamic as Ball proved himself to be, his passing ability was clearly his best attribute. It was so exceptional, coupled with his unselfish attitude, Ball infected the rest of UCLA’s roster with a team-first approach not often found at any level of basketball in this era.

Weaknesses: Deep into the season after Ball had been thoroughly scouted, he mounted what looked like a concerted effort to dispatch the notion he didn’t have a mid-range game. But even by season’s end, only 7.6 percent of his shot attempts weren’t at the rim or beyond the 3-point line, according to hoop-math.com. Ball shot just 26 jumpers inside the arc and made 12 of them – in 36 games. Pretty alarming numbers on the surface for a player with unconventional shooting form that doesn’t particularly lend itself to a pull-up jumper. Ball filled a stat sheet like nobody else in college basketball, but mid-range shooting is a hole in an otherwise comprehensive resume.

Best moment: UCLA appeared well on its way to being more hype than substance after dropping its first conference meetings with Oregon, Arizona and USC following a soft non-conference schedule. Continue reading “UCLA basketball 2017 report card: Lonzo Ball” »

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UCLA basketball 2017 report card: TJ Leaf

TJ Leaf was the most dynamic offensive weapon for the highest-scoring team in college basketball

Strengths: TJ Leaf was the best one-on-one player on the highest-scoring team in the country. Coupled with the freshman forward’s ability to run (and stretch) the floor, he was UCLA’s most dynamic offensive weapon. Surrounded by shooters and the best facilitator in college basketball, Leaf was in an ideal situation to succeed. But when he needed to create his own shot, he had abundant success scoring on anyone from anywhere. His 61.7 field goal percentage ranked fourth among all power five conference players and the 6-foot-10 freshman shot 47 percent from 3-point range, making him the best stretch four in college basketball aside from Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen.

Weaknesses: Leaf was plenty athletic and surprisingly physical on the defensive end, but he was very slow to adapt as a help defender. Most of Leaf’s defensive shortcomings were mental. He was slow to rotate, was consistently beaten on back-door cuts and generally had a difficult time keeping his head on a swivel. UCLA’s lack of perimeter defense put an unhealthy amount of pressure on UCLA’s big men, but it also exposed Leaf’s lack of continuity with his teammates on the defensive end.

Best moment: One of Leaf’s best halves of the season maintained UCLA’s elite status at a critical point in the season. Continue reading “UCLA basketball 2017 report card: TJ Leaf” »

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