UCLA spring football starts on March 31

Brett Hundley (17) leads UCLA in a spring practice on April 3, 2014. With the quarterback now off the the NFL, the Bruins will spend this spring trying to find his successor. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

Brett Hundley leads UCLA in a spring practice on April 3, 2014. With the quarterback now off the the NFL, the Bruins will spend this spring trying to find his successor. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

The search for UCLA’s new starting quarterback will begin in a little over a month.

The Bruins announced their spring practice schedule today, with 14 practices that will start on March 31. The main event, of course, will be the competition to replace three-year starter Brett Hundley behind center. Five-star recruit Josh Rosen is the presumptive favorite after enrolling in January, but backup Jerry Neuheisel and redshirt sophomore Asiantii Woulard will make their bids as well.

Every session will begin in the morning, except for three Monday practices that start at 4:30 p.m. (April 6, 13 and 20). Since seats at Spaulding Field were removed last year, the observation areas will be standing-room only.

The spring game will be held at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, April 25 at 10 a.m.

Here’s the full schedule: Continue reading

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UCLA announces Tom Bradley as new defensive coordinator

UCLA has announced the hiring of former Penn State assistant Tom Bradley as the Bruins’ new defensive coordinator, officially ending a search the began almost three weeks ago.

“To bring a coach of Tom Bradley’s caliber to UCLA is very exciting,” head coach Jim Mora said in a statement. “His knowledge of the game, extensive experience, level of intensity and attention to detail all make him one of the best defensive teachers in college football.

“Combine that with the fact that he has strong national recruiting ties and is one of the most well respected coaches in the game — it all adds up to Tom being a tremendous addition to our staff.” Continue reading

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UCLA hires former Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley

UCLA’s search for a defensive coordinator is over.

Former longtime Penn State assistant Tom Bradley will fill that position for the Bruins, ESPN confirmed this afternoon. The program has not yet made an official announcement.

Bradley’s status as the leading candidate for the UCLA opening surfaced last week. He is the Bruins’ third defensive coordinator in as many years, following Jeff Ulbrich — who became the Atlanta Falcons linebackers coach earlier this month — and Lou Spanos.

Bradley worked as West Virginia’s associated head coach last year, and also worked in broadcasting following his decades-long stint in State College. He led several top-10 defenses at Penn State as a coordinator from 2000 to 2011, and served as the team’s interim head coach after the dismissal of Joe Paterno.

Here is last week’s look at the longtime PSU assistant, including former West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck’s strong endorsement of him regarding the Sandusky scandal.

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Hundley, Odighizuwa stand out with NFL combine measurements

UCLA’s pro prospects have all landed in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine. Although most of the biggest drills are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday — including quarterback workouts tomorrow — most of the former Bruins have been measured by now.

Here’s a quick look.

QB Brett Hundley — 6’3″, 32 1/8″ arms, 226 pounds, 10 1/2″ hands
Hundley’s physicals were never really questioned in terms of his draft profile, but he didn’t hurt himself by measuring out with the biggest hands of any quarterback.

LB Eric Kendricks — 6’0″, 232 pounds, 31″ arms, 9 5/8″ hands
The reigning Butkus Award winner has never blown anyone with his physical gifts, and his measurements at the combine didn’t pop out in any way. Of note: He’s very physically similar to USC’s Hayes Pullard, who has the same height and hand size but is eight pounds heavier and slightly longer (31 1/4″ arms).

DT Ellis McCarthy — 6’5″, 338 pounds, 34 1/8″ arms, 9 7/8″ hands
McCarthy was heavier than any other defensive lineman except Washington’s Danny Shelton, who edged him by a pound. The 6-foot-2 Shelton is projected as a first-round pick.

DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa — 6’3″, 267 pounds, 33 3/4″ arms, 11″ hands
His hands actually measured an eighth of an inch shorter than they did at the Senior Bowl last month, but that still ties him for first among defensive linemen with Indiana’s Bobby Richardson and Iowa’s Carl Davis.

Anthony Jefferson will be measured along with other defensive backs on Saturday.

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How would Tom Bradley fit as UCLA’s defensive coordinator?

After two weeks, UCLA appears to be close to finding a new defensive coordinator.

Former longtime Penn State assistant Tom Bradley, who was named AP Defensive Coordinator of the Year in 2005, is close to filling that role for the Bruins. Once finalized, he will become UCLA’s third defensive coordinator in as many years, following Jeff Ulbrich and Lou Spanos — who left to coach linebackers for the Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans, respectively.

Bradley’s status as a leading finalist was first reported by Bruin Report Online last night, and confirmed again by FOX Sports’ Bruce Feldman this morning.

The Bruins had actually “sniffed around” Bradley a year ago, according to ESPN, but he opted to spend a season as West Virginia’s associate head coach. He also helped coach defensive linemen.

Here’s a closer look at the veteran college assistant.

Defensive credentials

Bradley’s resume is about as impressive as any UCLA could have hoped for in a candidate. He was one of the key architects in making Penn State into “Linebacker U” — a title that the Bruins started tossing around recently. In 2002, his third season as defensive coordinator, Bradley turned the Nittany Lions into the No. 11 defense in college football. From 2004 to 2009, they never fell out of the top 10. Continue reading

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Mike Mayock: Brett Hundley might not improve stock at NFL Combine

Towards the end of his final season at UCLA, quarterback Brett Hundley often took questions about 1) his college legacy, and 2) what he thought about his NFL draft stock. For the most part, the three-year starter played it cool — stressing that his body of work would stand out over anything else.

Heading into this week’s NFL Combine, draft guru Mike Mayock sort of echoed those thoughts.

“I don’t think he can change what the negatives are about him by throwing 20 passes in shorts,” said the longtime NFL Network analyst. “Having said that, I think he should (participate in full). There’s people that think he ducked the Senior Bowl, even though there was some medical that says it was okay for him not to be there obviously.

“My perspective is he should show up and rip it. He just ought to let it go. The things that are hurting him in the evaluation process are anticipation, pocket awareness, things like that that you can’t really show at the combine.”

On-field workouts for quarterbacks are scheduled for Saturday, along with those of running backs and wide receivers. Hundley remains in the second-tier of what is widely regarded as a thin quarterback class, behind potential top picks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Continue reading

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Roquan Smith picks Georgia nine days after announcing for UCLA

What started as one of UCLA’s most pleasant Signing Day surprises has finally fizzled out. Four-star linebacker Roquan Smith signed with Georgia on Friday, nine days after initially announcing for the Bruins on ESPNU.

His news wasn’t exactly a shocker — not after he essentially accused the UCLA staff of lying to him in an interview with Rivals.com this week. The top prospect out of Montezuma (Ga.) Macon County had yet to sign his letter of intent last Wednesday when news broke that defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was leaving the Bruins to become the Atlanta Falcons’ linebackers coach.

After the debacle became a national story, Smith decided to sign a grant-in-aid agreement instead of an NLI. That leaves him the option to change schools without penalty until he enrolls.

UCLA finishes its 2015 class at No. 13 nationally on Rivals.com, and No. 9 on Scout.com.

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Roquan Smith: Jeff Ulbrich said he ‘declined’ Falcons’ offer

Roquan Smith will sign scholarship papers on Friday, but judging from an interview with Rivals.com, the four-star linebacker didn’t sound keen on picking UCLA.

The Montezuma (Ga.) Macon County product had originally committed to the Bruins’ last Tuesday on ESPNU, seemingly capping a huge morning for UCLA. But news of defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich’s job offer from the Atlanta Falcons broke shortly afterward, prompting Smith to hold off on signing his letter of intent — and eventually stepping back to reevaluate UCLA, Georgia, Texas A&M and Michigan.

Smith clearly feels like UCLA wasn’t forthright with him during the recruiting process — and should have notified him of Ulbrich’s potential departure earlier.

From Rivals.com:

“It’s a great school and all of this and that, but Coach Ulbrich did say that Coach Dan Quinn (of the Atlanta Falcons) had called him the night before, but he had declined the job offer. I felt like Coach (Jim) Mora should have hit me up and said there’s potential that Coach Ulbrich may be leaving. Then, they tried to get me to go ahead and send the papers in, but I wasn’t doing it. They tried to get me to send them in at 8 in the morning.”

Asked if he felt misled, Smith said: “I kind of do. For them to be my first offer, yeah. I thought they were keeping it real with me, but you know people are going to lie.”

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Q&A: Looking at ‘The Drive’ with producer Michael Tolajian

After two seasons of shooting football, the Pac-12 Networks’ “The Drive” docu-series is trying to focus on basketball for the first time — jumping around the conference to focus on its various teams. Tonight’s episode, which airs at 9 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks, is focused on UCLA and Oregon State.

“The Drive” crew shot the Bruins’ loss to Oregon State on Jan. 22, their win at home over Colorado on Jan. 31, and some of the practices leading up to each one. It also focused on the respective coaches, Steve Alford and Wayne Tinkle, as well as Bruin freshman Kevon Looney and Oregon State’s Gary Payton II.

I caught up with senior coordinator Michael Tolajian to ask him how the experience of shooting the two sports compared, as well as his thoughts on Alford and Jim Mora.

How did you pair teams together for episodes? This is the first episode that isn’t arranged geographically (i.e. Arizona State and Arizona, Colorado and Utah). Was it a factor that UCLA and Oregon State are teams have underachieved and overachieved, respectively?

Michael Tolajian: We weren’t set in stone with doing the local teams. We did it sometimes. A lot of it had to do with what the programming lead-in was going to be. … Ideally, there would be a live UCLA game or live Oregon State game going in. we weren’t able to do that every time, but that’s a good way to get audiences to tune in.

The other aspect was talking to the coaches and talking to the school. A lot of the times they had preferences. There was no set formula. It was kind of a combination.

We kind of set this early. We didn’t really know (who was good). Other than knowing Arizona would be good and maybe Utah. Really, the rest of the Pac-12, you could throw them in a hat. Any given night, you don’t really know. We shot with Cal. They started off well, went in the toilet, and then now they’ve won a few in a row. … It’s really been hard to predict. Like any documentary type programming, you just have to be there and follow along. Sometimes the stories contrast nicely, and sometimes not.

How does it compare to shooting “The Drive” for football the past two seasons? Do you lose a bit of depth in favor of breadth versus depth compared to the football format? Are there any advantages to being able to dabble around the conference through the season?

Tolajian: Unlike football, where it’s kind of episodic, you’re following along each and every week. You’re tied in every week. With basketball, we’re bouncing around the conference. More than it being about the narrative of the team, it’s really taking a step behind the curtain, hearing from some of the players, hearing how the coaches run the teams. … It’s really sights and sounds and process, rather than trying to tell some overarching story. Continue reading

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Who will UCLA get to replace Mike Tuiasosopo?

UCLA’s relatively quiet search for a defensive coordinator isn’t the team’s only job opening. The Bruins have also let go of outside linebackers coach/special teams coordinator Mike Tuiasosopo, who served that position for just one season.

Tuiasosopo never looked like a great fit on UCLA’s staff, and if you had polled observers way back in August, he would have been the one least likely to keep his job at the end of the year. His background lay mostly in coaching defensive lines, and although he was nominally the special teams coordinator, those duties were split between different members of the staff.

So who’s up next? If Jim Mora decides to keep it in-house, the most logical choice would be Scott White, a former graduate assistant who assisted with coaching linebackers the past couple of seasons.

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