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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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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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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Brett Hundley’s finger injury won’t keep him out of Alamo Bowl

When Brett Hundley accidentally whacked his right hand against a helmet two weeks ago, his finger swelled up so much that he couldn’t finish out the end of UCLA’s 31-10 loss to Stanford.

On Friday morning, after the Bruins held their first formal practice since that regular-season finale, one of the first questions the quarterback faced was: “So can we see the finger?” Hundley smiled and held up both his hands. No one could pick out the damaged digit.

So no, it shouldn’t keep him out of the Alamo Bowl against Kansas State on Jan. 2, which will be his last game in a UCLA uniform. Continue reading

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Jeff Ulbrich reviews first season as UCLA’s defensive coordinator

Jeff Ulbrich talked at length with the media on Friday, hitting everything from what it meant for Eric Kendricks to win the Butkus Award, to Jim Mora’s long-term future at UCLA, to — of course — how he’s evaluated his first season as UCLA’s defensive coordinator.

Despite a starting lineup loaded with future pros, the Bruins have been inconsistent on defense this season, holding Arizona’s explosive offense to seven points only to allow 31 to Stanford four weeks later. It was a year that saw the 37-year-old Ulbrich take significant criticism for not generating enough of a pass rush: UCLA is tied for 85th in the country with 22 sacks, 15 of which came in the final six games.

“Guys that I’ve been around a lot (in my career), their philosophy regarding scheme and calling a game is always put the game in the players’ hands,” Ulbrich said. “Keep it simple. Be great with fundamentals and technique, alignment, assignment. Let them know it and understand it at a high level so they can play fast and physical.

“The problem is that college football’s a little different. You’re seeing so much exotic stuff on offense, that you almost have to balance that with being exotic in your own right at times just to keep them off balance. … I gained a better understanding of that as the season went on.”

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First look: No. 11 Kansas State

No. 14 UCLA Bruins (9-3, 6-3) vs. No. 11 Kansas State (9-3, 7-2)
Kickoff: Friday, Jan. 2, 3:45 p.m. PT, Alamodome (San Antonio)
TV: ESPN (Joe Tessitore, Brock Huard, Shannon Spake)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Coach: No team is as synonymous with a single coach as Kansas State is with Bill Snyder.

The Wildcats first hired Snyder in November 1988, plucking away the 49-year-old offensive coordinator from Iowa. At that point, K-State was arguably the worst football program in the country. It was the only one to have lost 500 games, including 114 over the previous 14 years. It had reached just one bowl game, which it lost. (Fun fact: That was the 1982 Independence Bowl, the first college football game ever broadcast live on ESPN. This year, the network will air all but four of the 38 bowls.) Things were so bad that Sports Illustrated asked: “Why bother? Why send fine young men onto the field every Saturday in autumn to be humiliated?”

Snyder won just one game in his debut season, but that at least ended the program’s three-year wait (!) for No. 300 all-time. He quintupled that the following year, and by 1993, he had already pushed the Wildcats to nine wins and a top-20 finish in the AP poll. Since then, he has only ever had two more losing seasons: four- and five-win campaigns that preceded his brief retirement.

When Snyder stepped down after the 2005 season, athletic director Tim Weiser said: “No matter how successful the next person is, it’s not going to be possible to replace Bill.”

Ron Prince tried for the next three years, to the tune of a 17-20 record. And so, Snyder returned to “soothe the waters.”

Since then, Kansas State has gone 51-25 with a pair of BCS bowl appearances — both losses, but enough for the team to stay in the top 15 at year’s end. Continue reading

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