What did we learn about UCLA in San Bernardino?

Eddie Vanderdoes knows how to make an exit. (@puntingiswinning)

Eddie Vanderdoes knows how to make an exit. (@puntingiswinning)

UCLA escaped the Inland Empire relatively unscathed. Most of its starters are healthy, as are the team’s myriad rotation players. The most notable players sidelined — center Jake Brendel (MCL) and receiver Devin Lucien (head) — are both expected to return soon.

Without a major shakeup anywhere on the depth chart, what did the Bruins learn from their annual two-week training camp at Cal State San Bernardino?

The defense will survive its losses Continue reading

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UCLA receives highest preseason AP poll ranking since 1998

Ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press poll, UCLA will start the season with its highest preseason ranking since 1998.

Pegged as a dark horse candidate for the inaugural College Football Playoff, the Bruins matched the hype heaved on them 16 years ago, when voters also slotted them in as the country’s seventh-best team. They finished the year ranked No. 8 in the final AP poll, and were undefeated until season-ending losses at Miami and to Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl Game.

UCLA is ranked above USC — slotted at No. 15 — in the preseason poll for the second year in a row. Last season, UCLA opened at No. 21 while the Trojans were No. 24. The crosstown rivals finished the year ranked 16th and 19th.

Florida State is ranked No. 1, and received all but three first-place votes. Those went to Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma, ranked second, third and fourth, respectively.

See the full Associated Press preseason poll below: Continue reading

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Jeff Ulbrich says UCLA defense has ‘a little spiciness’

» A linebacker competition that defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich called “wide open” last week might be near close. True freshman Kenny Young has nearly locked down the inside spot. Outside, redshirt junior Aaron Wallace has been used most in the base scheme, while sophomore Deon Hollins gets a lot of play in the nickel formation.

“There are some frontrunners, but it’s not done,” Ulbrich said. “It’s not over with.”

The odd man out is junior Kenny Orjioke, who at 19 years old still hasn’t fully put together his athletic gifts. Ulbrich talked up Orjioke’s versatility, but hinted that the 6-foot-4, 235-pound outside linebacker is a little behind the others.

“He’s a great guy that, if he doesn’t earn the starting spot, will get a ton of paying time,” Ulbrich said. “He’ll spell Deon. He’ll spell Wallace. He’ll be involved in both facets of the defense. That’s a guy we’ll take advantage of for sure.”

» Asked if UCLA’s defense looks tougher now than it did two years, Ulbrich agreed. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Conor McDermott talks about return from shoulder injury

If healthy, Conor McDermott could be a starting tackle at UCLA. The redshirt sophomore played just two games last season in October before injuring his shoulder — which had already been operated on back in high school.

Now standing at 6-foot-9, 300 pounds, McDermott talked about his return from his latest surgery, and how much he’s changed his body since arriving at UCLA.

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UCLA notes: Receiver Devin Lucien passes concussion tests

» After a brief visit to the hospital on Tuesday night, UCLA receiver Devin Lucien passed his concussion tests on Friday and could return to practice on Monday — albeit in a red non-contact jersey. The redshirt junior had looked like arguably the team’s best receiver through camp before his hitting his head trying to make a catch, matching up with top cornerback Fabian Moreau on most plays.

Linebacker Zach Whitley, who has missed most of training camp in San Bernardino with head injury, returned to practice today for some sideline work. Head coach Jim Mora said the true freshman could potentially be back tonight’s practice, or at least by Monday.

Offensive lineman Scott Quessenberry is out with a “minor” concussion.

Receiver Mossi Johnson took off his red non-contact jersey this morning, while safety Randall Goforth put one on. Both are dealing with minor shoulder injuries.

“As far as comparing injuries to the last two camps, we’re in much better shape than we ever were, so that’s really encouraging,” Mora said.

» The Bruins worked heavily on special teams on Friday, adding a pre-stretch session that lasted about half an hour. Running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu took noticeable command of the unit. Since being hired last December, he has been a vocal presence in practices; at one point this morning, he had the entire team dead silent while he barked instructions. Continue reading

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As injuries pile up, UCLA takes break from Thursday practice

Finally, a breather.

With injuries piling up for UCLA, head coach Jim Mora decided to give his Bruins a break — cutting its Thursday practice short. Instead of hitting the field for two hours at 11:15 a.m., the team will practice for a few minutes, then jump in the pool to cool down.

Though temperatures have been milder at Cal State San Bernardino than during UCLA’s last two training camps, the players looked like they needed the rest. Beat down by nine days of camp, the Bruins left standing were sluggish in Wednesday night’s full-pads practice.

Many didn’t take the field at all. The offensive line is without starting center Jake Brendel (MCL), reserves Scott Quessenberry and Carl Hulick. Guard Alex Redmond (heat exhaustion) and tackle Conor McDermott (shoulder) had missed several practices before returning Wednesday night.

Safety Randall Goforth and cornerback Marcus Rios were also absent. They had suffered a shoulder injury and a headache, respectively, earlier in camp.

Receiver Devin Lucien, briefly hospitalized on Tuesday after hitting his head, showed up to Wednesday night’s practice but did not participate.

UCLA have three more scheduled practices in San Bernardino: 8:30 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. Friday, and 10:45 a.m. Saturday.

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Pac-12 links: Arizona State’s Chip Sarafin comes out as gay

» Arizona State offensive lineman Chip Sarafin came out on Wednesday, becoming first openly gay active player in Division I football.

» Redshirt freshman Anu Solomon is trying to win Arizona’s starting quarterback — something that would require beating out transfers from USC, LSU and Texas.

» The Ice Bucket Challenge has helped raise $2.3 million for the national ALS association since July 29, and UCLA coach Jim Mora accepted a challenge to join yesterday:

» Washington State crossed the Idaho border for training camp, but wildfires forced the Cougars back to Pullman. Continue reading

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