UCLA center Jake Brendel will return for senior season

UCLA center Jake Brendel has requested an NFL draft evaluation, but said Wednesday that he will definitely return to play his senior season.

Although the news isn’t surprising, the return of offensive line’s most veteran member stabilizes the unit just as the team prepares to introduce a new starting quarterback — a race that Brendel expects to come down to either current backup Jerry Neuheisel or incoming five-star freshman Josh Rosen.

If the Bruins keep the same starting offensive line heading into next season, they will have a senior, a redshirt junior, and three true juniors up front.

“We can take this offseason and really just hone in on our skills and work on just our simple techniques and work on just a lot of the simple things,” Brendel said. “Just break everything down, and really just progress as a unit. It’s always nice to have five selected guys that are going to be starting, and then once the new class comes in, we can just see who fits in where.”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

How UCLA’s Owamagbe Odighizuwa studies other athletes

If you missed it yesterday, here’s a link to the story on UCLA defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, who may be the program’s first-ever philosophy major. One tidbit that didn’t make it was how the senior studies other athletes.

Instead of just looking at players who play his position, he likes to examine everyone from tight ends to tackles to quarterbacks — focusing on some of the intangible aspects of how they carry themselves and prepare for games.

“I think schematically, some of those players that are in the NFL don’t do what we’re doing at UCLA,” he said. “Guys like J.J. Watt aren’t really doing what I’m doing. Schematically, they’re two different things. But I like the attitude he brings to the game, his approach and dedication. I like guys like Rob Gronkowski. He likes to have a good time off the field, but when the lights come on, he handles his business. And then you compare it to a guy like Tom Brady, who has a family life. He’s married with kids.

“I like to just get a feel for that. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Kansas St. defensive coordinator Tom Hayes recalls UCLA stint

On a Kansas State staff which has four coaches combining for 89 seasons on campus, Tom Hayes is a relative newcomer. The defensive coordinator is finishing up just his fourth year as a Wildcat.

But it’s not as if the 31-year coaching veteran lacks experience. His winding career includes a nearly decade-long stop at UCLA, back before anyone playing in this year’s Alamo Bowl was born.

“It was different in many ways,” Hayes said. “One thing is I had a lot more hair and it was dark.” Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks accepts Senior Bowl invitation

UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks became the second Bruin to accept an invitation to the upcoming Senior Bowl, event officials announced on Monday.

“Eric showed up big all year for the Bruins,” said Phil Savage, executive director of the pre-NFL draft all-star game. “He is a run-and-hit linebacker that can play all three downs and help on special teams, too.”

The 6-foot, 230-pound defender has led the country in solo tackles in two of his three seasons as a full-time starter, and capped his final year in Los Angeles by winning the Butkus Award, the top honor for collegiate linebackers. He also became UCLA’s second straight winner of the Lott IMPACT Trophy, after former All-American and eventual ninth overall draft pick Anthony Barr.

Kendricks will be joined in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 24 by UCLA defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, who accepted his Senior Bowl invite just before Thanksgiving. Fourteen other Pac-12 players are also on the roster.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Malcolm Bunche’s UCLA career ends early due to academic issues

UCLA offensive lineman Malcolm Bunche did not travel to San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl due to an academic issue, effectively ending the graduate transfer’s career with the Bruins.

The 6-foot-6, 310-pound lineman transferred from Miami and earned a starting spot to open his lone season in Los Angeles, but was moved from left tackle in favor of Conor McDermott after six games. He started three games at left guard, then was benched entirely when sophomore Alex Redmond returned from a sprained ankle.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Mora: Alamo Bowl won’t override Brett Hundley’s body of work

UCLA had barely touched down in San Antonio on Sunday afternoon when the NFL draft again reared its head.

Shortly after the Bruins were welcomed at their team hotel by a three-man mariachi band, someone asked a question that will no doubt pop up again this week: Will the Alamo Bowl be quarterback Brett Hundley’s last chance to audition for the pros?

Head coach Jim Mora said emphasized that NFL scouts likely wouldn’t weigh one game more heavily than the 39 others that the third-year starter has played at UCLA.

“You look at the body of work,” Mora said. “Now, you’re also looking for patterns. What gives a guy trouble or where he excels. In that respect, one game can start to predict a pattern. But I think if you’re an instant evaluator, if you go off one game or one throw or one tackle or one quarter, that’s where you run into failings. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Would Alamo Bowl win affect your perception of UCLA’s season?

Given all the hype of a Pac-12 title, of playoff contention, of a #BruinRevolution, there’s really no arguing that this season of UCLA football has been a disappointing one. Much has been written about that already, both here and elsewhere, and none of it has changed much since the regular-season finale.

But, what I’m wondering now is this: Has time passed given you, the fans, a chance to reassess the season as a whole? That is, would a win over No. 11 Kansas State — one that would stand as clearly the best nonconference win of Jim Mora’s tenure — be enough to change your perception of 2014, or at least make you feel like the program is trending upward?

UCLA hasn’t ended a season in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll since its eighth-place finish in 1998. Since then, it has been unranked in 11 of the last 13 final polls. The two exceptions followed the 2005 and 2013 seasons, both of which were capped by Sun Bowl victories and a No. 16 ranking.

The Bruins are currently No. 14 in the AP poll. If they beat the No. 11 Wildcats convincingly, they have a good shot to break the 16-year streak.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email