Which players have the best names in the Pac-12?

By now, you’ve read many of the lists that have proliferated in college football’s dry summer months. The best 100 players. The freakiest players. The best coaches, best offseasons, best uniforms.

But this? This is the most important of them all. With Pac-12 Media Days — schedule here — kicking off this morning, I have compiled the five best names from each team in the conference.

Without further ado …

Arizona: Sir Thomas Jackson, Antonio Smothers, Tra’Mayne Bondurant, Brogan Kemmerly, Abraham Mendivil

Not great depth here, as the latter two names sacrifice catchiness in favor of length. Still, Sir Thomas Jackson alone is an MVP candidate.

Arizona State: Ezekial Bishop, Demetrius Cherry, Zane Gonzalez, Jaxon Hood, Philip “Scooby” Wright III

Would be better if Scooby’s real first name weren’t Phillip, but otherwise still a solid quintet that lacks a superstar.

Cal: Hardy Nickerson, Avery Sebastian, Bryce Treggs, Brennan Scarlett, Maximo Espitia

A nice throwback in Hardy Nickerson, bookended by a name that makes me want to re-watch Russell Crowe take on a despotic Joaquin Phoenix. Continue reading

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‘Running backer’ Myles Jack looks to dodge sophomore slump

When Myles Jack first arrived at UCLA, he could only bench 230 pounds. He’s now up to 355.

Not bad uptick for a “running backer” that had one of the most thrilling two-way debuts college football has seen in years. In a story by the Daily News’ Jill Painter, Jack talks about how he plans to avoid a sophomore slump, and his desire to become the “LeBron James of football.”

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UCLA has seventh-best odds at winning national title

The latest Vegas odds now have UCLA within striking distance of the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Online sportsbook Bovada.lv gave Jim Mora’s team 14-to-1 odds to win the national title, seventh-best in the country and an improvement from the 25-to-1 odds they were given on January 7. Bovada.lv also slotted the UCLA’s over/under for total wins at 9.5.

Ask any Bruin, and he’ll almost certainly take the over.

“We’re not young anymore,” sophomore linebacker Myles Jack told Jay Mohr this week. “My (freshman) class played a lot. … I think with the toughness of the schedule, it’s the perfect season for us to make that run for the national push.”

Here are the current championship odds for some of the other top teams across the country: Continue reading

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Three-star defensive tackle Bryce English commits to UCLA

UCLA has landed its first defensive line recruit of 2015.

Three-star tackle Bryce English announced his verbal commitment to the Bruins Monday night on Dallas’ Fox 4 station, adding another piece to a young, talented unit. UCLA already enters this upcoming season with seven freshman and sophomore defensive linemen, including star nose tackle Kenny Clark.

Rated the 22nd-best tackle in the country by Rivals.com, the 5-foot-11, 318-pound English was a Class 5A defensive honorable mention and the 7-5A District defensive MVP. He helped DeSoto High to the state semifinal, and was also invited to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

“It’s a great fit for me, defensive-wise,” English said of UCLA during his announcement. “I love the coaches. Coach (Angus) McClure, great D-line coach. I talked it over with my family right after I left UCLA. I just knew from there it was a great fit coming in. Being in Los Angeles, it’s a great city.”

He chose the Bruins over three other hats he had on the table: TCU, Arkansas and Arizona State. He had verbally committed to Texas in March 2013, when Mack Brown was still the Longhorns’ head coach, but decommitted in April.

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David Berg returns to UCLA, but will No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken join him?

UCLA ended the week on a great note.

Closer David Berg, named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year and a first-team All-American in 2013, elected to return to the Bruins for his senior season — turning down a chance to go pro after being selected by the Texas Rangers in the 17th round.

Shortly after his announcement, even bigger news dropped: the Houston Astros failed to sign a pair of high schoolers in No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken and fifth-round selection Jacob Nix. Both pitchers originally signed with UCLA in November, but could elect to enroll at a junior college or join an independent league, making themselves available to reenter the draft next year.

If they decide to go to UCLA, they will need to stay at least three years before going pro.

Regardless, Berg’s decision is a tremendous boon to a team that is coming off a 25-30-1 season, its worst mark since head coach John Savage first arrived on campus in 2005. Continue reading

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Pac-12 links: Brady Aiken, Jacob Nix remain unsigned as MLB deadline nears

» No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken and fifth-rounder Jacob Nix, both of whom signed with UCLA, have yet to come to terms with the Houston Astros. The deadline to sign draft picks is Friday at 2 p.m. PT.

» Most fans aren’t happy with Utah’s newest mountain-sleeved Under Armour jerseys.

» Hall of Famer and former USC star Ronnie Lott calls Oregon “the greatest,” but admitted that UCLA is “the team that everybody’s talking about right now.”

» Oregon State’s new basketball assistants will earn a combined $535,008 annually. Continue reading

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Brett Hundley earns spot on Davey O’Brien Award watch list

This award isn’t the focus of his school-run campaign, but UCLA’s Brett Hundley was tapped for another watch list on Wednesday.

The redshirt junior made the 39-man watch list for the Davey O’Brien Award, given each season to the top college quarterback in the country.

Hundley is among the six semifinalists from last year to return on the watch list. He is joined by 2013 winner Jameis Winston (Florida State), Marcus Mariota (Oregon), Sean Mannion (Oregon State), Braxton Miller (Ohio State) and Bryce Petty (Baylor).

Earlier this month, the UCLA star also made the watch list for the Maxwell Award for national college player of the year.

Here are the other Bruins who have landed on various preseason watch lists so far: Continue reading

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UCLA football introduces new ‘L.A. Steel’ gray alternate uniforms

Here is UCLA football’s latest alternate look: a gray, sort-of-shiny jersey called “L.A. Steel.”

Introducing new uniforms has become a bit of an annual event for the Bruins, who unveiled “L.A. Midnight” last year and “L.A. Nights” the year before that.

UCLA’s press release called the latest iteration the first gray uniform in school history. The gloves come together to form a “UCLA” script also featured on the pants, and a print of the Los Angeles skyline appears along the compression sleeves. Its Shockweb compression technology also supposedly “clings tightly to the body, making players more difficult to tackle.” Continue reading

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The preseason Pac-12 media poll …

UCLA football single-game tickets went on sale today, which makes it just as good as any to fill out the annual Pac-12 Media Poll.

Here it goes …

North Division

1. Oregon — Mark Helfrich hasn’t proven that he can keep the Ducks in perennial title contention, but the return of star quarterback Marcus Mariota

2. Stanford — The Cardinal never seem to drop off, but losing three All-Pac-12 offensive lineman — including consensus All-American David Yankey — and four all-conference first-team defenders might be enough to knock them down a bit.

3. Washington — An eight-year run at Boise State ended with an eight-win season, the only time Chris Petersen failed to notch double-digit wins as a head coach. Matching that total in the tougher Pac-12 would be a decent debut for him. Continue reading

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