Spring notes: UCLA offensive line working through numerous injuries


UCLA’s offensive line continues to get dinged up.

Graduate transfer Malcolm Bunche left Wednesday’s morning practice early with an undisclosed injury, giving most of the first-team reps at right tackle to redshirt freshman Kenny Lacy. Starting right guard Alex Redmond has seen increasingly fewer contact reps with his left hand still wrapped in a cast; early enrollee NaJee Toran looks like the clear No. 2 behind him.

Guard John Lopez was also absent from practice, forcing even more juggling through the unit.

“It’s hard, and they’re going to make mistakes,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “But in the long run, it makes them understand how all five fit together.”

– Mazzone talked a bit about the development of redshirt freshman Asiantii Woulard, who will most likely claim the backup quarterback spot over Jerry Neuheisel by the start of the season. Neuheisel actually looks much more composed and mistake-free than he did even nine months ago, but Woulard’s upside is so much higher. Continue reading

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Kyle Anderson, Zach LaVine officially declare for the NBA draft

Guards Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine have officially declared for the NBA draft, UCLA announced today.

Anderson’s father, Kyle Sr., told numerous outlets at various points in before, during and after the Bruins’ Sweet Sixteen run that his son was bound for the pros after his sophomore season. LaVine’s decision was reported last month.

“My two years at UCLA were two of the best years of my life,” Anderson said in a statement. “It was a tough decision to make with my family since our last game, but I have decided to enter my name into the NBA Draft. I will still continue to embrace the UCLA community, and I hope they will do the same with me.”

The school did not release any information regarding leading scorer Jordan Adams, who led the team with 17.4 points last season. The 6-foot-5 wing is still considering going pro, and has until the NBA early entry deadline on April 27 to make a decision. Continue reading

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Running back Craig Lee improving pass blocking after redshirt season

Last season was the first since 2009 that a UCLA running back didn’t clear 600 yards on the season.

There are a few caveats: Jordon James injured his ankle after collecting 424 through three games, and quarterback Brett Hundley finished with a team-high 748 and 11 touchdowns. Still, the Bruins want someone to spell Hundley in the backfield more capably and keep him from the sort of abuse he’s taken over the last two years (88 sacks).

The answer may be Craig Lee. Continue reading

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Spring notes: UCLA offensive line plays round of ‘musical chairs’


– UCLA juggled its offensive line significantly for the first time this spring, with two starters sitting out with minor injuries. Right guard Alex Redmond has been semi-limited the entire month with a cast over his left hand, while left tackle Caleb Benenoch hyperextended his knee early Monday night.

That meant Malcolm Bunche got most of the first-team reps at right tackle, his first time moving away from left guard this spring. The graduate transfer from Miami actually warmed up there early Monday evening before Benenoch was injured, with Scott Quessenberry taking his place at left guard. Head coach Jim Mora had been insistent that Bunche would stay at guard, but at around 6-foot-7, 330 pounds, the Bruins are probably going to at least try him outside some more before the season opener.

“He blocks out the sun,” said linebacker Myles Jack. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Safety Anthony Jefferson prepares for his final season


Safety Anthony Jefferson talked about this year’s UCLA secondary, as well as his status as the group’s elder statesman.

“I’m an old guy now, man,” he said. “It’s my last year. My job is to make sure these guys are all up to speed, making sure their heads are were it needs to be.”

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Report: Jordan Adams, Norman Powell file paperwork for NBA draft status

According to the Los Angeles Times, both Jordan Adams and Norman Powell have filed paperwork for NBA draft evaluations.

However, a source told me Powell will return to UCLA, though Adams is still undecided. The NBA draft early entry deadline is April 27.

Adams led the team in scoring last season with 17.4 points per game, and set a new school record with 95 steals. Bruin 247′s Neal Nieves first reported last month that Adams was exploring the possibility of going pro.

Powell was the Bruins’ best man-to-man defender, and ranked third on the roster with 11.4 points per game. The junior had a breakout year in Steve Alford’s transition offense, averaging 14.2 points on 53.8 percent shooting.

UCLA is already losing to the draft one of the most versatile players in the country in All-American point guard Kyle Anderson, as well as reserve guard Zach LaVine.

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Spring notes: Early enrollee NaJee Toran playing with a mean streak on offense line

Two weeks through spring camp, NaJee Toran has been a pleasant surprise on UCLA’s offensive line.

A three-star recruit out of the Houston area, Toran has found a spot as a backup right guard, mixing in some first-team reps along the way. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound lineman doesn’t overwhelm most opponents in size, but makes up for that with a relentless motor.

He’s been that way ever since he started playing football.

“I think it was my seventh grade year, I just exploded through somebody,” Toran said. “They just fell back. Since then, I’ve just been doing the same thing.”

The habit may have actually started on the basketball court. Though Toran usually had a physical edge over players his age, he felt like he had something to prove when matched up against older, bigger opponents.

“The feeling of overpowering somebody … of making somebody look weak — it puts a feeling inside me that I like,” he said.

– Receivers had a great showing in one-on-one drills on Saturday, with several players creating tons of separation off of just one cut. Devin Lucien, Thomas Duarte and Mossi Johnson were among the standouts, but almost nobody fared poorly. Linebacker Myles Jack probably performed better than most of the defensive backs during one-on-ones. Continue reading

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