JUCO offensive tackle Zach Bateman commits to UCLA

For the first half of this season, UCLA’s offensive line was hurting most on the edges.

The return of Conor McDermott at left tackle has stabilized the unit, but it was an obvious area of need heading into the next recruiting cycle. And on Saturday night, the Bruins added one more future piece in three-star JUCO recruit Zach Bateman.

The 6-foot-7, 320-pound tackle starred for Orange Coast College after becoming an All-Orange Coast League selection at Costa Mesa’s Estancia High. His commitment was first reported by Scout.com, and he should graduate in time to enroll early.

Bateman’s arrival would give UCLA a chance to test out more offensive line combinations during spring camp. The Bruins would return McDermott and starting right tackle Caleb Benenoch, as well as have a fully healthy Simon Goines — a former 20-game starter at tackle. Current redshirt freshman Poasi Moala would be a factor as well.

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After bye, UCLA moves up to No. 11 in AP poll

After some midseason bumps, everything seems to be falling in place again for UCLA football.

The Bruins moved up another three spots in the Associated Press poll on Sunday, taking the No. 11 spot after spending their bye week watching teams around the country falter.

Arizona State fell six slots to No. 13, with their upset loss to Oregon State clearing a path for UCLA to take the Pac-12 South. Auburn dropped seven spots to No. 16 after getting battered by Georgia. And Nebraska sank like a stone after a 59-24 blowout loss to Wisconsin, from 11th to 21st.

The AP poll won’t have an effect on the Bruins’ chances at a “New Year’s Six” bowl (or a playoff berth), but it bodes well for their placement in Tuesday’s playoff rankings. UCLA was already ranked No. 11 there a week ago, and has consistently placed higher in the eyes of the committee than the AP voters.

See the full AP poll below, which features four other Pac-12 South teams: Continue reading

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UCLA vs. USC will kick off at 5 p.m. Saturday on ABC

With the Pac-12 South at stake, UCLA will host USC in a primetime slot this coming Saturday.

The rivalry game will kick off at the Rose Bowl at 5 p.m., with a national broadcast on ABC. Arizona State had held the inside track to the Pac-12 title game for the last month, but its upset loss to Oregon State last night shifts to spotlight to Pasadena — where the Bruins and the Trojans will play a de facto division elimination game.

With two weeks left, five teams still remain mathematically alive to win the Pac-12 South. But despite the hodgepodge of potential tiebreaker scenarios, UCLA holds the clearest path: win out against USC and Stanford, and the Bruins will earn a second shot at Oregon at Levi’s Stadium on Dec. 5.

Beat the Ducks, and a playoff berth that seemed laughable a month ago will be within UCLA’s grasp.

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Four-star shooting guard Prince Ali officially joins UCLA’s 2015 class

Prince Ali has officially signed with the UCLA men’s basketball team, the school announced Thursday, giving the Bruins a second top backcourt prospect in their 2015 class.

The four-star shooting guard is a consensus top-40 national recruit according to both Rivals.com and Scout.com, and is a former Sagemont (Fla.) High teammate of UCLA freshman forward Gyorgy Goloman. Ali joins a class that includes four-star point guard Aaron Holiday, whose signing was announced Wednesday.

“Prince is an extremely talented player who has established himself as one of the premier backcourt players in the country,” head coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “He’s a big, athletic guard who has tremendous versatility and comes to our program with a strong understanding of a winning culture. Prince is a wonderful young man and a great addition to the Bruin family.

“When you factor in the signing of Aaron Holiday, our staff couldn’t be more excited about the start of this 2015 class.”

The Bruins do not currently have any other 2015 basketball commitments.

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UCLA signs four-star point guard Aaron Holiday

UCLA has officially signed four-star point guard Aaron Holiday, the younger brother of former Bruin and current New Orleans Pelicans’ guard Jrue Holiday.

Aaron Holiday is one of two commitments that UCLA currently holds in the class of 2015. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound guard is ranked the No. 58 best prospect in the country by Rivals.com, and No. 36 by Scout.com. A natural scorer with impressive athleticism, Holiday was named CIF Southern Section Division 4A Player of the Year after his junior season at North Hollywood’s Campbell Hall.

“Aaron is a very talented player who we know will really help our backcourt next season,” head coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “He is a quick, tough guard who possesses the ability to be both an efficient scorer and a lockdown defender. Our coaching staff is excited to add a player of Aaron’s caliber, both on and off the court, to our 2015 class, and we are thrilled to welcome him to the Bruin family.”

Older brother Jrue Holiday only spent one season with the Bruins, averaging 8.5 points, 3.7 assists and 3.8 rebounds while playing out of position next to then-starting point guard Darren Collison. Continue reading

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Weekly Q&A — 11/11/14 Answers

Q: UW is not a great team; rocked by injuries, dismissals and the travails of a first year coach … but yet the Bruin’s victory over UW is being billed as the Bruins first “complete game”. Do you think that will lead to overconfidence going into the SC game in a couple of weeks?

A: I don’t think it’ll necessarily lead to overconfidence given the stakes of the rivalry, but I do think that UCLA’s win over Washington has been a little overrated — particularly with the Bruins jumping seven spots to No. 11 in the playoff rankings. It was a solid victory, but UW wasn’t an overpowering team to begin with, had just dismissed its best cornerback, and was playing its best linebacker mostly at running back. That said, I do think UCLA is very much a top-15 team, just one that’s also benefited from a slight break in the schedule.

Q: After the last two games, I’m conflicted on Jeff Ulbrich. I had thought he needed more training in another job elsewhere before taking on the DC spot … but since Arizona, the defense has been playing better, meaning Ulbrich is adapting, learning … what’s your take? Should he be encouraged to go elsewhere or will his on-the-job training be a good investment?

A: Even when the defense looked worse at midseason, I didn’t think Ulbrich was/should’ve been at significant risk of being pushed out. Continue reading

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