‘Big possibility’ for guard NaJee Toran to start UCLA season opener

For the second year in a row, a true freshman start a season opener on UCLA’s offensive line.

After enrolling in spring, four-star recruit NaJee Toran is on track to start at right guard. In 2013, it was Alex Redmond who began the season there — though injuries eventually pushed two other first-year players into the starting five. Redmond is slated to start at left guard as a sophomore.

Toran has taken the bulk of first-team reps on the opposite side over the last week, and based on his conversations with offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, he expects to be in the starting lineup when the Bruins face Virginia on Aug. 30.

“A big possibility,” Toran said. “Just keep playing like I am, that’s where I’ll be at, most likely.” Continue reading

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Myles Jack calls ejection from UCLA’s Monday practice ‘embarrassing’

Myles Jack didn’t realize how just how far his name could carry a story.

On Monday, UCLA head coach Jim Mora tossed his star linebacker from practice at Cal State San Bernardino after the sophomore had an altercation with offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch. Jack slapped Benenoch in the helmet and taunted him, but the incident looked like a run-of-the-mill, mid-training camp tiff.

But given that it involved a player who successfully starred out on both sides of the ball last season, the headlines multiplied quickly.

“The platform that I guess I’m on, I’ve really got to watch out what I say or do,” Jack said Wednesday. Continue reading

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UCLA notes: Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone high on UCLA receiver depth

» Despite Devin Lucien being sidelined by a head injury, UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone wasn’t concerned with the state of his receiving corps.

“I don’t look at this like, ‘Hey, these three guys are starters. These three guys are backups,’” he said Wednesday. “I’ve got about six guys out there that are all starters in my eyes. They kind of roll in, do their deal.”

Lucien finished his sophomore season strong, catching for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Bruins’ last five games. Without him lined up at outside, fellow camp standout Eldridge Massington would likely move into the starting lineup.

Junior Logan Sweet, who had three catches last year, also got first-team reps on Wednesday morning. Starting receiver Jordan Payton has practiced mostly at inside receiver the last few days due to other injuries, which helped open up a spot for Sweet.

“He’s really came a long ways from two years ago, when he first got here,” Mazzone said of Sweet. “He really figures into those top four or five guys at the outside for us.”

» Freshman quarterback Aaron Sharp participated in his first full practice after joining the team last night. Given how light the morning session was, however, the lefty didn’t get a chance to show off his arm. Continue reading

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Brett Hundley appears on second Sports Illustrated cover in three weeks

brett SI cover

Another week, another Sports Illustrated cover. Brett Hundley landed at the front of the magazine once again, this time as part of SI’s college preview.

Two weeks ago, Hundley was featured on a regional cover teasing a Lee Jenkins’ feature story — an appearance that already had teammates calling him “SI.”

The coming issue will be the 127th time that a Bruin has appeared on a Sports Illustrated cover. Other versions of this week’s SI magazine feature Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight, Alabama’s Amari Cooper, and Florida State’s Jameis Winston.

Online sportsbook Bovada.lv also released odds for various college football stats this morning. Brett Hundley’s over/under stat line looks quite reasonable: 3019.5 passing yards, 604.5 rushing yards, and 33.5 combined passing and rushing touchdowns.

As a redshirt sophomore last season, Hundley passed for 3071 yards, rushed for 748, and scored 35 touchdowns — including 11 on the ground.

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UCLA receiver Devin Lucien ‘doing well’ after head injury

After suffering being taken to the hospital for a head injury Tuesday night, UCLA receiver Devin Lucien received good news.

A source confirmed that Lucien is “doing well,” and will be back on the Cal State San Bernardino campus tonight. The junior wideout hit his head on the ground trying to make a catch, though he was able to make his way off the field to the trainer’s tent under his own power.

The Bruins begin practicing again at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, followed by another session at 5:45 p.m. All practices in San Bernardino are open to the public.

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Freshman QB Aaron Sharp makes first appearance after rules violation

UCLA true freshman quarterback Aaron Sharp made his first appearance in Southern California on Tuesday. The three-star recruit from Humble, Texas was expected to remain home until Aug. 31 due to rules violations, but jogged onto the sideline an hour and a half after practice began on Tuesday.

The 6-3, 190-pound dual-threat quarterback, who was originally committed to Kansas State before flipping to the Bruins in January, flew in from Houston but not in time to participate in any drills Tuesday.

Fellow freshmen Jordan Lasley and Dwight Williams debuted on Monday night.

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Left tackle Malcolm Bunche giddy about protecting Brett Hundley’s blind side

Transfer offensive lineman Malcolm Bunche gushed on Tuesday about being chosen to man the most important position on the offensive line in front of Heisman Trophy candidate Brett Hundley.

The graduate student who transferred from Miami (Fla.) in time for spring practice has played every position on the offensive line during his college career and is projected to start at left tackle in UCLA’s season opener.

“It’s a tremendous honor playing the blind side for one of the most explosive quarterbacks in college football,” Bunche said. “I just got to keep grinding, working hard on the position and protect my man Brett.” Continue reading

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Center Jake Brendel sprains MCL; injury deemed not serious by Mora

The prognosis for UCLA starting center Jake Brendel’s knee injury is positive. The third-year starter strained his MCL late in Monday’s practice, but head coach Jim Mora estimated it will only keep him out a few days.

If Brendel is to meet that timeline, he appears to have some quick healing to do.

He was in attendance on Tuesday wearing a bulky brace on his left knee. He walked with a severe limp and was able to only slightly bend the knee.

“He’s not OK, but he’s going to be,” Mora said. “He’ll be out a few days. It’s an MCL. It’s pretty moderate. There’s a lot of guys that are out… but it’s really just the customary bumps and bruises you get 10 days into training camp. We’re relatively healthy.”

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Devin Lucien taken to hospital after suffering head injury during practice

Receiver Devin Lucien makes a catch during UCLA training camp at Cal State San Bernardino. Tuesday, August 5, 2014. (John Valenzuela/ Daily Bulletin)

Receiver Devin Lucien makes a catch during UCLA training camp at Cal State San Bernardino. Tuesday, August 5, 2014. (John Valenzuela/ Daily Bulletin)

Injury concerns for a banged up UCLA football team turned more serious on Tuesday. Wide receiver Devin Lucien suffered a head injury worrisome enough that an ambulance was called to transport the redshirt junior to the hospital in the midst of practice at Cal State San Bernardino.

Arguably the best wideout for the Bruins 10 practices into training camp, Lucien was injured when he hit his helmet on the ground after making a diving catch. He left the field under his own power, eventually making his way to the trainer’s tent.

After he was treated for 15 minutes by UCLA team doctor John DiFiori, a head injury specialist, the San Bernardino County Fire Department and paramedics arrived. Lucien was then immobilized on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance.

“I think anytime something like that happens and you seen an ambulance come on to the field of play, it’s tough,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. Continue reading

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