When Roquan Smith picks a school, he won’t sign an NLI

There still isn’t a firm timetable on when four-star linebacker Roquan Smith will commit to school, but when that happens, he won’t be signing a National Letter of Intent.

Smith had originally picked UCLA over Georgia on last Wednesday, only to put off his decision after news broke that Bruin defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich would be heading to the Atlanta Falcons. As a precaution “in case something else unexpectedly happens again,” Montezuma (Ga.) Macon County coach Larry Harold told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Smith won’t be signing a letter at all.

That means that the 6-foot, 203-pound prospect will only sign a grant-in-aid agreement, which binds the school to the player — but not vice versa until the player enrolls. It allows coaches to publicly comment on the player, and can also be signed months before National Signing Day (as quarterback Josh Rosen did with UCLA last September). A player can also sign these agreements with multiple schools.

If anything, it’s surprising that more elite football recruits haven’t exercised their leverage and opted for this route, which has been taken more commonly in college basketball.

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Clancy Pendergast officially hired by San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers have officially hired longtime defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, striking one potential name off the list of candidates for UCLA defensive coordinator.

The Bruins officially announced Jeff Ulbrich’s departure for the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, although the offer was first reported last Tuesday.

Pendergast’s name had been tossed around as a potential replacement for Ulbrich, even though he had reportedly been hired by the 49ers. With the hire not yet finalized until today, the door remained open to the possibility that the 47-year-old might opt for the college ranks despite his distaste for recruiting. He had mentioned for defensive coordinator openings at both LSU and Utah last month.

He had been a defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs for over half a decade before taking the same position at Cal (2010-12) and USC (2013). Pendergast is about as bland as Ulbrich is charismatic, but is a football lifer with well-regarded knowledge of the Xs and Os.

UCLA could still opt for someone with a similar background — with the most popular name now being Jim Haslett, who worked with Bruin head coach Jim Mora on the New Orleans Saints staff in 1995 and 1996. Haslett mutually parted ways with Washington at the end of 2014, and is currently without a job.

An NFL-type hire would make sense for a few reasons. It would fit Mora’s pattern for hiring assistants, and could be used as a selling point with recruits — even if the candidate himself doesn’t turn out to be a stud recruiter. It also might be harder to lure a NCAA assistant away at this time of year, at least without a significant pay raise or other extenuating factors.

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Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams picks Oregon

Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams will transfer to Oregon, giving the Ducks a graduate transfer who could smooth their transition into the post-Marcus Mariota era.

UCLA and Texas had both made late inquiries into potentially getting the two-time Walter Payton Award runner-up, but neither became a real factor in Adams’ decision. The Bruins, of course, will head into spring camp with a competition to replace three-year starter Brett Hundley, with freshman Josh Rosen being the likely favorite over returning backup Jerry Neuheisel and redshirt sophomore Asiantii Woulard.

One of the rare players to jump from the FCS to the FBS at his position, Adams led EWU to a 49-46 upset of then-No. 25 Oregon State in 2013, and almost did the same against Washington a year later. He totaled 886 passing yards, 13 total touchdowns, and no interceptions in the two games.

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UCLA announces departure of defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich

UCLA has officially announced the departure of defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, who leaves the position after just one year.

Ulbrich is leaving to join the Atlanta Falcons, returning to the NFL to become a linebackers coach. The announcement comes two days after the 37-year-old accepted his new job.

“I would like to thank Coach Ulbrich for everything he has done for UCLA Football over the past three years,” UCLA head coach Jim Mora said in a statement. “The hard work he put in on a daily basis was surpassed only by his dedication to helping develop our student-athletes both on and off the field. It was a pleasure working alongside him and watching him develop as a coach, and I anticipate nothing but success for him in the future.”

Mora will soon be hiring his third defensive coordinator at UCLA.

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Pac-12 road sweep continues to elude Steve Alford after loss at Cal

In his short career as UCLA head coach, Steve Alford has led the team through seven Pac-12 road trips. The Bruins have yet to sweep a single one.

Their latest stumble might have been their most costly, a 64-62 loss at Cal that followed arguably the best three-game stretch of the season — one that moved them into a third-place conference tie. After knocking off then-No. 11 Utah, Colorado and Stanford, UCLA fell to a Bears squad that needed a 3-pointer at the beat last-place USC.

Here are the good things that happened: the Bruins (14-10, 6-5) took advantage of Cal’s soft interior, and fed Tony Parker for 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting; Kevon Looney tweaked the right hip he rehabbed this past offseason, but only sat out for about five minutes and finished with his 12th double-double of the season; in a road environment, UCLA kept the game close for the entire second half.

Here are the bad: the Bruins turned the ball over early, against a team that ranks among the worst in college basketball at forcing turnovers; their offense looked gassed again to end a second straight game; they gave up a bevy of 3-point shots, including two that cost them the game. Continue reading

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Report: UCLA, Texas showing interest in EWU’s Vernon Adams

UCLA and Texas have joined Oregon in trying to woo Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams.

The potential graduate transfer has twice finished as both Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year and runner-up for the Walter Payton Award, given to the FCS offensive MVP. His former coach at Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany, Dean Herrington, told The Oregonian‘s Andrew Greif that he has fielded calls from the Bruins and the Longhorns — but that he still thinks Adams will choose between either going to Oregon and staying at Eastern Washington. Continue reading

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Jeff Ulbrich leaves UCLA to join Atlanta Falcons coaching staff

UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich will leave the Bruins to join the Atlanta Falcons staff, two days after news first broke that he was considering an offer to become the NFL team’s linebackers coach.

Bruin Report Online first reported the news.

Ulbrich, 37, had just completed his first year as UCLA’s defensive coordinator, having been promoted after two seasons as the team’s linebackers and special teams coordinator. On Wednesday morning, shortly after four-star linebacker Roquan Smith had announced his commitment to the Bruins, reports surfaced that Ulbrich would be joining the Atlanta Falcons and new head coach Dan Quinn.

Smith then reopened his recruitment, and is currently deciding between UCLA, Georgia, Texas A&M and Michigan.

UCLA head coach Jim Mora said on Wednesday that Ulbrich had not yet accepted the offer, and said he would “fight tooth and nail to keep him.” Both Mora and Quinn coached Ulbrich when he was a San Francisco 49ers linebacker.

The Bruins will head into the 2015 season with their third defensive coordinator in as many years. Lou Spanos, who held the position for the first two seasons of the Mora era, left to become the Tennessee Titans linebackers coach in January 2014.

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UCLA’s Spring Game scheduled for April 25

For those trying to mark their calendars, UCLA’s Spring Game has been set for Saturday, April 25. The time and location have not been announced, and the rest of the Bruins’ spring camp schedule is also not yet released.

Quarterback Josh Rosen will obviously be the main attraction, and is set to compete for the starting spot after enrolling in January along with JUCO transfer offensive tackle Zach Bateman. Of the 2015 recruits that just signed their letters of intent this week, linebacker Joshua Woods and defensive backs Nathan Meadors and Will Lockett are expected to enroll early.

Head coach Jim Mora also said Wednesday that one player he can’t name could potentially participate in spring practices — likely referring to still-undecided four-star linebacker Roquan Smith.

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Brett Hundley among five UCLA Bruins invited to NFL Combine

Brett Hundley, right, runs around defensive end Jonathan Johnson (11) during UCLA's 36-34 win at Cal on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014. (Eric Risberg/AP)

Brett Hundley, right, runs around defensive end Jonathan Johnson (11) during UCLA’s 36-34 win at Cal on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014. (Eric Risberg/AP)

The NFL Scouting Combine released its list of invites today, and there weren’t any real surprises on UCLA’s end.

Brett Hundley, who set multiple school records in three seasons as a starter, was included — the mild kerfuffle over his Senior Bowl absence having not knocked him off his status as the consensus No. 3 quarterback in the draft. So too were defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa and linebacker Eric Kendricks, who represent the Bruins’ other chances to produce a first-round draft pick for the third year in a row.

A recent SI.com mock draft projected Kendricks to go No. 30 overall to the Green Bay Packers, while Odighizuwa followed at No. 37 (New York Jets) and Hundley at No. 41 (St. Louis Rams). Continue reading

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UCLA hangs on at Stanford, moves into third place in Pac-12

UCLA played stretches of good basketball and stretches of bad basketball, and bits of basketball that hung on little more than good fortune.

Somehow, it added up to a 69-67 win at Stanford on Thursday night, the Bruins’ first outside of Los Angeles since Thanksgiving weekend.

It was a victory that moved UCLA (14-9, 6-4) into third-place tie in the Pac-12, and one that represented the team’s first significant road win of the season. It was also one that saw the Bruins — who attacked and defended well through the middle swath of the game — melt down in the final minutes, going without a field goal after 5:19 after leading by as much as 22 points.

The Cardinal (15-7, 6-4) had a chance to win on Chasson Randle’s desperation heave at the buzzer but it clanked off, leaving Arizona and Utah looking like the only teams in the conference locked into NCAA tournament berths.

UCLA took control of the game late in the first half, and stayed in the driver’s seat for several minutes. The Bruins took its first double-digit lead with 4:57 left in the opening period, having gone on a 10-2 run in just over two minutes. They also held the Cardinal scoreless for well over five minutes, their zone scheme flustering the home squad. Continue reading

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