DT Garrett Rand reaffirms commitment to Wisconsin

A little over a week after visiting UCLA, defensive tackle Garrett Rand has reaffirmed his commitment to Wisconsin.

The four-star recruit out of Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton told azcentral that he will fax his letter of intent to the Badgers on Wednesday morning, sticking with the school he picked back in September. The 6-foot-2, 275-pound lineman had second thoughts on his choice after defensive coordinator Dave Aranda left in early January for the same job at LSU.

In the interview with azcentral, Rand also credited New Way Academy in Phoenix for helping him overcome a childhood battle with dyslexia.

The Bruins have a quartet of three-star defensive line recruits in Jake Burton, Marcus Moore, Osa Odighizuwa, and JUCO transfer Nick Terry. They are also in position to add four-star defensive tackle Boss Tagaloa, who will announce his decision a little after 12 p.m. tomorrow on ESPN2.

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VIDEO: UCLA coach Steve Alford on USC rivalry, Bruins’ outlook

With just nine regular-season games left, UCLA is still hovering below .500 in conference play. Needing a few more emphatic wins to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins take their next step on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at USC.

Head coach Steve Alford talked on Tuesday about the matchup. A few notes:

» UCLA shook up its starting lineup this past Saturday, playing forward Jonah Bolden ahead of senior Tony Parker in an 83-50 win over Washington State. Bolden seems likely to keep that spot, with Parker continuing to man the backup center position instead of playing next to sophomore Thomas Welsh in a “big-big” frontcourt.

“We played well last game doing that,” Alford said. “I don’t think it’s always going to be etched in stone as to who that is, but I don’t see any changes.”

» Alford lost to USC for the first time on Jan. 13, with his Bruins devolving on defense. Looking back on that 14-point loss, the third-year coach pointed out that the Trojans scored 13 points off of “50-50 balls,” as well as 16 second-chance points.

“When you fuel their transition game by mistakes that you make, that makes it really, really difficult,” Alford said.

USC represents the type of athletic, up-tempo team that has troubled UCLA all season, and offers a good test for just how much Bolden’s presence will improve the Bruins’ defense. Continue reading

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A look at UCLA football’s remaining 2016 recruiting targets

Can UCLA close out its top-10 recruiting class by landing five-star linebacker Mique Juarez? (Brad Graverson/Staff)

UCLA already has a top-10 recruiting class in 2016. Can push even higher with prospects like five-star linebacker Mique Juarez? (Brad Graverson/Staff)

Less than 36 hours from National Signing Day, UCLA’s 2016 recruiting class is already in very good shape. With 23 commitments — five of whom are already enrolled — the Bruins’ latest haul currently stands at No. 10 in the country.

Now, Jim Mora and his staff has a chance to finish at the top of the Pac-12 for the second time in his tenure. Here are the prospects left on the board.

Star power

Five-star linebacker Mique Juarez isn’t just one of the most talented players coming out of high school this year. If he signs with UCLA, he’ll be just the second consensus top-10 prospect that Mora has landed, following quarterback Josh Rosen.

Since he decomitted from USC back in October, the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder has been closely linked with the Bruins, who offered him two summers ago. If he picks UCLA, Juarez could immediately become the dynamic linebacker that the Bruins have missed since Myles Jack tore his meniscus in September. Although the team’s defensive struggles this past season weren’t limited to a single position, Jack’s presence often cleaned up mistakes made elsewhere — something that even fellow linebacker Deon Hollins pointed out.

Juarez isn’t going to play at that level immediately, but producing something close to what Jack was able to do as a true freshman would help. Continue reading

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Steve Alford: UCLA’s 83-50 win over WSU was best he’s seen

Steve Alford finally had something to smile about.

After watching his team lose three of its last four games, the UCLA head coach finally tinkered with his starting lineup. The result? An 83-50 win over Washington State, the Bruins’ largest margin of victory all season.

“Best 40 minutes we’ve had all year,” Alford said.

Stretch forward Jonah Bolden replaced senior big man Tony Parker to start the game, giving UCLA (13-9, 4-5) more flexibility on both offense and defense. Alford wouldn’t confirm that the change was permanent, but seemed disinclined to move back to the “big-big” lineup that the Bruins had used most of this year.

Instead of playing somewhat out of position at power forward, Parker moved to a backup center role behind sophomore Thomas Welsh. Welsh and Bolden essentially formed a first-string frontcourt platoon, while Parker played next to Gyorgy Goloman.

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