Eric Yarber: Quarterbacks-turned-receivers need ‘good lower trunks’

UCLA has done this before. There was Darius Bell, who transferred in, switched positions, and left Westwood with 302 receiving yards and a touchdown. There is Devin Fuller, who ranked second on the team with 59 catches as a junior last season.

As far as quarterback-to-receiver projects go, the Bruins haven’t fared too badly. Next up is Aaron Sharp, who signed as a three-star recruit in 2014. After spotting as a scout-team target late last season, the Houston-area product has all but made the pass-catching transition final.

The Bell-Fuller-Sharp trio shares at least one physical trait, according to receivers coach Eric Yarber. Continue reading

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UCLA spring camp notes: Marcus Rios improving at cornerback

– UCLA held its fifth spring practice this morning at Spaulding Field, and Marcus Rios made a strong case for the day’s best play. During 11-on-11 scrimmages, the cornerback tipped Jerry Neuheisel’s pass into the air, and contorted himself to secure the interception.

It was the latest moment in what has been a solid camp so far for the redshirt sophomore — made even more impressive by the fact that he fought off a life-threatening fungal infection less than two years ago. He wasn’t 100 percent even last season, when he came up with a game-saving interception in a win at Cal.

Another offseason should give him even more time to improve his conditioning and hone his skills. He’s already a firm part of the two-deep right now, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him eventually push for a starting spot at cornerback.

– The Bruins continue to structure practices by giving two quarterbacks team reps each day. Today, the rotation gave way to Neuheisel on the first-string offense and Asiantii Woulard behind him. Neither has changed significantly through the course of spring camp, with Neuheisel’s lack of arm strength looking like a factor that could severely hamper him in the race to become starter. Continue reading

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UCLA spring camp notes: Josh Rosen takes first-team reps

– UCLA has given a different quarterback first-team reps in each of its four practices this spring. Monday was finally freshman Josh Rosen’s turn, and he looked like everything you’d expect out of a five-star recruit.

The freshman hit on five of his first six throws, with the one incompletion being a dropped pass by Thomas Duarte. But it was how those throws looked that was really impressive. A sampling of what he did during 11-on-11s: rolling out and zipping a ball about 15 yards to Duarte near the sideline early on his first drive; finding Tyler Scott open in the middle for what would have been a very long touchdown in a real game; airing a pass almost 40 yards downfield, again to Duarte.

For some reason, however, Rosen did look worse during one-on-ones and seven-on-sevens, missing more than a handful of passes.

Still, he is clearly the most talented player currently vying to become Brett Hundley’s successor. He’ll almost certainly take his lumps if he wins the job and starts against real competition, but so far in spring, he’s backing up the hype that followed him out of St. John Bosco.

– Mike Fafaul got second-team reps today, and actually showed a nice bit of oomph on some of his passes. Head coach Jim Mora said the staff will reevaluate the current structure of using two quarterbacks each practice both this Tuesday and early next week. 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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