UCLA camp notes: Defense stands out in Bruins’ live scrimmage

» UCLA’s live scrimmage on Friday evening was its final practice at Cal State San Bernardino. For anyone planning to come out to the Inland Empire on Saturday, the Bruins will be out at 9:15 a.m. for its “Fan Appreciation” event.

Players will sign autographs, and free food will be available from a Stater Bros. trailer.

» The live scrimmage itself was a bit of a mixed bag. The first-team offense and defense combined as the blue team (coached by Taylor Mazzone), facing off against the rest of the Bruins on the white team (Noel Mazzone). But taking into account injuries and some liberal substitution patterns, it wasn’t exactly an accurate simulation of how the two sides stack up.

As expected, the blue team won convincingly, taking the scrimmage 39-16 thanks to a stable ground game and touchdown passes by both Jerry Neuheisel and Josh Rosen — who switched off possessions behind center. Continue reading

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UCLA left tackle Conor McDermott undergoes MRI on knee

UPDATE: McDermott’s MRI showed no ligament damage.

UCLA left tackle Conor McDermott was scheduled to undergo an MRI on his knee Tuesday evening, but the injury is not expected to be serious.

“He has no swelling,” said head coach Jim Mora. “He really has very little pain. He felt a tiny little pop, so we just wanted to get it checked out. … He’s got no instability. Nothing like that.”

McDermott went down during Monday night’s practice, but walked off the field without a significant limp. Jake Brendel and Alex Redmond were the other offensive linemen who were also left practice on Monday, but Mora said there are no injuries or issues concerning the latter. Brendel is day-to-day with a calf injury. Continue reading

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UCLA camp notes: Three offensive linemen go down during practice

» UCLA lost three starting offensive linemen on Monday night when center Jake Brendel, right guard Alex Redmond and left tackle Conor McDermott all left the field with undisclosed injuries. None of them appeared to be limping significantly, and Brendel was smiling and laughing after the end of practice.

While the Bruins’ have improved depth on the offensive line this year, even the loss of one starter for an extended period of time could have a significant effect on the ceiling of this offense.

» Josh Rosen has not looked as consistently good as he did in spring, and the three-man quarterback competition has not been particularly compelling for the last few practices. Still, he is the one player that has the ability to make a truly head-turning play. On Monday night, those included a beautiful deep ball that went over right over Kenny Walker’s shoulder but off his hands, and a long touchdown pass to Nate Starks.

Rosen is slated to make his first media appearance this camp tomorrow afternoon.

» Hands down the most impressive play of the night belonged to Octavius Spencer. The freshman defensive back ran across the field and made a leaping interception to nab Mike Fafaul’s pass — one he held on too even as the receiver took out his legs mid-air.

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UCLA spring camp position review: Offensive line

UCLA's offensive line during spring football practice at Spaulding Field on April 23, 2015. (Andy Holzman/Staff)

UCLA’s offensive line during spring football practice at Spaulding Field on April 23, 2015. (Andy Holzman/Staff)

The improvement of UCLA’s offensive line has been a recurring storyline for more than a year, so you’re allowed some skepticism as you read this: Despite allowing 128 sacks over the last three seasons, this could be one of the team’s strengths.

As usual, the caveat is that the line will need to stay healthy. But unlike the last few years, the unit has the sort of depth that can sustain a certain amount of attrition. Two starters are crucial: left tackle Conor McDermott, and center Jake Brendel. The former has had shoulder problems in the past, but was a game-changing left tackle through the second half of last season. He looked healthy and capable all of spring. Brendel is still the only full-time center UCLA has had in the Jim Mora era, and the one game he missed wasn’t pretty.

Injuries to either one could throw the line completely out of whack. But the other spots? Losing someone for a few games wouldn’t be a death sentence. Continue reading

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UCLA’s Simon Goines eager for game action after leg injuries

The last time Simon Goines took the field for UCLA, he was part of an offensive line that included three true freshmen. Fast forward 16 months, and that picture has changed dramatically.

While the redshirt junior sat out all of the 2014 season recovering from leg injuries, the Bruins grew up in the trenches. Now practicing next to Goines on the first-string offensive line are a senior at center (Jake Brendel), a redshirt junior at left tackle (Conor McDermott), as well as a junior (Alex Redmond) and redshirt sophomore (Kenny Lacy) at left and right guard.

As a unit, the five have combined to start 89 games. That doesn’t even include two more starters from last season, Caleb Benenoch and Scott Quessenberry, who are recovering from offseason surgeries.

“It feels a lot different,” Goines said. “I don’t really have to say anything anymore. … I don’t have to make calls for everybody. It feels good.” Continue reading

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