Receiver Alex Van Dyke eager to contribute after burning redshirt

Through UCLA’s preseason training camp, Alex Van Dyke looked the part of a starting receiver — if you imagined him two years into the future.

The true freshman looked bigger than his listed 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, a frame that could easily carry more weight. Also an All-Metro basketball player at Elk Grove (Calif.) Cosumnes Oaks, Van Dyke already had the genes (son of a former NFL player) and the nickname (“Bambi” for his wobbly gait).

He just didn’t always look like he knew what to do. After two weeks in San Bernardino, Van Dyke seemed destined for a redshirt — especially considering that the Bruins returned nearly every receiver from 2013, including four who had double-digit receptions.

So it was a bit of a surprise when, with UCLA already up by three touchdowns in last Thursday’s 62-27 win at Arizona State, the true freshman stepped onto the field for a handful of plays. Continue reading

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UCLA notes: Quarterback Brett Hundley comments on O’Bannon ruling

» UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley talked about the offense’s progress so far into training camp. Active in the National College Players Association, the junior also commented on the recent ruling in O’Bannon v. NCAA — one that could dramatically change college athletics (2:30 mark in the video above).

Although the NCAA intends to appeal, judge Claudia Wilken ruled that student-athletes could be paid up to $5,000 per year.

“It’s nice to have the athletes coming after me to be able to live a little more comfortably than we all did,” Hundley said.

» Crossing the halfway point of training camp in San Bernardino, tensions between the Bruins rose a bit on Monday morning. Continue reading

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UCLA notes: Jim Mora thinks UCLA has ideal line for its defense

» Head coach Jim Mora called UCLA’s Thursday afternoon session the team’s best practice yet in San Bernardino, pointing out the team’s improved athleticism along the front as well as its improved maturity.

Besides injury updates, Jim Mora spent the first 5:30 or so of Thursday’s interview scrum (video above) talking about the defensive line, and how having players like Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Kenny Clark, Eddie Vanderdoes and Ellis McCarthy was ideal for this year’s scheme.

» San Bernardino has been unseasonably cool this week, hovering mostly in the mid- to high 80s. Still, injuries have started to add up after four days in the Inland Empire.

The most serious injury right now is linebacker Cameron Griffin’s shoulder, which he landed on two days ago and has wrapped in a sling since. He’ll be examined further by doctors on Saturday.

“It doesn’t look like it’s real positive, but we’ll see,” Mora said. “Keep our fingers crossed.” Continue reading

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UCLA notes: Receiver Mossi Johnson returns to practice after shoulder injury

Safety Tahaan Goodman breaks up a pass intended for receiver Tyler Scott. Tuesday, August 5, 2014. (John Valenzuela/ Daily Bulletin)

Safety Tahaan Goodman breaks up a pass intended for receiver Tyler Scott. Tuesday, August 5, 2014. (John Valenzuela/ Daily Bulletin)

» Mossi Johnson appears to have avoided the worst. After leaving Monday’s practice with a left shoulder injury, he returned on Tuesday to participate in some light individual drills.

Head coach Jim Mora said Johnson — a surprise performer at inside receiver this spring — was diagnosed with a second-degree AC sprain. Johnson will likely be held out of full contact for two weeks, but an earlier return isn’t out of the question either.

In addition to being an obvious physical setback, a serious injury could have dealt a heavy emotional blow to a player that had already grayshirted the 2013 season to rehab multiple torn knee ligaments.

Elsewhere on the injury front, true freshman linebacker Cameron Griffin left Tuesday’s practice with a shoulder injury of uncertain severity. Linebacker Zach Whitley has been somewhat limited the first two days due to cramps.

» Tuesday’s best play can be credited to Myles Jack, who snatched a remarkable interception during one-on-one drills. Continue reading

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Five players to watch during UCLA training camp

UCLA football is officially back.

In the Daily News this past weekend, I covered a few of the questions that UCLA answered in spring and will look to answer starting today.

With training camp kicking off at Cal State San Bernardino at 3 p.m., here are five players to watch out for through the next couple of weeks.

Linebacker Kenny Orjioke, Jr., 6-4, 235

Head coach Jim Mora said the prime objective for UCLA’s defense will be replacing the pass-rushing void left by Cassius Marsh and Anthony Barr. The latter’s most natural successor is Orjioke.

Still just 19 years old, the junior has off-the-charts athleticism but hasn’t quite turned that into on-the-field stardom. That started to change this past spring, when he started blowing past blockers on a more regular basis. He’ll be fun to watch if he keeps it up this fall.

Offensive tackle Simon Goines, Jr., 6-7, 330 Continue reading

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UCLA notes: Jim Mora warns against stereotyping Brett Hundley as ‘runner’

» Brett Hundley led UCLA with 748 rushing yards last season, but head coach Jim Mora emphasized at Pac-12 Media Days that his quarterback is — first and foremost — a passer.

“I say that about Brett because people have a tendency at times to see an African-American quarterback and say he’s a runner,” Mora said. “And I hate that stereotype. I always have. I coached Mike Vick. I believe we stereotype those guys started with that, and I don’t want that to happen with Brett.

“I’m going to make sure it doesn’t. It shouldn’t. The guy’s a passer, man, but he can run.”

» Mora smiled when asked about the weather in San Bernardino, where UCLA will start training camp on Aug. 4: “I hope it’s hot. I would just like us to be in triple digits. As long as we’re in triple digits, I’ll be happy.”

Unlike last summer, UCLA will not go down to San Diego for a three-day pre-camp session with Navy SEALs. Mora said the experience helped his team later in the season — particularly when it needed to bond together through the death of receiver Nick Pasquale — but didn’t want to dull the impact by repeating it too often.

» What does two-way superstar Myles Jack have in store for his sophomore season? Not even his teammates are sure.

“I’m excited,” said linebacker Eric Kendricks. “I don’t even know what to expect. He put on 15 (pounds) of muscle. He’s gotten so much stronger. He’s been working hard. That’s all you can ask of a guy. He doesn’t let any of this hype, this circle of fame get to his head.” Continue reading

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