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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NFL draft roundup: Will UCLA produce another first-round pick?

Brett Hundley (17) runs for a touchdown in a 38-20 win over USC, as former Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, right, celebrates at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 22, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Brett Hundley (17) runs for a touchdown in a 38-20 win over USC, as former Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, right, celebrates at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 22, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

One of the lows in recent UCLA football history was the 2012 NFL draft. That was the year that not a single Bruin was picked, becoming a sort of epilogue on the recently expired coaching tenure of Rick Neuheisel. The same drought occurred in the 2009 draft, which followed Neuheisel’s debut season, and in the 1997 draft. Otherwise, the program had produced at least one selection every single year since the draft contracted to seven rounds in 1994.

But in the last two years, UCLA broke out of that 2012 slump in a big way, producing four picks in 2013 and five in 2014. That included a pair of first-round picks in defensive end Datone Jones and linebacker Anthony Barr.

Those nine picks signaled the team’s highest two-year draft total ever in the seven-round era — giving head coach Jim Mora and his staff a nice selling point on the recruiting trail. No longer can the school be depicted as a place that failed to maximize its talent.

This time around, UCLA’s three best prospects are quarterback Brett Hundley, defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, and linebacker Eric Kendricks. None of them are locks for the first round, but all three have at least a chance to be among the first 32 taken. If that happens, it will mark the first time UCLA has produced at least one first-rounder in three straight years since 1994-96 — when Jamir Miller, J.J. Stokes and Jonathan Ogden all became top-10 draft picks.

Defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa

Unsurprisingly, Odighizuwa impressed everyone in Mobile, Ala., during the weigh-in — looking as shredded as usual at 266 pounds and half an inch over 6-foot-3. He also measured out with 11 1/8-inch hands, the largest of any defensive lineman at the Senior Bowl, and a wingspan of nearly 82 inches.

He didn’t disappoint once practices and started either, drawing attention for his first step and fluid hips. Three years ago, Jones was the UCLA defensive end who started generating momentum with a big Senior Bowl showing, eventually becoming the first Bruin selected in the first round since 2006. If Odighizuwa follows up with a strong NFL combine, he could echo that rise. Continue reading

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Brett Hundley among NFL draft early entries leaving with degree

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley poses for photos during Pac-12 Football Media Day at the Paramount Theater on July 24, 2014. (Andy Holzman/Staff)

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley poses for photos during Pac-12 Football Media Day at the Paramount Theater on July 24, 2014. (Andy Holzman/Staff)

In addition to his many spots in the UCLA record books, quarterback Brett Hundley has joined another small club.

The NFL draft early entry deadline passed last Thursday, and 84 players were declared eligible for selection. Of those, 10 — including Hundley, who majored in sociology — notified the league that they had already graduated.

The others are: Penn State defensive end Deion Barnes, Auburn receiver Sammie Coates, Akron receiver Zach D’Orazio, Louisville defensive back Charles Gaines, Colorado State running back Dee Hart, Kansas receiver Nigel King, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Penn State offensive tackle Donovan Smith, and Appalachian State receiver Tacoi Sumler.

The NFL granted the remaining 74 players special eligibility because they had been out of high school for at least three years. The Pac-12 accounted for 16 of those athletes, a tally that dipped from the 98 that left school early in 2014.

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Alamo Bowl notes: UCLA ends 10-win season with new milestones

» With its 40-35 win over Kansas State in Friday’s Alamo Bowl, UCLA has now reached 10 wins for the ninth time in school history. The Bruins are now riding just their third-ever streak of back-to-back 10-win seasons, with the first two coming in 1997-98 and 1987-88.

Including K-State, UCLA played 10 teams that earned bowl berths, tying them for second-most in the country. The only exceptions were Virginia, Cal and Colorado.

» In his career finale, quarterback Brett Hundley didn’t have his best passing game, finishing 12 of 24 for 136 yards and a touchdown. He started the game 10-of-12 before a run of seven straight incompletions. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said afterward that Hundley’s right hand was still a bit sore from the finger injury that forced him out of UCLA’s loss to Stanford in November.

But Hundley did plenty of damage with his legs, running 11 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns. The Bruins followed the blueprint that TCU used to beat K-State, 41-20, on Nov. 8. Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin also only threw for one touchdown, but ran for three scores and 123 yards. Boykin’s proficiency on the ground also helped open up lanes for tailback Aaron Green, who had 171 yards.

“Brett went to town with his legs, for sure,” said receiver Jordan Payton.

Hundley improved his UCLA career records to 75 touchdown passes and 11,713 total offensive yards.

» Paul Perkins ran for a career-high 194 yards and two touchdowns on just 20 carries, including a 67-yard scoring run with 2:20 left in the game that gave UCLA a 40-28 lead. His rushing total was the third-most in Alamo Bowl history, and earned him the game’s offensive MVP award. Continue reading

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UCLA 40, Kansas State 35: Jim Mora, Bruins talk after Alamo Bowl

UCLA head coach Jim Mora and the Bruins spoke to the media following a 40-35 win over Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl, one that clinched a second straight 10-win season. During the press conference, Mora grew testy when asked about the team’s inability to close out games — as well as when asked about what appeared to be a handshake snub with K-State coach Bill Snyder.

Also on the podium were quarterback Brett Hundley, linebacker Eric Kendricks, linebacker Myles Jack, defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, and running back Paul Perkins.

Kendricks and Perkins were named Alamo Bowl MVPs on their respective sides of the ball.

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