UCLA spring camp notes: Four quarterbacks share first-team reps

— UCLA broke away from the way its two-by-two quarterback rotation for the first time this spring, but it still didn’t technically eliminate anyone from the race. Instead, Jerry Neuheisel, Josh Rosen, Asiantii Woulard and Mike Fafaul each got a turn running the first-team offense in 11-on-11 scrimmages.

No one in the group really had a bad day, but again, Rosen stood out. His feel in the pocket has been excellent through spring, and he looks particularly impressive rolling out to his right and throwing downfield. On one such play, he connected with running back Roosevelt Davis about 30 yards down the sideline. He also made a great throw to Thomas Duarte, squeezing the ball through a tight window on a play in which the receiver didn’t really look open until he actually made the catch.

The timing of some of the plays counted for something too. Rosen was able to get the offense out of third-and-long on his first series, after the offensive line backed him up with back-to-back false starts. There was a healthy crowd out watching from parking lot 8 today, and broke into applause more than once.

Woulard was the runner-up in the competition today, putting in arguably his best showing as a Bruin. He had a long touchdown to Aaron Sharp, and seems to have also developed good chemistry with redshirt freshman Jordan Lasley. Continue reading

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UCLA spring camp notes: Nate Starks looks like No. 2 tailback

– One of UCLA’s biggest questions in the past two offseasons surrounded the running back position, which lost all-time leading rusher Johnathan Franklin after 2012.

Paul Perkins answered that in a big way as a redshirt sophomore, becoming the Pac-12’s leading rusher with 1,575 yards (121.15 per game). His presence, as well as that of an entirely intact offensive line, will certainly make it easier for whichever quarterback ends up replacing Brett Hundley this upcoming season.

But who’s looming behind him? After UCLA’s first spring practice in pads, Nate Starks looks like the clear-cut No. 2 running back. As a true freshman in 2014, the Colorado native was fourth on the team with 141 yards — behind Perkins, Hundley and senior Jordon James. He’s picked up where he left off and appears to be the team’s second-best runner now.

While head coach Jim Mora agreed that Starks currently has the inside track on the backup role, he insisted there is still “great competition there.” One player he said has “flashed” through three practices is Craig Lee, a speedy four-star recruit in 2013 who has yet to play a down for the Bruins. Continue reading

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UCLA notes: Starting center Jake Brendel’s knee injury likely not serious

» UCLA lost a number of players to injury on Monday night, but none more important than center Jake Brendel. The third-year starter hurt his left knee/leg late in the two-hour practice, and was examined on a table before being carted to the locker room.

Brendel wasn’t limping heavily when he was helped off the field, and the preliminary examination indicated that the injury wasn’t serious.

“Hopefully, he doesn’t need anything more than a day or two, but we’ll see,” said head coach Jim Mora.

Backup center/guard Scott Quessenberry also left practice with what may have been heat exhaustion or dehydration. Safety Randall Goforth aggravated a left shoulder injury, but that also isn’t expected to be serious. Cornerback Marcus Rios was sidelined with a headache, but wasn’t hit in the head.

Freshman linebacker Zach Whitley — who performed well in spring camp — has a concussion and wore a neck brace last week; his return date is uncertain.

» Mora wasn’t happy with how the Bruins began the second part of their two-a-day, and made them restart the Monday night practice roughly 15 minutes in. Later, he sent running back Craig Lee to the locker room. 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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