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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UCLA post-spring position outlook: Running backs

Spring football is done, and over three months still stand between us and the start of UCLA’s third season under Jim Mora — one that comes with national title aspirations and accompanying media glare. Over the next week, this blog will cover each of the Bruins’ position groups. Next up …

Running backs

Last season was the first since 2009 that every UCLA running back finished with fewer than 600 yards. That year, the Bruins finished 7-6 overall and eighth in the Pac-10.

The situations aren’t all that similar, of course. Quarterback Brett Hundley and linebacker Myles Jack both helped buoy the running game through the final five games, combining for 584 of the team’s 1,007 yards and 12 of its 16 touchdowns. The Bruins have options on the ground, even disregarding its stable of running backs.

But those backs. Assuming injuries won’t concentrate on this unit as much as it did in 2013, there are enough bodies for at least a three- or four-man rotation through fall. Continue reading

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Bruins working to limit penalties

SAN BERNARDINO — In what Jim Mora felt was UCLA’s best physical practice yet, he told officials to be sticklers.

The Bruins, of course, were dead-last in the country in penalty yardage last year.

Although he was encouraged Wednesday morning by the team committing only one penalty during the snap through 144 plays of 11-on-11 scrimmage, Mora maintained that the Bruins still have a ways to go toward limiting flags.

“The thing that we’ve got to get better at, and it’s primarily the young guys was the pre-snap, the non-aggressive penalties,” the head coach said. “We had too many false starts. We were offsides once on a third-and-10. … We had one illegal substitution on defense.

“Those are things that are going to hold a team back, unless you address them.”

He added that the main culprits have been the younger players, who are understandably still adjusting to the pace of the college game: “As you move forward, you become much less tolerant of those things. Much less.”

FAIRBAIRN FINDING ROUTINE

After a solid freshman campaign, kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn has looked nearly automatic inside of 40 yards — and fairly reliable beyond that. His main focus this offseason was maintaining his confidence and building up his mental game, a process that mostly involved watching film, looking at pictures of different field goals and visualizing his kicks. Continue reading

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