UCLA running backs all healthy for the first time

At long last, UCLA will have a full stable of backs. Head coach Jim Mora said starter Jordon James, Paul Perkins, Damien Thigpen, Malcolm Jones and Steve Manfro should be 100 percent healthy heading into the Sun Bowl next Tuesday.

“They all looked really sharp out here today,” Mora said. “It’s probably been since training camp that we can say that. … It’s probably the first game that they’ve all been ready to go. So we’ll have to find a way to get them all reps.” Continue reading “UCLA running backs all healthy for the first time” »

Injury report: Three running backs battling ankle injuries

Here’s the rundown, per UCLA head coach Jim Mora: starter Jordon James is “fine”; senior Damien Thigpen is a game-time decision; reserve back Steve Manfro is out.

All three are battling ankle injuries, and both James and Thigpen entered Wednesday’s no-pads practice with their right ankles wrapped. The Bruins also have Paul Perkins and Malcolm Jones available, though the latter did not carry the ball against Arizona last Saturday.

Of breakout two-way star Myles Jack, Mora said simply: “He’s a linebacker.”

Backup left tackle Conor McDermott has also undergone shoulder surgery, the Los Angeles Times reported. Continue reading “Injury report: Three running backs battling ankle injuries” »

Noel Mazzone on Damien Thigpen’s expanding role

Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone talked about running back Damien Thigpen’s potential to stretch out opposing defenses — with the ability to turn a 4-yard run into 20 yards.

Also used as a slot receiver and returner while Johnathan Franklin became UCLA’s all-time leading rusher, Thigpen has a chance now to become more of a featured back.

“(Last year), we sneaked Thiggy around the field to get the ball to him,” Mazzone said. “Now, he’s a guy who can step in and be more of a focal point in the running game.

“Instead of the side dish, he can maybe be the true entree.”

UCLA 45, Colorado 23: RB Damien Thigpen

Senior Damien Thigpen had his best game yet since coming back from a torn ACL, leading UCLA running backs with 38 yards. He took one of his four carries into the end zone, and another 27 yards up the middle to set up a score for receiver Devin Fuller. Continue reading “UCLA 45, Colorado 23: RB Damien Thigpen” »

Jim Mora talks about Utah’s offense and Dennis Erickson

Due to the short week of prep leading up to Thursday’s game at Utah, UCLA treated Sunday as it would a usual Tuesday practice. The Bruins had Friday and Saturday off after practicing last week, and moved into game prep for the Utes today.

Jim Mora spoke a bit after Sunday’s session:

— On early impressions of Utah: “They’re tough. They’re physical. They’re disciplined. They play hard all the time. Just like last year. They’re going to play good defense. They’re going to run the ball.”

— The addition of co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson has made Utah’s offense much more dynamic. In 2012, when former Ute quarterback Brian Johnson had sole schematic reins, the team finished with 19 pass plays of at least 25 yards and nine runs of at least 20 yards. Continue reading “Jim Mora talks about Utah’s offense and Dennis Erickson” »