Eric Yarber: Quarterbacks-turned-receivers need ‘good lower trunks’

UCLA has done this before. There was Darius Bell, who transferred in, switched positions, and left Westwood with 302 receiving yards and a touchdown. There is Devin Fuller, who ranked second on the team with 59 catches as a junior last season.

As far as quarterback-to-receiver projects go, the Bruins haven’t fared too badly. Next up is Aaron Sharp, who signed as a three-star recruit in 2014. After spotting as a scout-team target late last season, the Houston-area product has all but made the pass-catching transition final.

The Bell-Fuller-Sharp trio shares at least one physical trait, according to receivers coach Eric Yarber. Continue reading

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LT Simon Goines, LB Eric Kendricks practice lightly

Wrecked by injuries, UCLA started three true freshmen on its offensive line in a 42-14 loss at Oregon.

Reinforcements are working back. Sophomore Simon Goines (knee) and Conor McDermott (shoulder) both practiced Tuesday, albeit without pads. Goines, who started at right tackle before moving to left, was still limping and had his right knee wrapped.

(Starting left tackle Torian White’s season ended on Oct. 3 when he broke a bone and tore a ligament near his ankle.)

“They develop a sense of urgency to get back,” head coach Jim Mora said. “I feel that with a lot of guys. You look at our injury report and it’s pretty vast. You see a bunch of guys that want to get back out here and do whatever they can, whatever they can.”

Linebacker Eric Kendricks, who played through a back bruise with the help of an anesthetic shot on Saturday, was at practice without pads. Continue reading

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Jim Mora not emphasizing ‘payback’ against Stanford


— Many Bruins still have last year’s back-to-back Stanford games fresh in their minds: UCLA’s 35-17 loss at home followed by a 27-24 heartbreaker in the Pac-12 Championship. Head coach Jim Mora is trying to make sure it doesn’t become their primary focus this weekend.

“I hope that — I think somewhere deep down in their psyche is payback, payback, payback,” he said. “But if you make that your main motivation, I think you make a mistake. You have to focus on this game, this year, and what it’s going to take to win this game, this year.”

His role as a coach will be to talk to the team the right way in order to instill calm heading into the weekend.

“You don’t necessarily whip them into a frenzy on a Tuesday,” Mora said. “You let it slowly build so you create the right mindset going into a game.”

— Defensive end Ellis McCarthy is expected to play at Stanford after sitting out last Saturday with a head injury. Continue reading

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Freshman Thomas Duarte a potential spark to Y-receiver corps


This was last year’s red-zone motto for UCLA: “Put it on the top shelf where the kids can’t get it.”

Easy to do when your target is 6-foot-7. Joseph Fauria led the Bruins with 12 touchdown catches, the most for any tight end in the country. When Brett Hundley needed a safety valve as a first-year starter, he most often looked to the Mackey Award semifinalist.

Entering head coach Jim Mora’s second season, UCLA’s tight ends – better termed as Y-receivers in the Bruins’ fast-paced offense – don’t stick out nearly as much. Seniors Darius Bell and Grayson Mazzone are 5-foot-11 and 5-foot-8, respectively. Nate Iese and Jordan Barrett both measure at least 6-foot-2, but will likely be used more as blockers.

The difference maker could be true freshman Thomas Duarte, a prized 6-foot-3 recruit out of Mater Dei High. Named the Orange County Register’s Player of the Year as well as to the MaxPreps all-state team, his No. 18 jersey was retired in March alongside former USC quarterback Matt Barkley’s. UCLA coaches and teammates already point out Duarte’s wide passing radius and smooth game. Continue reading

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Fall camp preview: Wide receivers/tight ends

UCLA lost a 6-foot-7 target in tight end Joseph Fauria, but quarterback Brett Hundley shouldn’t have hard time finding capable pass-catchers. Although the Bruins return only one player who caught for more than 300 yards last season, they have a deep, young group with plenty of upside.

Key returners: Shaq Evans enters his senior season as one of the conference’s better receivers. A stable presence for UCLA both as a route-runner and blocker, he should be in line for more red-zone targets in addition to building on his 800-yard junior campaign.

Opposite Evans will be sophomore Jordan Payton, a thick-bodied target who displayed good hands almost every spring practice. Redshirt sophomore Devin Lucien is more physically gifted than Payton, but isn’t as consistent. Continue reading

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