UCLA receiver Mossi Johnson transitions to safety

One of UCLA’s promising young receivers might not spend as much time on offense anymore.

Sophomore Mossi Johnson switched to safety last weekend, playing a handful of snaps on defense to help bolster a secondary that lost cornerback Fabian Moreau for the season to a foot injury. The Crenshaw High product had made multiple catches in 10 straight games dating to last October, but only touched the ball once on offense at Arizona last Saturday. Darren Andrews got most of the minutes at slot receiver instead, and recorded career highs with three catches and 40 yards.

While both coaches and teammates have praised the 6-foot, 185-pound Johnson’s athleticism, neither defensive coordinator Tom Bradley nor head coach Jim Mora sounded certain as to how much and how quickly his defensive role would expand. The former said it would likely depend on the specific game situation, as well as the player’s own development.

“I’d rather be a week late with someone than a week early,” Bradley said, “and put him in a situation where he’s not quite ready for it. … We got him some reps in some coverages that he would know.”

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UCLA spring camp position review: Receivers

UCLA's Mossi Johnson catches a pass during spring football practice on April 2 at Spaulding Field.(Andy Holzman/Staff)

UCLA’s Mossi Johnson catches a pass during spring football practice on April 2 at Spaulding Field.(Andy Holzman/Staff)

UCLA has not produced a 1,000-yard receiver since 2011. Looking at the state of the Bruins’ offense, it’s a good bet that the drought will extend for another season.

Such is the nature of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone’s scheme. For three years, UCLA has divvied up targets between bevy of receivers, racking up significant total yards without creating a dominant No. 1 wideout. In 2014, Jordan Payton became the first Bruin to record more than 60 catches in the Jim Mora era; that same season, 12 others in the Pac-12 cleared that same threshold.

Payton might crack four-digit yardage as a senior, but the chemistry he built with Brett Hundley might not necessarily carry over when UCLA picks a new starter. (Even last year, Payton’s production tailed off as the season progressed; he didn’t top 58 yards or catch a single touchdown in his last four games.) This is not to say that the receiving corps are in any real trouble. After all, they return all but one member, and add a few others. Continue reading

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UCLA spring camp notes: Myles Jack practices at kick returner

» Myles Jack worked a bit as a returner on Monday, and yeah — it’d be a ton of fun to watch the linebacker toss his 6-foot-1, 231-pound frame around on special teams in a real game. Don’t hold your breath, though.

“If he’s doing that, he’s just messing around,” said head coach Jim Mora, who expressed surprise that Jack had been returning kicks. “Myles has to be moving out there. So if there’s a drill he’s not involved in, he just goes and gets involved. I didn’t even know he was taking reps back there. He’s not on the depth chart as a kick returner.”

And given UCLA’s depth there, putting Jack at further risk of injury seems foolhardy — no matter how thrilling the potential highlights.

In addition to No. 1 returner Ishmael Adams, the current rotation on kick and punt returns includes safety Jaleel Wadood, receiver Jordan Lasley, receiver Devin Fuller, running back Craig Lee, receiver Kenneth Walker, safety Randall Goforth and receiver Aaron Sharp.

» Not much has changed in the ongoing quarterback race. Josh Rosen, Jerry Neuheisel, Asiantii Woualrd and Mike Fafaul each took a share of reps today, and none of them did anything that seriously upset the perceived pecking order behind center. Continue reading

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UCLA notes: Three true freshmen not participating in training camp

» A trio of true freshmen were left off UCLA’s training camp roster. Quarterback Aaron Sharp, linebacker Dwight Williams and receiver Jordan Lasley did not practice on Monday, and will not return to the team until Aug. 31, after UCLA’s season opener at Virginia.

“Those three guys did not live up to the standards that we’re looking for through the summer months,” head coach Mora said.

None of the three were expected to contribute immediately.

» Receiver Darren Andrews is officially out for the season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his knee. He will redshirt the upcoming season after initially tearing knee ligaments late last November, ending a season in which he caught four passes for 52 yards.

Cornerback Johnny Johnson is also out for the season after injuring his shoulder for the second year in a row. He had already redshirted the 2013 campaign.

» Promising inside receiver Mossi Johnson injured his left shoulder on Monday, and left the field with a UCLA staffer helping him hold his arm still. Mora said he hoped it was just a mild AC sprain.

Johnson played well in spring camp, and was likely the first receiver off the bench for either Devin Fuller or Thomas Duarte.

» Priest Willis — whom Mora once lauded as a “picture-perfect, beautiful corner” — struggled as a freshman transitioning over from safety. Continue reading

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Spring notes: Jim Mora impressed by running back Craig Lee


— After redshirting this past season, Craig Lee looks like he might be the most talented runner on UCLA’s roster right now. The former four-star recruit still needs to improve his pass protection to ensure more reps, but he reeled off a number of nice runs on Saturday.

“He’s flashed the first two days without pads,” head coach Jim Mora said. “He didn’t look like anything different (in pads). He stood out to me.”

— Mora was similarly impressed by freshman Mossi Johnson, who still has a brace on his left knee after tearing three ligaments in January 2013 and grayshirting. The coaching staff didn’t decide to make him a full-time receiver until about three or weeks ago — partly based on his preference and partly on positional need. Continue reading

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