Jones still drawing pre-NFL combine raves

UCLA hasn’t produced a first-round NFL draft pick since Marcedes Lewis went 28th overall in 2006. Will Datone Jones break that drought?

Since the Senior Bowl, the 6-foot-4, 275-pound lineman has generated some of the most positive chatter among draftniks. Here’s the latest from NFL.com, where Bucky Brooks pegged him as one of three defenders with the potential to make an immediate impact.

Looking at Jones’ game, it’s apparent that his combination of first-step quickness and power is what gives opponents problems at the line. Jones is simply too quick for lumbering interior blockers to handle without assistance from the center. He complements this quickness with explosive strength, allowing him to win with power or finesse on the inside.

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Lache Seastrunk declares Heisman candidacy, Bruins shrug

In a bit of delicious candor, Baylor tailback Lache Seastrunk recently proclaimed himself the 2013 Heisman winner. From the Sporting News:

“I feel like there’s no back who can do what I do,” he told SN. “I know I’m the fastest back in the country. I know I’m the best back in the country. Nobody’s going to work harder.” …

“I’m going to win the Heisman. I’m going to win it in 2013. If I don’t, I’m going to get very close. I’m shooting for that goal. I will gladly say it.”

Seastrunk, a former five-star recruit and Oregon transfer, certainly could factor into the conversation next year. Through the Bears’ three-game winning streak to end the regular season, the sophomore averaged 166 yards. He has yet to receive more than 19 carries in a game. (He also has one of the best highlights of the season, scoring a 76-yard TD against Oklahoma State after cramping at midfield.) Still, loudly proclaiming a Heisman win is a bit uncouth, albeit amusing. If the Bruins are using the proclamation as bulletin board material, they aren’t really letting on. Here are some reactions from players. Continue reading

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Fauria left off Phil Steele’s All-Pac-12

Here are the Bruins that made Phil Steele’s All-Pac-12 teams:

OFFENSE
1st: RB Johnathan Franklin, OL Xavier Su’a-Filo
2nd: OL Jeff Baca
3rd: WR Shaquelle Evans
DEFENSE
1st: LB Anthony Barr
2nd: DT Datone Jones, LB Eric Kendricks
SPECIAL TEAMS
1st: P Jeff Locke
3rd: KR Damien Thigpen, PR Steven Manfro (Huh?!)

The most glaring omission is senior Fauria, who was left off despite being one of eight semifinalists for the John Mackey Award — given to the top tight end in the nation. I get that Fauria isn’t a true blocking tight end anymore, but he was tied for second in the conference with 11 touchdown receptions. Arizona State’s Chris Coyle, who got the third team nod, grabbed just five and only had 11 more yards per game (54.9 to 43.2).

On the bright side for UCLA fans, Franklin made first team with Kenjon Barner, beating out Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey. This could bode well for Franklin’s chances at the last remaining NCAA-recognized All-American list: the Football Writers Association of America releases its team later this week, and Steele is on the committee.

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Bruins leave pads off to start week

UCLA took practice a little easier on Monday. Usually a day off from morning sessions, the compressed week had the Bruins out on the field off a short turnaround — albeit without pads.

“I wanted them to be sharp Friday night,” said head coach Jim Mora. “Wanted them to be healthy, wanted them to be at max efficiency.”

Added defensive end Datone Jones: “I’m pretty sure the team we’re playing against went light contact too. It would be dumb for anyone to come out, knowing we have a big, physical game coming up. Our bodies haven’t fully recovered. That’s a 48-hour period, and we’ll be back in full pads. It’s important so someone doesn’t get hurt.”

Mora played coy on injuries, saying both Simon Goines (knee) and Steven Manfro (ankle) will be “good” and “fine” for Friday.

“What other answer do you expect?” Mora said, laughing.

Manfro has just eight carries for 70 yards this year and has seen more time at receiver and punt return, but with Damien Thigpen out (ACL), the Bruins could use him to spell Johnathan Franklin.

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Early Odds and Ends

Eddie Williams on the offensive optimism:
“We know as a unit we can move the ball. Even our coaches say that they see it in everyone. Everyone is more confident in their blocking, not shying away. We’re going to move the ball.”

Datone Jones on his expectations:
“I’m not trying to break even. I’m not trying to be average. Every day is a grind for me. If I mess up on a drill, I want to restart the drill. I’m not trying go break even this season. I know Brian Price and Reggie Carter and all the others have public spotlights. I’m trying to do the same thing.”

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Report Card – DL

Defensive Line

Grade: A
High Marks: Let’s make this simple. The UCLA defensive line will be very, very, very good. Brian Price is more than a man among boys. He’s a grandfather among infants. Datone Jones was very impressive, as did David Carter.

Low Marks: The defensive second unit had its fair share of struggles, particularly on run defense, and defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough said he spotted several weaknesses.

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