UCLA assistant Jeff Ulbrich named defensive coordinator

Linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich has been promoted to defensive coordinator, making official a promotion that had been expected for weeks. He fills the vacancy left by Lou Spanos, who left the Bruins last month to become the Tennessee Titans’ linebackers coach.

Ulbrich was also the team’s special teams coordinator, a unit that leads the country in blocked kicks and punts over the last two seasons, and was top-20 last fall in both kick and punt return coverage. The 36-year-old was nominated for the 2013 Broyles Award for college football’s top assistant coach. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Myles Jack’s cover skills result of recent work

My football notebook in today’s paper focuses on linebacker Myles Jack and his impressive work in pass coverage. The versatile true freshman ranks second in the Pac-12 with seven passes defended and tied for first with 1.75 per game. Only two other linebackers, USC’s Hayes Pullard and Oregon’s Rodney Hardrick, sit in the top 20.

Some extra notes from the interview:

– During UCLA’s timeout before Jack’s eventual interception at Utah, defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin told the linebacker to show coverage initially before dropping back from the receiver.

“I kind of looked at him crazy,” Jack said. “I never really play off. He was like, ‘Just do it.’ I said ‘Yes, sir.’ The quarterback looked over, and I was on, and then as he went down to look at the ball, and his cadence and everything, I just stepped back to about five, seven yards. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Inexperienced UCLA secondary eager to start season

He’s eager to watch them play.

No matter that the group returns only five games’ worth of combined starting experience, or the idea that most regard the unit as the team’s weakest link. Jim Mora is ready to see his UCLA secondary take on Nevada Saturday night — even if, he joked, he has to peek through his fingers.

“I want them to just be able to play free and not worry,” said the Bruins’ head coach. “Be able to cut it loose and let their skills take over. I think they’ve worked hard enough on the mental part that they know what’s going on, they know the adjustments.

“I don’t want to see them play hesitant.”

After weeks of hitting their own teammates — first in San Bernardino, then back at home in Westwood — the Bruins are itching to finally get on the field against some different uniforms. That may go double for the defensive backfield. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Safety Dietrich Riley easing back after shoulder setback

Dietrich Riley had already fought his way back from one injury. He didn’t think he’d suffer another just one week into UCLA’s spring camp.

After sitting out all of last season recovering from neck surgery, the rising redshirt junior safety separated his right shoulder on April 6 — just the third practice session this month.

Riley had gotten his arm caught up trying to pry the ball loose during one-on-one drills, and the pain he suddenly felt had him fearing the worse. He said he tried to think positively, but couldn’t contain all his emotions as the staff worked to pop his shoulder back in on the sideline.

“Sitting in that shade area with the trainer, I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I kind of broke down. I started crying because I’ve been working my tail off the whole offseason, just doing whatever I can to prepare myself mentally and physically. Then that accident happens.”

Luckily for him and the Bruins, the most experienced member of the secondary didn’t require surgery. Riley is gradually working back into practice with a red jersey. He said the shoulder feels fine, though he hasn’t gone full contact yet. He rehabs two to three times a day.

“He’s such a football-intelligent kid,” defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin said. “When we throw him back out there, it’s like he never fell off. It’s like riding a bike to him. The thing is, it’s going to be vital to get him back and get him healthy.”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email