UCLA post-spring position outlook: Special teams

Spring football is done, and over three months still stand between us and the start of UCLA’s third season under Jim Mora — one that comes with national title aspirations and accompanying media glare. This blog has covered the status of each position group moving forward. Last in the series is …

Special teams

Recently, special teams hasn’t been a major concern for UCLA. Over the last two seasons, the team blocked 12 kicks and punts — an FBS total matched only by Rutgers. Last year, it ranked top-20 in both opponent punt and kick returns; in four of the five years prior, the Bruins ranked outside the top 40 in the former and the top 100 in the latter.

A key difference looms heading into this fall: Jeff Ulbrich is no longer the UCLA special teams coordinator.

Promoted the defensive coordinator, Ulbrich will continue coaching inside linebackers but surrenders lead oversight of the unit that helped extend his own professional career. Outside linebackers will be charged to new assistant Mike Tuiasosopo, who also holds the title of special teams coach. Continue reading

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UCLA post-spring position outlook: Receivers

Spring football is done, and over three months still stand between us and the start of UCLA’s third season under Jim Mora — one that comes with national title aspirations and accompanying media glare. Over the next week, this blog will cover each of the Bruins’ position groups. Next up …

Receivers

Even after losing No. 1 target Shaq Evans, UCLA won’t lack for targets. Just look at how Evans’ numbers changed from his junior to senior season: he tripled his touchdown total to nine, but dipped from 60 catches and 877 yards to 47 and 709 in 2013. The Bruins ranked 44th in the country in passing yards per game, but no individual was among the top 100 nationally in receiving yards per game.

The diversification of UCLA’s receiving corps continues this fall. Continue reading

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Injury report: Left tackle Simon Goines fractured fibula

Left tackle Simon Goines is done for the season after fracturing his right fibula. He had surgery done Sunday morning at around 8 a.m., and will not be able to put weight on it for eight weeks.

He had returned to the starting lineup Saturday night after missing four games with an injured MCL, and his absence again forces three true freshmen onto UCLA’s first-string offensive line. The unit had one of its worst showings of the season against Arizona State, allowing nine sacks. Head coach Jim Mora said that after looking at film, quarterback Brett Hundley would have had a hard time avoiding most of those even with an early throw or run.

USC’s defensive front is just as impressive than the Sun Devils’. The Trojans have 32 sacks on the season to ASU’s 34, and are slightly ahead with 82 tackles for loss to 77.

– Receivers Grayson Mazzone and Darren Andrews will both have surgery for torn knee ligaments. Continue reading

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Injury update: Tailback Jordon James closer to full health


– Running back Jordon James is also expected to play after missing five of UCLA’s last six games. Coach Jim Mora admitted that he should not have let James play against Colorado, a game in which the junior tweaked his ankle after six carries.

“That’s on me,” he said. “He wanted to play, but sometimes the coach’s job is to protect him from himself. … But he’s really been good this week.

“Last week, when he was going to his left and trying to catch a swing pass, he couldn’t put his right foot in the ground and burst off of it. This week, I haven’t seen anything. I haven’t seen him limp, I haven’t seen him favor it at all on any of the cuts.”

Senior Malcolm Jones has also been cleared to play after taking a blow to the head on Friday. Continue reading

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Notes and quotes: UW can’t stop The Myles Jack Show

The stories in today’s issue of the Los Angeles Daily News:

» My game story, on a dire running back situation paving the way for Myles Jack’s four-touchdown night, the most on the ground for UCLA since Maurice Jones-Drew.
» More on Myles Jack, from columnist Vinny Bonsignore.
» Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said weeknight games are part of the price of generating national exposure for the conference.

More game notes from UCLA’s 41-31 win over Washington, their eighth straight over the Huskies at the Rose Bowl.

– Your latest dose of Myles Jack hype, this time courtesy of Cassius Marsh and Devin Lucien:

Continue reading

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Receiver Devin Fuller reviews 76-yard touchdown catch


Sophomore receiver Devin Fuller erupted for a career night against Colorado, catching a pair of touchdowns and scoring another on a lateral. His first end zone trip opened scoring for UCLA, a 76-yard pass that put the Bruins on the board late in the first quarter.

“The play was, I had a post,” said Fuller, who was used in more deep routes than he had been earlier in the season. “The safety sat on the inside of me. I just had to take it over the top. Brett threw a great ball. I just had to make a play on it. My eyes got big when I saw the ball in the air.”

The former high school quarterback said he had a few five-touchdown games when he played at Old Tappan in New Jersey, as well as a few passes that were around 76 yards. Most of those yards came after the catch, he added. Hundley’s ball traveled about 50 yards through the air.

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UCLA 59, New Mexico State 13: Devin Fuller


Receiver Devin Fuller led the team with 48 yards and a touchdown, but could have topped 100 with three scores if quarterback Brett Hundley had hit him on a couple of open routes.

“We missed a deep one today,” Fuller said. “I normally will run under those in practice, but today he had a little umph on it. We’ve just gotta hit those in practice a little bit more and hopefully they’ll come in the game.”

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Receiver Devin Fuller ready to break out for Bruins

SAN BERNARDINO — The receiver knows he has space. His strides are smooth and his instincts are sound. It’s practice, after all, and he only has one defender on him. This isn’t hard.

But as the ball drops down toward him, his eyes drift just a little. When it hits his fingers, he can’t hold on.

Devin Fuller may be UCLA’s most talented receiver. By his own admittance, he still has room to grow.

“I know I have good hands,” the sophomore said. “I have good hands. But I relax on the ball a lot. I think I can catch it in easy, make it look pretty.

“But I make the hard ones. That’s the thing with me. … When we get in team periods, I rarely drop anything.” Continue reading

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Friday night notes: Eddie Vanderdoes commands double teams

Half a day after his first extended practice, Eddie Vanderdoes started turning heads.

Still working his way back from a tight back, the 6-foot-3, 310-pound defensive end commanded regular double teams — quickly backing up his ranking as the No. 21 recruit in the country. Even when going up against starting offensive linemen Caleb Benenoch and Torian White, Vanderdoes more than held his own.

Vanderdoes looked more bothered by fatigue Friday night than by the back issues (likely a herniated disc) that had sidelined him for over a week. If the injury doesn’t flare up again, the Auburn, Calif., native will be a beast.

– Before practice started, quarterback Brett Hundley tried to drill a fast-moving camera drone from at least 40 yards away. As teammates and coaches formed an eager audience, he missed the target by just two or three feet. Even got plenty and oohs and aahs out of the crowd.

– Devin Fuller is such a difficult cover coming out of the slot. 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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