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 …
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.
On Eldridge Massington, who spent redshirted last season and spent over a year recovering from a torn ACL:
“He’s coming along. He’s transitioning pretty good. Just need him to play a little faster, stop thinking. Sometimes, he has paralysis by analysis, so he plays a little slower. When he knows what he’s doing and knows his assignments, knows the technique to use, he’s playing well. …
“At his break point, instead of letting the defensive back dictate where he breaks, he’s running through shoulders and dropping his weight and trying to create separation. Trying to play big. He’s 6-3, 215 — he’s got to play that way. … Continue reading →
– Graduate transfer Malcolm Bunche finally debuted after missing the first week of UCLA’s spring practice while waiting for his paperwork to clear the admissions department. The former Miami starter looked impressive as the first-string left guard, though he got tired fairly quickly.
Bunche looks like a tackle at 6-foot-7, but head coach Jim Mora said the plan is to keep the senior at guard — pointing out his “guard girth” at 327 pounds.
Scott Quessenberry got some first-team reps at guard late in practice, but if the line gets fully healthy, he’ll almost certainly be a reserve.
Alex Redmond has participated in every practice, but has a cast over his left hand after a pre-spring surgery. UCLA’s everyday starter at right guard last year as a freshman, Redmond has sat out a few series here and there.
– Mora didn’t have a timeline for injured reserve lineman Ben Wysocki, who was on the early two-deep this spring. He could be out for the spring with a sprained ankle.
– Eldridge Massington redshirted last season while working his way back from a torn ACL he suffered in high school, but looks like he could be developing into a decent possession receiver and/or red-zone target. He doesn’t look like he has track-type speed anymore, but he used his strength and size to make several end-zone grabs on Monday night.
– Devin Lucien is again coming down with highlight catch after highlight catch, something that he’s done before in past camps. The athletic wideout came on late last season, but has long looked better in practices than he has in games. With Shaq Evans gone now, Lucien could finally be in for a breakout as a redshirt junior.
After missing last year’s USC game with a broken collarbone, receiver Devin Lucien preparing for his first on-field taste of the rivalry. He talked a bit Tuesday about his family’s history with Trojans’ safety Su’a Cravens, as well as a pair of old USC pajamas he had to toss out.
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:
– UCLA allowed Colorado a whopping 26 first downs, seven of which came on penalties. The Buffs’ highest first-down total this season prior to Saturday were their 24 in a season-opening win over Colorado State. Just three of those came on penalties.
The Bruins’ clearly aren’t going to shake their problem with flags. They had 11 for 122 yards, just 17 yards shy of their rushing total. It was the most yards UCLA has lost on penalties since giving away 138 against New Mexico State.
– Speaking of flags, Anthony Barr got a couple of roughing-the-passer penalties late in the game. Quarterback Sefo Liufau even pushed Barr in the chest after the first one. Either way, he looked pretty poised in the pocket for a true freshman.
– Devin Lucien wasn’t exactly happy with the win. The redshirt sophomore wasn’t among the eight receivers who caught a ball Saturday night, his second straight contest going unnoticed on the box score. He has just nine catches on the season, and no more than two in any single game.
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 →
Cornerback Ishmael Adams was one of UCLA’s week-one stars, but has struggled more recently. Shaq Evans, in particular, seems to have made it his mission to abuse Adams after giving the redshirt freshman an earful of trash talk last week. On Wednesday, Evans’ best play was a tipped pass to himself for a score.
Adams should still be fine, but his lack of size is showing. He has also spent all of spring in a red jersey, but defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin said Adams could play a game now if necessary.
Evans, meanwhile, should figure to be a bigger red-zone target this season. Receivers coach Eric Yarber also said this about the senior: “I need him to be one of the leaders of the team. Even last year, all these young kids looked up to Shaq. If Shaq wasn’t having a good day, it was almost like the whole group wasn’t having a good day.”
» Jordan Payton likely remains ahead of Devin Lucien on the receiver depth chart heading into summer camp. Payton made a nice catch on Wednesday while double-covered by Anthony Jefferson and Dietrich Riley. Riley was consistently beaten in pass coverage, which may or may not be due to injury rust.
» Eldridge Massington is still rehabbing his ACL tear. He had a minor setback last week, but the main obstacle will likely be more mental than physical. Continue reading →