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
SAN BERNARDINO — Eddie Vanderdoes may have been a little too eager.
Limited by a tight back nearly all of fall camp, the freshman defensive end bull-rushed without pads on his first play Friday morning, his first significant taste of college football. After being scolded by Mora, he dialed the intensity back a little too much.
“As you guys noticed, he didn’t quite understand the tempo there,” head coach Jim Mora said. “He got a little bit aggressive, so we sent him off for a couple of plays. He told me after practice he feels good.
“We just have to really work him back in — not at a snail’s pace, but at a pace where we don’t overload him too early. You can certainly see the level of ability.”
Vanderdoes pegged his progress at about 85 percent. The five-star recruit wasn’t sure exactly what ailed him, but described symptoms that indicated a slipped disc. He said treatment included stretching and a lot of work on the trainer’s table.
“The last few days, I was still hurting a little bit,” Vanderdoes said. “I wanted to go in, but they wouldn’t let me.”
PASS-BLOCKING KEY FOR TAILBACKS
For weeks, UCLA has stuck with the message that it will use five different tailbacks. Through that time, however, junior Jordon James has taken the bulk of the first-team reps.
One reason? His pass-blocking is improving, which bodes well for his chances to become the official starter. Continue reading
SAN BERNARDINO — In what Jim Mora felt was UCLA’s best physical practice yet, he told officials to be sticklers.
The Bruins, of course, were dead-last in the country in penalty yardage last year.
Although he was encouraged Wednesday morning by the team committing only one penalty during the snap through 144 plays of 11-on-11 scrimmage, Mora maintained that the Bruins still have a ways to go toward limiting flags.
“The thing that we’ve got to get better at, and it’s primarily the young guys was the pre-snap, the non-aggressive penalties,” the head coach said. “We had too many false starts. We were offsides once on a third-and-10. … We had one illegal substitution on defense.
“Those are things that are going to hold a team back, unless you address them.”
He added that the main culprits have been the younger players, who are understandably still adjusting to the pace of the college game: “As you move forward, you become much less tolerant of those things. Much less.”
FAIRBAIRN FINDING ROUTINE
After a solid freshman campaign, kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn has looked nearly automatic inside of 40 yards — and fairly reliable beyond that. His main focus this offseason was maintaining his confidence and building up his mental game, a process that mostly involved watching film, looking at pictures of different field goals and visualizing his kicks. Continue reading
SAN BERNARDINO — Kenny Orjioke is 6-foot-4, 240 pounds. Through the first five camp days in San Bernardino, he has looked like a potential star, a heavy-hitting blur who could top of UCLA’s already impressive pass rush.
As a 17-year-old true freshman, the linebacker played mostly on special teams. He finished with two tackles in five games. Should he have redshirted instead?
“It’s kind of a delicate deal,” head coach Jim Mora said. “You’re always trying to win right now. If you see a guy who can help you, my instinct is to use him.
“But I think you have to be sensitive to the kid. If you’re not going to use him to the extent where you’re really getting something out of him and he’s really getting something out of the experience — you hate to waste that year just to get a few plays.”
Mora wasn’t talking about Orjioke, but it’s a perennial conversation for any college football program: Use a promising youngster immediately and let him learn through experience, or stash him for future dividends? (Orjioke said in spring that not redshirting made him value his remaining seasons more, pushing him to work harder.)
The freshmen who prompted the discussion late Monday morning were Jalen Ortiz and Darren Andrews, two receivers who stand at about 5-foot-9. The pair made their share of plays over the middle Tuesday, with Andrews impressively holding on to a ball as he bounced off defensive back Anthony Jefferson’s tackle attempt.
Both could add speed to special teams, or be saved on the sidelines as they watch and learn.
Another example in this year’s class is 17-year-old defensive tackle Kenneth Clark, a player who could easily fit in the rotation. The question is whether a limited number of plays as the No. 3 nose tackle will benefit more than a redshirt season.
Asked if he’s handling redshirts differently than last year, Mora said no: “I felt like all the freshmen that played (last year) got something out of it.
“I guess if you look back and say, ‘Is there any player that didn’t redshirt, that played, that it was a waste for?’ — I don’t get the feeling that there was.”
BENENOCH CLOSE TO STARTING
UCLA’s starting offensive line isn’t set in stone, but the order is at least wet concrete. Freshman Caleb Benenoch has run almost exclusively with the first-team offense for most of the camp’s first five days. So far, he’s handled the task with aplomb — easily setting himself out as the best of the seven-man freshman haul. Continue reading
SAN BERNARDINO — Rarely thought of as an efficient organization, the NCAA’s quick decision surprised even Eddie Vanderdoes.
The five-star defensive end had hovered in limbo for weeks after reneging on his signed letter of intent with Notre Dame. After a written appeal failed, he finally had a chance to speak directly to the NCAA last Monday. He didn’t waste his chance, laying out his case for nearly 90 minutes.
The next day, the NCAA cleared him to play immediately. If they hadn’t done so, Vanderdoes would have had to sit this fall, as well as lose a year of eligibility.
Now he is available to replace starter Owamagbe Odighizuwa, a would-be senior who will redshirt the season recovering from hip surgery.
“I was real surprised,” Vanderdoes said. “They actually had called me an hour after, talked to me and told me they would have a full decision tomorrow. They basically had a decision but they kind of wanted to cover their bases the next day.”
An All-American at Placer High in Auburn, Calif. — roughly 35 miles from Sacramento — Vanderdoes gave the NCAA four main reasons for his appeal. One was his grandmother’s breast cancer, but he declined to discuss the others. Continue reading
Five-star defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes has been cleared to play immediately for UCLA after an appeal with the National Letter of Intent committee, officially ending his dramatic exit from Notre Dame.
The touted recruit initially committed to the Irish on National Signing Day in February, but asked out of his national letter of intent due to an illness in the family. The Placer High grad decided on UCLA to be closer to his home in the Sacramento area.
Rick Kimbrel of recruiting website BruinBru.com first reported Vanderdoes’ immediate eligibility, a boon for a UCLA defensive line struggling with health. Had Vanderdoes not been released to play, he would have had to sit out the upcoming fall as well as lose a year of eligibility — leaving him with only three seasons of college football. Continue reading
CULVER CITY – If Anthony Barr’s growing hype can be distilled into a single sequence, it would be one on Nov. 17, 2012. That day, the UCLA linebacker blew through USC’s line untouched, crushing quarterback Matt Barkley on second-and-seventh.
Less than three minutes later, UCLA beat USC 38-28, winning the rivalry for the first time since 2006. Shoulder separated, Barkley never played another collegiate down.
Asked about the moment at Friday’s Pac-12 Media Day, Barr laughed.
“I want to know why the tackle just let me go, for whatever reason,” Barr said. “He should be standing up here and talking to you guys, because he’s the reason why I was able to make that play.” Continue reading
When Eddie Vanderdoes officially signed with UCLA earlier this week, breaking his letter of intent with Notre Dame, the five-star defensive lineman only cited “very personal reasons.”
A report from CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman sheds a little more light on the situation. Sources told Feldman that one of Vanderdoes’ close relatives was diagnosed with a severe illness a few months ago, prompting him to push for a release from Notre Dame.
The Irish have declined to do so, with head coach Brian Kelly explaining that he needed to protect the integrity of his program. Left unsaid was that no head coach wants set a precedent by allowing recruits to renege on their letters of intent.
Unless Vanderdoes and his family can successfully push for a release, perhaps through an appeal, the top-rated lineman will lose a year of eligibility and start playing in 2014.
Eddie Vanderdoes officially announced this morning his intention to enroll at UCLA, paving his way to a future in blue and gold.
The five-star defensive lineman originally signed to Notre Dame, but said he needed to be closer to his family in Northern California. The Placer High product was not officially released from his national letter of intent, but the Irish lifted the recruiting ban — a step that allowed him to sign grant-in-aid and enroll at another school.
Notre Dame said it does not intend to release Vanderdoes from his letter of intent, meaning that he cannot play for the Bruins until 2014.
Here is Vanderdoes’ statement, one he texted to the Sacramento Bee and other outlets.
“I would like to thank the University of Notre Dame for lifting the recruiting ban and allowing me to sign an athletic scholarship with UCLA. Over the past four months, circumstances have changed for me and my family. For very personal reasons, I feel a strong need to remain close to home and be near those who are most important in my life.
“I am honored and humbled that Note Dame thought enough of me as a person and a football player to offer me a scholarship. They have been very gracious to recognize not only how difficult a decision this was, but also how important it was for me to be near my family at this time. I take my commitments seriously, but as circumstances changed, the most important commitment is the one made to family.”
UCLA head coach Jim Mora confirmed the news shortly after Vanderdoes’ announcement. Unless Notre Dame changes its decision not to release Vanderdoes, he will have to sit out a season and lose a year of eligibility as a basic penalty for breaking a NLI. He will have four years to play three.
Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement that his school chose not to release Vanderdoes “in order to protect the integrity of that very important program.” Continue reading