Four UCLA players highlight Lombardi Award watch list

As preseason watch lists continue to drown each other out, the Lombardi Award is trying a new way to distinguish itself: including as many names as it can find.

If such lists are intended as a guideline for award voters heading into the season, this committee won’t get much help from the bloated 145-man roster — a number that more than doubles the size of many other watch lists.

So the fact that four UCLA players are on the radar for the Lombardi Award — given to the top offensive or defensive lineman, or linebacker — is not overly surprising. Linebacker Myles Jack (who also made the Butkus Award watch list today) and defensive linemen Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes are the Bruin defense’s most valuable players. Each of them will finish the season with at least an all-conference nod.

The one UCLA name on the list that could raise an eyebrow is offensive tackle Caleb Benenoch. While the junior has started 22 games at right tackle, he is not as irreplaceable on the line as center Jake Brendel or left tackle Conor McDermott.

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UCLA spring camp position review: Defensive line

Enjoy watching Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes while you can. Both could be signing NFL contracts by this time next year.

UCLA will enter this fall with arguably the best defensive line duo in the conference, a pair that last season combined for 108 tackles, including 11 for loss. All-Pac-12 nods aren’t the most accurate measures of talent and/or performance, but of the eight defensive linemen that made first or second team last fall, Clark is one of two that return. (The other is Oregon’s DeForest Buckner, who like Clark is making NFL mock drafts as a potential first-round pick.) Vanderdoes followed right behind as an honorable mention.

Clark in particular was vital to the Bruins’ run defense, and is about as stout a nose tackle as you can find in college football. Looking back at his impact the last two seasons, it’s incredible that UCLA was considering redshirting him back in August 2013, during his first camp in San Bernardino. There were several times last fall when opposing offenses noticeably directed the ball away from the middle, where he and Vanderdoes stood as imposing obstacles. Continue reading

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Eddie Vanderdoes will not be punished by Pac-12 for punch against Oregon

After reviewing a clip of Eddie Vanderdoes’ punch against Oregon last Saturday, the Pac-12 has decided not to hand out additional punishment to UCLA’s sophomore defensive lineman.

Vanderdoes received a personal foul penalty during the second quarter of the Bruins’ 42-30 loss for punching left tackle Jake Fisher. The flag gave the Ducks 15 yards and an automatic first down on what what would have been third-and-3 at the UCLA 47-yard line. Oregon scored a touchdown five plays later on Marcus Mariota’s 21-yard screen pass to Thomas Tyner, taking a 15-3 lead.

“I made a stupid decision,” Vanderdoes said. “I regret it. That’s not me. I’ve never done that before to a player in a game.” Continue reading

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Pac-12 will review penalty on UCLA’s Eddie Vanderdoes

A penalty against UCLA defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes in the second quarter will be reviewed further by the conference, said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott.

Vanderdoes appeared to throw a punch at Oregon running back Thomas Tyner on the bottom of a pileup. He drew a 15-yard penalty — giving the Ducks an automatic first down on what would have been third-and-3 just past midfield — but was not ejected.

Oregon scored five plays later, when Marcus Mariota threw a screen pass to Tyner for a 21-yard gain and a 15-3 lead. After the play, UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich also got into a heated argument with head coach Jim Mora, handing over his headset.

Scott said at halftime that he already has a video clip of what happened on Vanderdoes’ penalty.

“Anything that could possibly be a fighting act is reviewed by the conference office,” he said. “That’s something we’ll certainly take a look at on Monday.”

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