UCLA’s new defensive look has given Eddie Vanderdoes a chance to play three-technique tackle more often, lining between opposing guards and tackles. The sophomore lineman talked about why he likes the move, and also offered high praise for his teammates — particularly senior defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa.
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 …
The star power is there. Just look at Owamagbe Odighizuwa, the former five-star recruit who doesn’t look like he’s missed a step after hip surgeries. Or Eddie Vanderdoes, another five-star defensive end who more than lived up to the billing as a Freshman All-American. Or Kenny Clark, the mammoth nose tackle whom defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich already called one of the team’s best players.
The unit’s only significant loss was defensive end Cassius Marsh, who finished second on the team with 10.5 tackles for loss and even chipped in a two-yard touchdown catch. Tackle Seali’i Epenesa and sack specialist Keenan Graham also graduated, but both saw their roles dwindle to varying degrees toward the end of the season. Continue reading
For at least the next few months, UCLA will be without a key part of its defensive line: rising star Eddie Vanderdoes.
Head coach Jim Mora said on a Bruin Report Online podcast that Vanderdoes broke a bone in his foot and will be out for spring. The Bruins start practicing on April 1 and will hold their “Spring Showcase” on April 26. Continue reading
Three first-year UCLA players have been named to the Freshman All-America team by the Football Writers Association of America, more than any other team in the country.
Linebacker Myles Jack, defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes and right guard Alex Redmond each received the honor — a fact made more remarkable by their status as true freshmen.
Center Jake Brendel received an FWAA selection last season as a redshirt freshman.
This year’s full All-American roster is listed after the jump. Continue reading
Senior Anthony Barr picked up his second major All-American mention on Friday, becoming a Sporting News‘ selection a day after also making the Walter Camp Football Foundation’s first team. The linebacker is on track to become UCLA’s first consensus All-American since kicker Kai Forbath in 2009.
Barr was a finalist for four major national awards this season. He won the Lott IMPACT Trophy, but missed out on the Bednarik (best defensive player), Butkus (best linebacker) and Lombardi (best lineman/linebacker) awards.
Linebacker Myles Jack, defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes and right guard Alex Redmond all made the Sporting News’ Freshman All-American team.
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