UCLA notes: Jim Mora warns against stereotyping Brett Hundley as ‘runner’

» Brett Hundley led UCLA with 748 rushing yards last season, but head coach Jim Mora emphasized at Pac-12 Media Days that his quarterback is — first and foremost — a passer.

“I say that about Brett because people have a tendency at times to see an African-American quarterback and say he’s a runner,” Mora said. “And I hate that stereotype. I always have. I coached Mike Vick. I believe we stereotype those guys started with that, and I don’t want that to happen with Brett.

“I’m going to make sure it doesn’t. It shouldn’t. The guy’s a passer, man, but he can run.”

» Mora smiled when asked about the weather in San Bernardino, where UCLA will start training camp on Aug. 4: “I hope it’s hot. I would just like us to be in triple digits. As long as we’re in triple digits, I’ll be happy.”

Unlike last summer, UCLA will not go down to San Diego for a three-day pre-camp session with Navy SEALs. Mora said the experience helped his team later in the season — particularly when it needed to bond together through the death of receiver Nick Pasquale — but didn’t want to dull the impact by repeating it too often.

» What does two-way superstar Myles Jack have in store for his sophomore season? Not even his teammates are sure.

“I’m excited,” said linebacker Eric Kendricks. “I don’t even know what to expect. He put on 15 (pounds) of muscle. He’s gotten so much stronger. He’s been working hard. That’s all you can ask of a guy. He doesn’t let any of this hype, this circle of fame get to his head.” 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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Position coach Eric Yarber talks about UCLA’s receivers


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

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Spring notes: Malcolm Bunche makes practice debut at left guard


– 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.

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Jim Mora says new targeting penalty is worst rule change he’s seen in football

SAN BERNARDINO — During a recent fall camp practice, one of the officials brought in to help UCLA suppress penalties approached Jim Mora. One of the hits, he told the Bruins’ head coach, would have resulted in an ejection.

Forty-five minutes after the session ended, the official changed course: Upon further review, there wasn’t enough evidence that the player had targeted a defenseless opponent.

“Well, OK, so do I get to now bring in, ‘Go put your stuff back on, get back out’?” Mora said Thursday. “How does that work? I don’t like it.”

Such is the fault in human judgment. Tweaks to the college football rulebook have greatly increased the penalty for football players who aim at an opponent’s head or neck — especially with intent that exceeds a legal tackle or block. In the past, the punishment was a 15-yard penalty. Continue reading

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UCLA’s list of possible concussions swells to seven

Head cases have beset the Bruins this August.

Whether exacerbated by the San Bernardino heat or simply a bit of bad luck, seven UCLA players were sidelined Tuesday with concussion-like symptoms — taking a large chunk of the offensive line.

“I don’t know why we seem to have this rash of head injuries,” Mora said. “I’m not sure how serious all of them are, but we’re going to treat them all as if they’re very serious.”

The line was without redshirt sophomores Kevin McReynolds and Ben Wysocki, as well as true freshmen Alex Redmond, Poasi Moala and John Lopez. Redmond and Wysocki were competing at right guard, while Moala had taken the majority of second-team snaps at right tackle.

The attrition shuffled what was gradually becoming a more stable line. In one first-team iteration, All-American Xavier Su’a-Filo moved from guard to left tackle, while backup center Carl Hulick slid to left guard.

“It kind of affects everything you do,” Mora said. “It affects the development of the depth. It affects our ability to practice the way we’d like to practice. We just have to modify it.”

Added Su’a-Filo: “When we have the luxury of numbers, we can run, one, two, three groups. With these concussions, we’ve just got to take more reps. We’ve got to make do with what we have.”

Defensive Ian Taubler and running back Malcolm Jones are also out with concussion-like symptoms.

OTHER INJURIES

Freshman defensive end Kylie Fitts suffered full-body cramps. Mora said he drank enough water afterward to gain 8.5 pounds. Junior linebacker Eric Kendricks has missed all team activities in fall camp recovering from an ankle procedure. He is expected to play in the Aug. 31 season opener, and may return to practice next week. 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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Brett Hundley cutting off social media

Don’t bother tweeting Brett Hundley for at least another week. UCLA’s star quarterback has sworn off all social media for spring practice.

“Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter — everything,” he said. “I’m dying, man. I’m dying.”

The rising redshirt sophomore said he did the same last spring and summer, but has also enlisted some teammates to join him in staying off those sites. Freshman Eldridge Massington, an early enrollee, has already broken the pact. Continue reading

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