UCLA post-spring position outlook: Defensive line

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 …

Defensive line

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

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Jim Mora says to give his UCLA depth chart ‘zero credence’

When he wants to be, Jim Mora is as good an interview subject as any head football coach in the country: candid, witty, opinionated. There’s a reason that his transition from the NFL to college was bridged by a stint in the broadcast studio.

Then there’s the self-admitted “paranoid” side, the part that makes him loath to do anything that he doesn’t deem necessary. Take the tentative depth chart he released Monday night, one that goes four or five players deep at certain positions.

“Here’s how much credence I would put in the depth chart,” Mora said Tuesday afternoon, squeezing his right thumb against his index finger. “None.” Continue reading

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Thursday practice notes: ‘Too much dancing’ among running backs

With the departure of all-time leading rusher Johnathan Franklin, UCLA’s tailback competition is wide open. Head coach Jim Mora has said all spring that he expects the Bruins to use a committee next season, but he isn’t happy with the progress so far

“There’s way too much dancing right now,” Mora said. “Our running backs are doing too much of this, like the keyboard of a piano. They need to freakin’ hit it and go. That’s something I’m disappointed in and they’re going to work hard on.”

Jordon James, Paul Perkins and Malcolm Jones have shared carries through camp, but no one has consistently stood out. Redshirt senior Damien Thigpen — third on the team last season with 849 all-purpose yards — is still recovering from a torn ACL, while Steve Manfro is rehabbing after shoulder surgery.

» Thursday’s practice was, Mora said emphatically, the best yet through the first six days of spring camp. However, the spurt of energy did spill over into some minor scuffles throughout the day. The two-hour session concluded with a massive group of players bumping and pushing each other.

“We’ve been banging on each other now for six days, and you can kind of expect that,” Mora said. “As long as it doesn’t get out of hand and it doesn’t turn into a brawl or a fight or somebody throwing haymakers, you’re going to get a little bit of that. That’s part of football.” Continue reading

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