By the numbers countdown to kickoff: 9 days

Eddie Vanderdoes (47) talks with Kenny Young (42) at practice. Photo by Steve McCrank/Daily Breeze

Eddie Vanderdoes (47) talks with Kenny Young (42) at practice. Photo by Steve McCrank/Daily Breeze

Countdown the days to UCLA’s season-opener against Texas A&M with key stats facing the Bruins this year.

10 receiving touchdowns scored by Thomas Duarte last year, which led the team

9 RETURNING STARTERS ON DEFENSE

UCLA sent two big stars on defense to the NFL, but the Bruins are set to reload quickly with nine returning starters.

Eddie Vanderdoes replaces first-round pick Kenny Clark in the starting lineup after a season-ending knee injury last year. Vanderdoes had never missed a game in his college career prior to his injury and made 19 combined starts during his first two years with the Bruins.

Cameron Judge is set to take a starting outside linebacker role opposite Jayon Brown. Judge, a senior, played in 12 games last season and made one start while Myles Jack left school early to prepare for the NFL Draft and recover from a meniscus injury.

Deon Hollins started 12 games last season as an outside linebacker in UCLA’s 3-4 front, but with the team’s switch to a 4-3, defensive end Matt Dickerson worked mostly with the No. 1 unit during training camp. Dickerson played in every game last year and made one start, against Washington State.

The Bruins could have 10 (or possibly 11) upperclassmen starting on defense:

  • Defensive line: Takkarist McKinley (Sr.), Eli Ankou (R-Sr.), Vanderdoes (R-Jr.), Dickerson (Jr.)
  • Linebackers: Brown (Sr.), Kenny Young (Jr.) or Isaako Savaiinaea (Sr.), Judge (Sr.)
  • Defensive backs: Fabian Moreau (Sr.), Randall Goforth (R-Sr.), Jaleel Wadood (Jr.), Marcus Rios (R-Sr.) or Nate Meadors (So.)

The group’s experience is “golden,” Vanderdoes said.

“That’s the biggest asset we have right now,” he continued. “We’ve been through everything. … We’ve experienced big losses, small losses, everything, so I don’t think anything can faze us at this point. We’ve seen it all, we’ve experienced it all. We know what it’s like.”

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Deon Hollins expects LB Isaako Savaiinaea to return soon for UCLA

Could UCLA’s battered linebacker corps be inching closer to full strength? Asked about the chemistry of the position group, outside linebacker Deon Hollins hinted at the return of fellow junior Isaako Savaiinaea.

“We’ve got Isaako coming back,” Hollins said. “Kenny Young had a great game last week. Jayon (Brown) as well. Every single week is big for guys who haven’t played as much, just to see what mistakes they made on film and correct those. I think we’re starting to gel.”

He could be leaning on the side of optimism. Savaiinaea has yet to participate in a full UCLA practice since spraining his ankle in a 40-24 win over Cal on Oct. 22. Continue reading

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UCLA LBs Isaako Savaiinaea, Kenny Young both ‘questionable’ to play at Oregon State

UCLA linebacker Kenny Young (left) has joined the Bruins' long line of injured players. (Will Lester/Staff )

UCLA linebacker Kenny Young (left) has joined the Bruins’ long line of injured players. He is questionable to play at Oregon State on Saturday. (Will Lester/Staff )

UCLA inside linebackers Isaako Savaiinaea and Kenny Young are both questionable to play at Oregon State next Saturday, head coach Jim Mora said.

Savaiinaea hurt his ankle against Cal more than a week ago, and was on the sideline in street clothes during the Bruins’ 35-31 win over Colorado yesterday. Young left in the second quarter with what Mora called an upper body injury.

Without the pair unavailable, UCLA put true freshman Josh Woods in for his first career appearance. He pulled his hamstring after about 12 plays.

Mora also listed as questionable offensive tackle Kolton Miller (knee), receiver Devin Fuller (ankle), receiver Stephen Johnson III, defensive back Ishmael Adams, offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch, and cornerback Marcus Rios as questionable to play in Corvallis — but added that he doesn’t have a great “feel” for their status this early in the week.

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UCLA RB Paul Perkins, Nate Starks ‘on track’ to face Colorado

UCLA will likely have its top two running backs in uniform again against Colorado this weekend.

Paul Perkins, who was the Pac-12’s leading rusher in 2014, and backup Nate Starks have recovered from their injuries enough to suit up for Saturday’s noon kickoff, head coach Jim Mora said Thursday.

“I would assume that both of them would play,” he said. “It looks like they’re both on track to play. I’m not too worried. I was more worried about Paul earlier in the week, but he’s done fine.”

Perkins injured his left knee in the second quarter of last week’s 40-24 win over Cal, after running for 73 yards on 11 carries. Starks was sidelined with a concussion that he sustained two weeks ago at Stanford.

How much the two backs play remains to be seen. The Buffaloes have what is statistically the weakest rushing defense in the Pac-12, allowing 209.5 yards per game and an average of 5.06 yards per carry. Continue reading

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UCLA RB Paul Perkins suffers bone bruise in win over Cal

UCLA blew out No. 20 Cal, 40-24, last night, but in the process lost Paul Perkins after he took a hit just above his left knee.

Good news: An MRI revealed a bone bruise, according to Bruin Report Online, but no ligament damage. That UCLA has the weekend off after a Thursday game also gives him additional time to rest.

The diagnosis is in line with how Perkins looked on the field last night. He was able to walk off the field unassisted with a gradually diminishing limp, hopping on a stationary bike for several minutes. When greeted by teammates, neither he nor they looked distraught.

Perkins ran for 73 yards on 11 carries before leaving the game in the second quarter.

The status of linebacker Isaako Savaiinaea, carted from the sideline to the locker room after suffering what looked like a serious leg injury, remains unclear.

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