UCLA’s All-Pac-12 selections led by … Ishmael Adams?

UCLA's Ishmael Adams, pictured breaking up a pass intended for USC's Nelson Agholor, was the lone Bruin on an All-Pac-12 first team. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

UCLA’s Ishmael Adams, pictured breaking up a pass intended for USC’s Nelson Agholor, was the lone Bruin on an All-Pac-12 first team. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

Another round of All-Pac-12 awards, another chorus of approval from across the conference.

Just kidding. As always, postseason honors generate a good amount of chatter, as fans of every team ask why their favorite players were snubbed. But even considering that type of bias, UCLA’s placements on the all-conference teams on Tuesday night were … particularly eye-raising. (You can see the full results, as voted on by Pac-12 head coaches, at the bottom of this post.)

The biggest surprise was Ishmael Adams’ status as the Bruins’ lone first-team pick. Five defensive backs were featured instead of the usual four due to ties, but the scrappy 5-foot-8 cornerback might not even be the best on his own team. The problem is consistency. He made his share of big plays — he returned two interceptions for touchdowns this season — but also saw moments where he gave up key catch or committed a costly penalty.

His presence on the All-Pac-12 first team was even more striking considering the absence of linebacker Eric Kendricks, who recently broke the Bruins’ all-time tackles record. The senior settled for a second-team spot, behind Arizona’s Scooby Wright — the league’s defensive MVP — and Washington’s Hau’oli Kikaha and Shaq Thompson. Continue reading

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UCLA defensive back Ishmael Adams still limited by ankle injury

UCLA defensive back and returner Ishmael Adams injured his ankle in Saturday’s 38-20 win against USC, and remained limited during Monday’s practice.

However, head coach Jim Mora sounded optimistic about Adams’ chances to return against Stanford this Friday to help the Bruins clinch the Pac-12 South. The 5-foot-8 corner has returned two interceptions for touchdowns this season, as well as 100-yard kick return score. He also has 33 tackles and four pass breakups.

“He came out and he moved around,” Mora said. “I didn’t see much of a limp. Continue reading

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Ishmael Adams’ electrifying returns have slowed down

In his first four games this season, UCLA’s Ishmael Adams ran, cut and shimmied his way to 447 special teams yards on 19 touches — including a 100-yarder that marked the Bruins’ first kickoff return touchdown since 2007.

In his last two, the 5-foot-8, 190-pound defensive back has just 64 yards on kickoff and punt returns.

The Bruins’ opponents may have affected him: Armed with the conference’s best punter in Tom Hackett and strong kicker in Andy Phillips, Utah held Adams to one 18-yard kickoff return and a one-yard punt return; Oregon ranks top-40 nationally in return coverage, and held him to 45 yards on three kick returns.

Adams credited teams for picking up his and the rest of the Bruins’ special teams tendencies on film.

“They’re doing a good job keeping the ball away from me,” he said. “Keeping me guessing on where they want to kick to the ball. Recognizing what we do different in our different returns. Having great effort running down the field, wanting to get after me and make a play. It is what it is.”

Cal should offer a similarly stiff challenge this Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Punter Cole Leininger has booted five of his 25 punts for at least 50 yards, and landed eight inside the 20-yard line. The Bears are top-20 nationally in both kick and punt return coverage.

RELATED:
» A position-by-position look at UCLA through six games.
» Linebacker Myles Jack is adjusting to a different role as a sophomore.

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Brett Hundley, Ishmael Adams named Pac-12 Players of the Week

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley and defensive back Ishmael Adams both earned Pac-12 Player of the Week nods on Monday, marking the second time this season that two Bruins have won on the same day.

Hundley was named the conference’s top offensive player following his big performance in UCLA’s 62-27 win over Arizona State. The redshirt junior threw for 355 yards and four touchdowns on just 23 pass attempts, and finished the game with just five incompletions — none of which came in the second half.

He also rushed for 72 yards and another score, all while wearing a protective brace over his injured left elbow.

“It’s a little concern — not too much,” Hundley said of the brace on Monday. “Obviously, the more I practice with it the more comfortable I feel. Obviously, it adds a bigger piece of weight to your arm. It distributes weight a little different. But at the same time, you practice with it and it’ll be fine.” Continue reading

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Jerry Neuheisel named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week

Jerry Neuheisel earned something that’s eluded even Brett Hundley this season: Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week.

UCLA’s backup quarterback was voted the conference’s top performer after lifting the Bruins past Texas with his unlikely heroics, throwing a 33-yard touchdown to Jordan Payton with three minutes left. Neuheisel finished the 20-17 win with 178 yards and two scores on 23-of-30 passing.

The status of Hundley’s injured left elbow remains fuzzy as UCLA enters its bye week.

Cornerback Ishmael Adams, who set up Neuheisel’s touchdown pass with a 45-yard punt return, was voted Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week. He totaled 62 yards on three punt returns and also returned a kickoff for 14 yards.

Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson won defensive player of the week after returning an interception and a fumble for touchdowns in the Huskies’ 44-19 win over Illinois.

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UCLA defense scores three TDs in 28-20 win over Virginia

Charlottesville, Va. >> UCLA’s offense needed 43 minutes to score its first touchdown of the season.

Well, 43 minutes and 58 seconds, to be exact. In the third quarter of the No. 7 Bruins’ 28-20 win at Virginia, quarterback Brett Hundley took the handoff from six yards out, ran into a defender after three or four steps, and carried him the rest of the way. It was marvelous play, the type befitting someone who had graced two Sports Illustrated covers in three weeks this summer.

What didn’t fit the picture was … just about everything else. A team picked to make the inaugural College Football Playoff shouldn’t muster just 26 offensive yards in the second quarter. It shouldn’t have a offensive line that looked like Swiss cheese, even if the group isn’t at full health.

It shouldn’t need its defense to set historical milestones — not in the season opener against a 21-point underdog. Continue reading

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UCLA notes: Quarterback Brett Hundley comments on O’Bannon ruling

» UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley talked about the offense’s progress so far into training camp. Active in the National College Players Association, the junior also commented on the recent ruling in O’Bannon v. NCAA — one that could dramatically change college athletics (2:30 mark in the video above).

Although the NCAA intends to appeal, judge Claudia Wilken ruled that student-athletes could be paid up to $5,000 per year.

“It’s nice to have the athletes coming after me to be able to live a little more comfortably than we all did,” Hundley said.

» Crossing the halfway point of training camp in San Bernardino, tensions between the Bruins rose a bit on Monday morning. Continue reading

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UCLA post-spring position outlook: Special teams

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. This blog has covered the status of each position group moving forward. Last in the series is …

Special teams

Recently, special teams hasn’t been a major concern for UCLA. Over the last two seasons, the team blocked 12 kicks and punts — an FBS total matched only by Rutgers. Last year, it ranked top-20 in both opponent punt and kick returns; in four of the five years prior, the Bruins ranked outside the top 40 in the former and the top 100 in the latter.

A key difference looms heading into this fall: Jeff Ulbrich is no longer the UCLA special teams coordinator.

Promoted the defensive coordinator, Ulbrich will continue coaching inside linebackers but surrenders lead oversight of the unit that helped extend his own professional career. Outside linebackers will be charged to new assistant Mike Tuiasosopo, who also holds the title of special teams coach. Continue reading

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