UCLA spring camp notes: Kene Orjioke gets medical waiver

— Kene Orjioke will be limited to sideline work for the rest of spring as he recovers from a torn ACL he suffered in October, but UCLA head coach Jim Mora said he was sure that the outside linebacker will be ready for fall. Orjioke had to have an additional operation to have scar tissue scoped out, but appears to be back on schedule in his rehab.

He received a hardship waiver after playing only four games last season, so he’ll be a redshirt junior this fall. The same goes for defensive backs Ishmael Adams and Randall Goforth, who got waivers for the 2012 and 2014 seasons, respectively.

NaJee Toran, who started one game as an offensive guard last season, also received a waiver. He will be a redshirt freshman after switching to defensive line.

— Thursday’s practice was walk-on Mike Fafaul’s turn to run with the first-team offense, and he actually looked more effective than Jerry Neuheisel did on Wednesday. His best throw was probably one to Alex Van Dyke, who jumped up to grab the ball over Ishmael Adams. Continue reading

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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.

» 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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