Bruins working to limit penalties

SAN BERNARDINO — In what Jim Mora felt was UCLA’s best physical practice yet, he told officials to be sticklers.

The Bruins, of course, were dead-last in the country in penalty yardage last year.

Although he was encouraged Wednesday morning by the team committing only one penalty during the snap through 144 plays of 11-on-11 scrimmage, Mora maintained that the Bruins still have a ways to go toward limiting flags.

“The thing that we’ve got to get better at, and it’s primarily the young guys was the pre-snap, the non-aggressive penalties,” the head coach said. “We had too many false starts. We were offsides once on a third-and-10. … We had one illegal substitution on defense.

“Those are things that are going to hold a team back, unless you address them.”

He added that the main culprits have been the younger players, who are understandably still adjusting to the pace of the college game: “As you move forward, you become much less tolerant of those things. Much less.”

FAIRBAIRN FINDING ROUTINE

After a solid freshman campaign, kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn has looked nearly automatic inside of 40 yards — and fairly reliable beyond that. His main focus this offseason was maintaining his confidence and building up his mental game, a process that mostly involved watching film, looking at pictures of different field goals and visualizing his kicks. Continue reading

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Wednesday practice notes: Evans besting Adams

Cornerback Ishmael Adams was one of UCLA’s week-one stars, but has struggled more recently. Shaq Evans, in particular, seems to have made it his mission to abuse Adams after giving the redshirt freshman an earful of trash talk last week. On Wednesday, Evans’ best play was a tipped pass to himself for a score.

Adams should still be fine, but his lack of size is showing. He has also spent all of spring in a red jersey, but defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin said Adams could play a game now if necessary.

Evans, meanwhile, should figure to be a bigger red-zone target this season. Receivers coach Eric Yarber also said this about the senior: “I need him to be one of the leaders of the team. Even last year, all these young kids looked up to Shaq. If Shaq wasn’t having a good day, it was almost like the whole group wasn’t having a good day.”

» Jordan Payton likely remains ahead of Devin Lucien on the receiver depth chart heading into summer camp. Payton made a nice catch on Wednesday while double-covered by Anthony Jefferson and Dietrich Riley. Riley was consistently beaten in pass coverage, which may or may not be due to injury rust.

» Eldridge Massington is still rehabbing his ACL tear. He had a minor setback last week, but the main obstacle will likely be more mental than physical. Continue reading

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Monday practice notes: Aaron Wallace ‘solid’ at outside linebacker

Before the start of spring practice, one question mark was the outside linebacker spot opposite All-American Anthony Barr. If UCLA started its season today, that spot would go to redshirt sophomore Aaron Wallace.

“He’s kind of quietly gone about his business,” head coach Jim Mora said. “At this point, he’s solidified his position.”

Wallace is listed at 6-foot-2 and 228 pounds, but looks significantly better than he did in his three-tackle freshman season. He’s also shown a decent ability to drop into pass coverage. Of course, Mora added that the depth chart is still fluid. Incoming four-star freshmen Myles Jack and Deon Hollins could both push for the spot too.

– Reserve quarterbacks T.J. Millweard and Jerry Neuheisel seem to alternate good practices, with the former perhaps having a slight edge at this point in spring. Position coach Taylor Mazzone said he still doesn’t see a frontrunner between those two and walk-on Mike Fafaul. Continue reading

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Monday night practice notes: Anthony Jefferson shedding injury history

Maybe the wind helped as it whipped passes off course Monday night, making for the worst quarterback performance yet through UCLA’s spring practices. Or maybe this is how Anthony Jefferson was always meant to play.

The rising junior was once a four-star athlete in the class of 2010, a rangy 6-foot-1 specimen pegged by Rivals.com to have “blue chip” size, agility and ball skills. But a variety of ails set him back, from a broken foot his freshman year to back surgery in 2011.

Last season, his eight appearances resulted in just five tackles — four of which came at Washington State. On Monday, however, he looked like a solid rotation player, sticking close to receivers on several routes and using his long frame to break up passes.

“I think that finally, he’s feeling more healthy,” head coach Jim Mora said. “I think finally, AJ is getting back to what he once was physically. I think it’s showing in the way he plays, the confidence he plays with and the plays he’s making on the ball.” Continue reading

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Devin Lucien’s talk and other football practice notes

After missing most of last season with a broken collarbone, wide receiver Devin Lucien is excited to be back on the field. On Thursday, he made sure to inform anyone within earshot — making for one of the day’s more amusing moments.

“Tell them I’m coming for that starting spot!” he yelled to reporters after making a catch over cornerback Fabian Moreau in one-on-one drills.

“I’m telling y’all right now,” he said after another catch. “Y’all better tell somebody!” Continue reading

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UCLA football spring practice primer

Football’s back! As a reminder, here’s UCLA’s full spring practice schedule. All sessions are open to the public and will last approximately two hours.

Tues. Apr. 2 – 7 a.m.
Thu. Apr. 4 – 7 a.m.
Sat. Apr. 6 – 10:45 a.m.
Mon. Apr. 8 – 6 p.m.
Wed. Apr. 10 – 7 a.m.
Thu. Apr. 11 – 7 a.m.
Sat. Apr. 13 – 10:30 a.m.
Mon. Apr. 15 – 6 p.m.
Wed. Apr. 17 – 7 a.m.
Thu. Apr. 18 – 7 a.m.
Sat. Apr. 20 – 10:30 a.m.
Mon. Apr. 22 – 6 p.m.
Wed. Apr. 24 – 7 a.m.
Thu. Apr. 25 – 7 a.m.
Sat. Apr. 27 – 5 p.m. (Rose Bowl)

A quick primer after the jump. Continue reading

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