Jaleel Wadood on Jim Thorpe Award Watch List

Jaleel Wadood (Photo by Brad Graverson // Daily Breeze)

Jaleel Wadood was named to the Jim Thorpe Award Watch List (Photo by Brad Graverson // Daily Breeze)

UCLA safety Jaleel Wadood was named to the Jim Thorpe Award Watch List on Monday.

The rising junior appeared in all 13 games last year, making 12 starts. He earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors.

Last year, Iowa cornerback Desmond King won the award, which honors the best defensive back in the nation. King returned to the Hawkeyes this season and could be the first-ever person to repeat as a Thorpe Award winner.

Bruins on watch lists:

  • DT Eddie Vanderdoes (Bednarik, Outland, Nagurski)
  • QB Josh Rosen (Maxwell)
  • DB Fabian Moreau (Nagurski)
  • OL Conor McDermmott (Outland)
  • Head coach Jim Mora (Dodd)
  • S Jaleel Wadood (Thorpe)
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UCLA defensive backs focused on developing depth during spring

Safety Jaleel Wadood is part of UCLA's deep secondary that was one of the best in the conference in 2015. (MICAH ESCAMILLA — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

Safety Jaleel Wadood is part of UCLA’s deep secondary that was one of the best in the conference in 2015. (MICAH ESCAMILLA — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

Despite losing cornerback Fabian Moreau early in the season due to a lisfranc injury, UCLA had one of the best pass defenses in the conference last year.

The Bruins led the conference in passing yards allowed per game (203.2) and held opposing quarterbacks to a 113.4 passer efficiency rating, which also was tops in the Pac-12. Here’s more on how UCLA stacked up against the other pass defenses in the Pac-12:

It could be much of the same good news for UCLA as every defensive back who started a game last season is returning. Moreau and John Johnson are both coming off injuries and are not expected to participate in any drills during spring practice. While the team waits for its “wounded warriors” to return, defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin said the focus will be on building depth and position flexibility during spring.

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Kenny Clark leads UCLA with All-Pac-12 first team selection

UCLA nose tackle Kenny Clark (97) was the Bruins' lone representative on the All-Pac-12 first team. He also caught at touchdown pass in UCLA's season-opening 34-16 win against Virginia. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA nose tackle Kenny Clark (97) was the Bruins’ lone representative on the All-Pac-12 first team. He also caught at touchdown pass in UCLA’s season-opening 34-16 win against Virginia. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Through most of the season, nose tackle Kenny Clark looked like UCLA’s best player. Pac-12 coaches agreed.

When the All-Pac-12 teams were announced Tuesday, Clark was the Bruins’ sole first-team representative on offense, defense, or special teams. The 6-foot-3, 310-pound junior was second on the team with seven tackles for loss, showed off his development as a pass rusher by notching his first five career sacks.

UCLA placed several more players on the second team. On offense, running back Paul Perkins, center Jake Brendel and left tackle Conor McDermott all earned spots. Linebacker Deon Hollins and defensive backs Randall Goforth and Jaleel Wadood filled in for the defense.

Receiver Jordan Payton, linebacker Aaron Wallace, and cornerback Marcus Rios were honorable mentions.

Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising part of the all-conference selections was Ka’imi Fairbairn settling for being a second-team specialist. The kicker became the Pac-12’s all-time leading scorer this season, hit a school-record 60-yard field goal, and is one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award. Throw in his respectable 20 of 23 conversion rate on field goals, and he seemed like a shoe-in on the first team.

Instead, Pac-12 coaches voted for Aidan Schneider. The Oregon sophomore was slightly more accurate at 20 of 22, but hadn’t attempted a field goal longer than 41 yards. Fairbairn’s three misses have come from 47, 49 and 50 yards.

See the full All-Pac-12 teams below: Continue reading

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