Jim Mora: Center Jake Brendel close to return from sprained knee

After missing his first start at UCLA, center Jake Brendel appears to be day-to-day in his recovery from a sprained knee.

Head coach Jim Mora said Sunday that Brendel was “very, very close” to returning to full action after injuring his MCL three weeks ago in training camp. The Bruins’ offensive line looked awful in Saturday’s 28-20 win at Virginia, and losing their most experienced lineman played a significant role.

Brendel dressed and warmed up at Scott Stadium, but sat on the bench while sophomore Scott Quessenberry took his place. The redshirt junior had started 27 straight games for UCLA over the last two seasons, giving Mora and his staff an anchor in the middle of the line.

“I didn’t realize that, until after the game yesterday, it was the first game since we’ve been here as a staff that Jake hasn’t been our starting center,” Mora said. “He’s a leader. He’s a great communicator. He’s got toughness. He’s got experience.” Continue reading

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Center Jake Brendel questionable for UCLA’s season opener

A UCLA offensive line that was projected to have experience and depth could be missing a crucial piece this weekend at Virginia.

Center Jake Brendel, a third-year starter, has been limited in practice since injuring his MCL two weeks ago during training camp at Cal State San Bernardino. The junior is a team co-captain who was named All-Pac-12 honorable mention last season.

Asked Tuesday about Brendel’s status for the Bruins’ 9 a.m. PT Saturday kickoff at Virginia, head coach Jim Mora said, “We’ll see.”

It’s a dramatic downgrade from the original diagnosis. Right after Brendel was carted off the field, Mora had expressed hope that the former Freshman All-American would only miss “a day or two.” Even last week, he sounded confident that Brendel would play.

If Brendel is unavailable, UCLA could move starting guard Alex Redmond to replace him. A Freshman All-American last year, Redmond has practiced a bit at center since Brendel’s injury. Backup center Scott Quessenberry could be an option if he recovers fully from a concussion suffered in training camp.

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Under Jim Mora, UCLA taking more pride in special teams

To try and figure out why UCLA has turned around its special teams so dramatically over the last two seasons, senior linebacker Ryan Hofmeister is a good person to ask.

After transferring from Riverside City College, Hofmeister redshirted the 2011 season and saw how the team looked in its final year under former head coach Rick Neuheisel. Last year, he became a second team All-Pac-12 selection on special teams. He was recently voted a team co-captain for the second straight season.

In 2011, the Bruins ranked 76th nationally in opposing punt returns (9.13 yards per game) and 105th in opposing kickoff returns (24.05). Continue reading

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Jim Mora announces UCLA’s six captains for 2014

» UCLA voted on team captains last Thursday, and Jim Mora announced the picks Tuesday morning. Not a lot of surprises: on offense, quarterback Brett Hundley and center Jake Brendel; on defense, linebacker Eric Kendricks and defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa; on special teams, linebacker Ryan Hofmeister and fullback Taylor Lagace.

» Mora was confident that Brendel, who is recovering from an MCL injury, will be ready to play in the Bruins’ Aug. 30 season opener at Virginia.

Cornerback Marcus Rios (migraines) is seeing a specialist today. He missed a number of practices in San Bernardino before returning late in the week for sideline work. Continue reading

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UCLA notes: Receiver Devin Lucien passes concussion tests

» After a brief visit to the hospital on Tuesday night, UCLA receiver Devin Lucien passed his concussion tests on Friday and could return to practice on Monday — albeit in a red non-contact jersey. The redshirt junior had looked like arguably the team’s best receiver through camp before his hitting his head trying to make a catch, matching up with top cornerback Fabian Moreau on most plays.

Linebacker Zach Whitley, who has missed most of training camp in San Bernardino with head injury, returned to practice today for some sideline work. Head coach Jim Mora said the true freshman could potentially be back tonight’s practice, or at least by Monday.

Offensive lineman Scott Quessenberry is out with a “minor” concussion.

Receiver Mossi Johnson took off his red non-contact jersey this morning, while safety Randall Goforth put one on. Both are dealing with minor shoulder injuries.

“As far as comparing injuries to the last two camps, we’re in much better shape than we ever were, so that’s really encouraging,” Mora said.

» The Bruins worked heavily on special teams on Friday, adding a pre-stretch session that lasted about half an hour. Running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu took noticeable command of the unit. Since being hired last December, he has been a vocal presence in practices; at one point this morning, he had the entire team dead silent while he barked instructions. Continue reading

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Myles Jack calls ejection from UCLA’s Monday practice ‘embarrassing’

Myles Jack didn’t realize how just how far his name could carry a story.

On Monday, UCLA head coach Jim Mora tossed his star linebacker from practice at Cal State San Bernardino after the sophomore had an altercation with offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch. Jack slapped Benenoch in the helmet and taunted him, but the incident looked like a run-of-the-mill, mid-training camp tiff.

But given that it involved a player who successfully starred out on both sides of the ball last season, the headlines multiplied quickly.

“The platform that I guess I’m on, I’ve really got to watch out what I say or do,” Jack said Wednesday. Continue reading

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