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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Devin Lucien taken to hospital after suffering head injury during practice

Receiver Devin Lucien makes a catch during UCLA training camp at Cal State San Bernardino. Tuesday, August 5, 2014. (John Valenzuela/ Daily Bulletin)

Receiver Devin Lucien makes a catch during UCLA training camp at Cal State San Bernardino. Tuesday, August 5, 2014. (John Valenzuela/ Daily Bulletin)

Injury concerns for a banged up UCLA football team turned more serious on Tuesday. Wide receiver Devin Lucien suffered a head injury worrisome enough that an ambulance was called to transport the redshirt junior to the hospital in the midst of practice at Cal State San Bernardino.

Arguably the best wideout for the Bruins 10 practices into training camp, Lucien was injured when he hit his helmet on the ground after making a diving catch. He left the field under his own power, eventually making his way to the trainer’s tent.

After he was treated for 15 minutes by UCLA team doctor John DiFiori, a head injury specialist, the San Bernardino County Fire Department and paramedics arrived. Lucien was then immobilized on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance.

“I think anytime something like that happens and you seen an ambulance come on to the field of play, it’s tough,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. Continue reading

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