UCLA spring camp notes: Marcus Rios improving at cornerback

— UCLA held its fifth spring practice this morning at Spaulding Field, and Marcus Rios made a strong case for the day’s best play. During 11-on-11 scrimmages, the cornerback tipped Jerry Neuheisel’s pass into the air, and contorted himself to secure the interception.

It was the latest moment in what has been a solid camp so far for the redshirt sophomore — made even more impressive by the fact that he fought off a life-threatening fungal infection less than two years ago. He wasn’t 100 percent even last season, when he came up with a game-saving interception in a win at Cal.

Another offseason should give him even more time to improve his conditioning and hone his skills. He’s already a firm part of the two-deep right now, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him eventually push for a starting spot at cornerback.

— The Bruins continue to structure practices by giving two quarterbacks team reps each day. Today, the rotation gave way to Neuheisel on the first-string offense and Asiantii Woulard behind him. Neither has changed significantly through the course of spring camp, with Neuheisel’s lack of arm strength looking like a factor that could severely hamper him in the race to become starter. Continue reading

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Jordan Payton confirms he will return to UCLA for senior year

Jordan Payton confirmed on Saturday that he will return to UCLA as a senior next season, ending talk of him potentially declaring for the NFL draft.

“I’m coming back,” Payton told reporters after practice. “There were reports saying that I was leaving or something, but I’m coming back. Didn’t really even think about leaving, to be honest with you.”

Payton was not projected to be a high draft pick, but ranks seventh in the Pac-12 with 896 receiving yards and 10th with seven touchdown catches. A polished wideout who excels at gaining yards after the catch, the junior is responsible for more than a fifth of the Bruins’ receptions this season.

With the Alamo Bowl left to play on Jan. 2, he has a shot to become UCLA’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Nelson Rosario had 1,161 in 2011.

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