UCLA post-spring position outlook: Running backs

Spring football is done, and over three months still stand between us and the start of UCLA’s third season under Jim Mora — one that comes with national title aspirations and accompanying media glare. Over the next week, this blog will cover each of the Bruins’ position groups. Next up …

Running backs

Last season was the first since 2009 that every UCLA running back finished with fewer than 600 yards. That year, the Bruins finished 7-6 overall and eighth in the Pac-10.

The situations aren’t all that similar, of course. Quarterback Brett Hundley and linebacker Myles Jack both helped buoy the running game through the final five games, combining for 584 of the team’s 1,007 yards and 12 of its 16 touchdowns. The Bruins have options on the ground, even disregarding its stable of running backs.

But those backs. Assuming injuries won’t concentrate on this unit as much as it did in 2013, there are enough bodies for at least a three- or four-man rotation through fall. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

UCLA running backs all healthy for the first time

At long last, UCLA will have a full stable of backs. Head coach Jim Mora said starter Jordon James, Paul Perkins, Damien Thigpen, Malcolm Jones and Steve Manfro should be 100 percent healthy heading into the Sun Bowl next Tuesday.

“They all looked really sharp out here today,” Mora said. “It’s probably been since training camp that we can say that. … It’s probably the first game that they’ve all been ready to go. So we’ll have to find a way to get them all reps.” Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Injury update: Tailback Jordon James closer to full health


– Running back Jordon James is also expected to play after missing five of UCLA’s last six games. Coach Jim Mora admitted that he should not have let James play against Colorado, a game in which the junior tweaked his ankle after six carries.

“That’s on me,” he said. “He wanted to play, but sometimes the coach’s job is to protect him from himself. … But he’s really been good this week.

“Last week, when he was going to his left and trying to catch a swing pass, he couldn’t put his right foot in the ground and burst off of it. This week, I haven’t seen anything. I haven’t seen him limp, I haven’t seen him favor it at all on any of the cuts.”

Senior Malcolm Jones has also been cleared to play after taking a blow to the head on Friday. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Injury report: Three running backs battling ankle injuries

Here’s the rundown, per UCLA head coach Jim Mora: starter Jordon James is “fine”; senior Damien Thigpen is a game-time decision; reserve back Steve Manfro is out.

All three are battling ankle injuries, and both James and Thigpen entered Wednesday’s no-pads practice with their right ankles wrapped. The Bruins also have Paul Perkins and Malcolm Jones available, though the latter did not carry the ball against Arizona last Saturday.

Of breakout two-way star Myles Jack, Mora said simply: “He’s a linebacker.”

Backup left tackle Conor McDermott has also undergone shoulder surgery, the Los Angeles Times reported. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Jim Mora talks injuries, offensive line and weight goals


– Running back Jordon James (ankle) and left tackle Simon Goines (knee) likely won’t play on Saturday at Arizona. Reserve running back Steve Manfro (ankle) is also not yet healthy enough to return.

Backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel had surgery on his right thumb, and has had his hand wrapped all week. He will still be able to hold kicks, but not pass. Walk-on Mike Fafaul will likely sub in if Brett Hundley gets injured. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Injury report: Left tackle Simon Goines to return in reserve role

Left tackle Simon Goines will be available against Arizona in a reserve role this Saturday, UCLA coach Jim Mora said. The sophomore injured his right MCL, and was still limping noticeably as he entered practice without pads Tuesday.

Starting running back Jordon James is also expected to play, practicing in full pads. The junior had missed three full games, and took six carries last Saturday before reaggravating his ankle injury. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Jordon James, Eric Kendricks game-time decisions Saturday

UCLA running back Jordon James and linebacker Eric Kendricks are both game-time decisions against Colorado this Saturday, head coach Jim Mora said.

James has missed three full games since spraining his ankle in a 34-27 win at Utah on Oct. 3. The junior entered that game as the nation’s fifth-leading rusher. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

LT Simon Goines, LB Eric Kendricks practice lightly

Wrecked by injuries, UCLA started three true freshmen on its offensive line in a 42-14 loss at Oregon.

Reinforcements are working back. Sophomore Simon Goines (knee) and Conor McDermott (shoulder) both practiced Tuesday, albeit without pads. Goines, who started at right tackle before moving to left, was still limping and had his right knee wrapped.

(Starting left tackle Torian White’s season ended on Oct. 3 when he broke a bone and tore a ligament near his ankle.)

“They develop a sense of urgency to get back,” head coach Jim Mora said. “I feel that with a lot of guys. You look at our injury report and it’s pretty vast. You see a bunch of guys that want to get back out here and do whatever they can, whatever they can.”

Linebacker Eric Kendricks, who played through a back bruise with the help of an anesthetic shot on Saturday, was at practice without pads. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Linebacker Eric Kendricks probable for Oregon

At least one of many ailing Bruins is expected to play against No. 2 Oregon this Saturday.

Inside linebacker Eric Kendricks — second in the conference with 9.33 tackles per game — will play against the Ducks, UCLA coach Jim Mora said Tuesday. The junior was taken to the hospital at halftime of the Bruins’ 24-10 loss at Stanford this past weekend, but was released after tests showed no sign of major injury.

Kendricks has bruising on either his kidney or the surrounding tissue, and started the week of practice in a non-contact red jersey.

“Eric Kendricks, it’s going to take a lot to keep that guy down,” Mora said. “He’s a friggin’ great player. He’s a tremendous competitor, heck of a leader. He’s got the spirit that you love on your team.” Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Jim Mora not emphasizing ‘payback’ against Stanford


– Many Bruins still have last year’s back-to-back Stanford games fresh in their minds: UCLA’s 35-17 loss at home followed by a 27-24 heartbreaker in the Pac-12 Championship. Head coach Jim Mora is trying to make sure it doesn’t become their primary focus this weekend.

“I hope that — I think somewhere deep down in their psyche is payback, payback, payback,” he said. “But if you make that your main motivation, I think you make a mistake. You have to focus on this game, this year, and what it’s going to take to win this game, this year.”

His role as a coach will be to talk to the team the right way in order to instill calm heading into the weekend.

“You don’t necessarily whip them into a frenzy on a Tuesday,” Mora said. “You let it slowly build so you create the right mindset going into a game.”

– Defensive end Ellis McCarthy is expected to play at Stanford after sitting out last Saturday with a head injury. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email