Freshman Thomas Duarte a potential spark to Y-receiver corps


This was last year’s red-zone motto for UCLA: “Put it on the top shelf where the kids can’t get it.”

Easy to do when your target is 6-foot-7. Joseph Fauria led the Bruins with 12 touchdown catches, the most for any tight end in the country. When Brett Hundley needed a safety valve as a first-year starter, he most often looked to the Mackey Award semifinalist.

Entering head coach Jim Mora’s second season, UCLA’s tight ends – better termed as Y-receivers in the Bruins’ fast-paced offense – don’t stick out nearly as much. Seniors Darius Bell and Grayson Mazzone are 5-foot-11 and 5-foot-8, respectively. Nate Iese and Jordan Barrett both measure at least 6-foot-2, but will likely be used more as blockers.

The difference maker could be true freshman Thomas Duarte, a prized 6-foot-3 recruit out of Mater Dei High. Named the Orange County Register’s Player of the Year as well as to the MaxPreps all-state team, his No. 18 jersey was retired in March alongside former USC quarterback Matt Barkley’s. UCLA coaches and teammates already point out Duarte’s wide passing radius and smooth game. Continue reading

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Ickyridge Stoop, “I Feel” (feat. Drew Ann Drysdale)

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a music video from Ickyridge Stoop, a band that features former UCLA football players Todd Golper and Andrew Yelich. The song “I Feel” — which features Ann Meyers Drysdale’s daughter, Drew — is decent, and the video is crammed full of UCLA athletes. You can find more info at their official site.

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Where will Bruins go in NFL Draft?

DATONE JONES, DL
Size: 6-4, 283
Expected to go: Late 1st round

You can read more about Jones in today’s story on his draft prospects, but suffice it to say that the talented defensive end will likely become UCLA’s first first-round product since Marcedes Lewis in 2006. He impressed through fantastic post-season performances at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, and has even drawn comparisons to seven-time Pro Bowler Richard Seymour. A team like Green Bay at No. 26 or Denver at No. 28 could snatch him up.

JOHNATHAN FRANKLIN, RB
Size: 5-11, 195
Expected to go: 2nd round

Franklin reminds me of Shane Vereen, whom the Patriots took as a second-round pick out of Cal. Vereen rushed for 251 yards and three touchdowns in his first regular season. After running atop the UCLA record books, “The Mayor” could easily eclipse those numbers if he ends up on a team that doesn’t use as deep a backfield rotation as New England.

“You can use him in the passing game,” said Chris Burke, NFL writer for Sports Illustrated. “You don’t have to plan to pair him with someone else who’s a better blocker or a pass-catcher. …

“You’re not gonna give him the ball and expect him to move the pile five yards. If you can get him outside, let him find the hole and make the one cut, he certainly has enough speed and shiftiness.”

JEFF BACA, OL
Size: 6-3, 302
Expected to go: 5th round Continue reading

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Wednesday practice notes: Safety Randall Goforth more assertive

Attrition has left rising sophomore Randall Goforth as UCLA’s most experienced defensive back.

Tevin McDonald, who had 79 tackles last season, is transferring to Eastern Washington after being dismissed prior to spring camp. Dietrich Riley, who had 36 tackles through eight games in 2011, is unavailable too; already working back from a neck injury, a separated shoulder has left him on the exercise bike.

So here’s Goforth, whose 40 tackles as a freshman were overshadowed by a Twitter impersonator that trash-talked USC players using his name. The 5-foot-10 safety had his moments last season, but ended the campaign on a down note — getting burned by Baylor’s tailbacks and receivers in a 49-26 Holiday Bowl loss.

This spring, head coach Jim Mora said Goforth has a much greater command of the defense, praising his assertiveness in making calls.

“He’s playing with a lot more confidence,” Mora said. “I really believe that experience, even though it wasn’t always positive last year — he struggled in that Baylor game. But I think he went back and he really learned from it.”

Added Goforth, who said he’s up from 175 pounds to 193: “All offseason, I was just getting bigger, getting stronger, getting faster so I can more physical on the field.”

» Replacing tight end/Y-receiver Joseph Fauria as a red-zone threat won’t be easy. No. 1 receiver Shaq Evans figures to get more looks there, as will sophomore Jordan Payton — who has had a solid if not spectacular camp so far.

Also key will be the performance of Darius Bell, whom Mora called one of last season’s most underrated Bruins. Continue reading

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UCLA pro day results

UCLA’s pro day on March 12 was closed to both fans and media, but NFL.com has some of the results. Johnathan Franklin caught the ball well, while Datone Jones may be shaping up to as a 4-3 defensive end in the pros. Punter Jeff Locke was also compared favorably to Bryan Anger, whom the Jacksonville Jaguars reached for in the third round last year.

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NFL Combine Roundup

The can’t-miss moment of the NFL Combine was SBNation’s glorious video of linemen running the 40-yard dash to “Chariots of Fire.” UCLA’s Jeff Baca makes an appearance 20 seconds in. Watch it if you haven’t already.

If you’re looking for something more substantive, here are the results from the Bruins’ workouts. Continue reading

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NFL Combine drills start Saturday

The NFL Combine’s first set of workouts took place Friday, and former UCLA tight end Joseph Fauria participated with 17 bench press reps — tied for 10th at his position.

Saturday is when the real fun begins, as offensive linemen and tight ends do their field work. Running backs, quarterbacks and receivers will also compete in the bench press. Here are the rest of the Bruins in Indianapolis this weekend, with ratings and analysis from their profiles on NFL.com.

DL Datone Jones — 85.6 — “Going forward, Jones needs to do a better job of anchoring, or disengaging once his intial surge is halted. However, his immense physical talent and extremely productive senior season should make him an early selection.”
Pro comparison: Cory Redding Continue reading

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Lache Seastrunk declares Heisman candidacy, Bruins shrug

In a bit of delicious candor, Baylor tailback Lache Seastrunk recently proclaimed himself the 2013 Heisman winner. From the Sporting News:

“I feel like there’s no back who can do what I do,” he told SN. “I know I’m the fastest back in the country. I know I’m the best back in the country. Nobody’s going to work harder.” …

“I’m going to win the Heisman. I’m going to win it in 2013. If I don’t, I’m going to get very close. I’m shooting for that goal. I will gladly say it.”

Seastrunk, a former five-star recruit and Oregon transfer, certainly could factor into the conversation next year. Through the Bears’ three-game winning streak to end the regular season, the sophomore averaged 166 yards. He has yet to receive more than 19 carries in a game. (He also has one of the best highlights of the season, scoring a 76-yard TD against Oklahoma State after cramping at midfield.) Still, loudly proclaiming a Heisman win is a bit uncouth, albeit amusing. If the Bruins are using the proclamation as bulletin board material, they aren’t really letting on. Here are some reactions from players. Continue reading

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