Ka’imi Fairbairn named Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week

UCLA kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn was named Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week after making three field goals in the Bruins’ 44-30 win at Washington.

The total tied a career high for the junior, who has been nearly automatic inside of 35 yards but spotty from outside 40. Against the Huskies, however, he nailed a 46-yarder with 8:30 left in the game to give UCLA a three-score lead. His teammates gave him a resounding vote of confidence during the timeout before the attempt.

Fairbairn is the Bruin to earn a Pac-12 Player of the Week honor since Sept. 29, when quarterback Brett Hundley and defensive back/kick returner Ishmael Adams were picked on offense and special teams.

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UCLA notes: Graduate transfer Malcolm Bunche moves to starting left tackle

RB Jordon James, right, carries the ball during the UCLA practice at Cal State San Bernardino. Wednesday, August 6, 2014. (Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Daily Bulletin)"

RB Jordon James, right, carries the ball during the UCLA practice at Cal State San Bernardino. Wednesday, August 6, 2014. (Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Daily Bulletin)”

» UCLA might have found its new starting left tackle in graduate transfer Malcolm Bunche. Used mostly at guard through spring and the first two days of training camp, the 6-foot-7 lineman moved to the edge on Wednesday with surprisingly good results.

With starting right tackle Conor McDermott (shoulder) held out for the day, sophomore Caleb Benenoch moved from left to right — vacating a spot for Bunche to shift out. Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm said he may keep that formation moving forward.

You can read more about the Bruins’ offensive line situation here.

» Tahaan Goodman has been able to carry over the momentum he generated in spring. The sophomore safety just missed out on a highlight, one-handed interception. Quarterback Jerry Neuheisel had thrown a high ball over the middle, but Goodman jumped up and twisted back and got his right hand on it. Continue reading

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UCLA post-spring position outlook: Special teams

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. This blog has covered the status of each position group moving forward. Last in the series is …

Special teams

Recently, special teams hasn’t been a major concern for UCLA. Over the last two seasons, the team blocked 12 kicks and punts — an FBS total matched only by Rutgers. Last year, it ranked top-20 in both opponent punt and kick returns; in four of the five years prior, the Bruins ranked outside the top 40 in the former and the top 100 in the latter.

A key difference looms heading into this fall: Jeff Ulbrich is no longer the UCLA special teams coordinator.

Promoted the defensive coordinator, Ulbrich will continue coaching inside linebackers but surrenders lead oversight of the unit that helped extend his own professional career. Outside linebackers will be charged to new assistant Mike Tuiasosopo, who also holds the title of special teams coach. Continue reading

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What to watch: No. 9 UCLA at No. 13 Stanford

UCLA needs a win over Stanford to firmly seize a spot on the national stage. Can the Bruins pull it off?

UCLA offense vs. Stanford defense:

Stanford’s defense isn’t quite what it was used to be, giving up 22.2 points per game after allowing 18.8 over the past three seasons.

On its way to three straight BCS bowls, the Cardinal finished either first or second in the conference in scoring defense, and No. 9 nationally during the 2010 campaign. This year, the team is fifth in the Pac-12. However, much of that is due to the rest of the conference ticking up: Four teams in the league are holding opponents to below 20.0 points per game. Only four Pac-12 teams had done the same in the previous four years combined. Continue reading

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Kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn not looking to the past

That 52-yard miss from last year’s Pac-12 Championship loss? Ka’imi Fairbairn doesn’t think about it much.

“Every kick’s the same kick,” the UCLA kicker said. “We have a 24-hour rule. You learn from it, and you move on.”

He’s practiced that field goal from the left hash over and over in the months since that 27-24 loss to Stanford. Even if the miss no longer gnaws at him, some heroics this Saturday at the Farm could help fans forget it too.

Fairbairn also has no complaints about new longsnapper Chris Longo and holder Jerry Neuheisel. If there’s been a drop-off from the mechanical efficiency of the Kevin McDermott-Jeff Locke duo, Fairbairn insists he hasn’t noticed. Continue reading

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