UCLA lands three on Phil Steele’s preseason All-American teams

Myles Jack is one of three UCLA players on Phil Steele's preseason All-American list. The linebacker is pictured during UCLA's "Spring Showcase" at the Rose Bowl on April 24, 2015. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Myles Jack is one of three UCLA players on Phil Steele’s preseason All-American list. The linebacker is pictured during UCLA’s “Spring Showcase” at the Rose Bowl on April 24, 2015. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Three UCLA players received spots on Phil Steele’s preseason All-American teams, the annual list released on Monday morning.

Linebacker Myles Jack earned a second-team nod, while nose tackle Kenny Clark and center Jake Brendel made the fourth team. Jack and Clark are the Bruins’ two most talented defensive players, and both are likely bound for the NFL draft after their junior seasons. Brendel, a redshirt senior, is a fourth-year starter who has played in 39 of 40 possible games.

Six Bruins landed on Steele’s preseason All-Pac-12 first team, although Brendel settled for a second-team spot behind USC center Max Tuerk — a preseason first-team All-American. In addition to Jack and Clark, the first team included receiver Jordan Payton, offensive tackle Caleb Benenoch, defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes, and cornerback Fabian Moreau.

The most notable absence on the list is left tackle Conor McDermott. The 6-foot-9 lineman started the last seven games of the 2014 season, and projects to be the most important player on the offensive line besides Brendel.

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UCLA spring camp position review: Defensive line

Enjoy watching Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes while you can. Both could be signing NFL contracts by this time next year.

UCLA will enter this fall with arguably the best defensive line duo in the conference, a pair that last season combined for 108 tackles, including 11 for loss. All-Pac-12 nods aren’t the most accurate measures of talent and/or performance, but of the eight defensive linemen that made first or second team last fall, Clark is one of two that return. (The other is Oregon’s DeForest Buckner, who like Clark is making NFL mock drafts as a potential first-round pick.) Vanderdoes followed right behind as an honorable mention.

Clark in particular was vital to the Bruins’ run defense, and is about as stout a nose tackle as you can find in college football. Looking back at his impact the last two seasons, it’s incredible that UCLA was considering redshirting him back in August 2013, during his first camp in San Bernardino. There were several times last fall when opposing offenses noticeably directed the ball away from the middle, where he and Vanderdoes stood as imposing obstacles. Continue reading

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UCLA post-spring position outlook: Defensive line

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 …

Defensive line

The star power is there. Just look at Owamagbe Odighizuwa, the former five-star recruit who doesn’t look like he’s missed a step after hip surgeries. Or Eddie Vanderdoes, another five-star defensive end who more than lived up to the billing as a Freshman All-American. Or Kenny Clark, the mammoth nose tackle whom defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich already called one of the team’s best players.

The unit’s only significant loss was defensive end Cassius Marsh, who finished second on the team with 10.5 tackles for loss and even chipped in a two-yard touchdown catch. Tackle Seali’i Epenesa and sack specialist Keenan Graham also graduated, but both saw their roles dwindle to varying degrees toward the end of the season. Continue reading

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