Eddie Vanderdoes knows how to make an exit. (@puntingiswinning)
UCLA escaped the Inland Empire relatively unscathed. Most of its starters are healthy, as are the team’s myriad rotation players. The most notable players sidelined — center Jake Brendel (MCL) and receiver Devin Lucien (head) — are both expected to return soon.
Without a major shakeup anywhere on the depth chart, what did the Bruins learn from their annual two-week training camp at Cal State San Bernardino?
» Despite Devin Lucien being sidelined by a head injury, UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone wasn’t concerned with the state of his receiving corps.
“I don’t look at this like, ‘Hey, these three guys are starters. These three guys are backups,’” he said Wednesday. “I’ve got about six guys out there that are all starters in my eyes. They kind of roll in, do their deal.”
Lucien finished his sophomore season strong, catching for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Bruins’ last five games. Without him lined up at outside, fellow camp standout Eldridge Massington would likely move into the starting lineup.
Junior Logan Sweet, who had three catches last year, also got first-team reps on Wednesday morning. Starting receiver Jordan Payton has practiced mostly at inside receiver the last few days due to other injuries, which helped open up a spot for Sweet.
“He’s really came a long ways from two years ago, when he first got here,” Mazzone said of Sweet. “He really figures into those top four or five guys at the outside for us.”
» Freshman quarterback Aaron Sharp participated in his first full practice after joining the team last night. Given how light the morning session was, however, the lefty didn’t get a chance to show off his arm. Continue reading →
» UCLA lost a number of players to injury on Monday night, but none more important than center Jake Brendel. The third-year starter hurt his left knee/leg late in the two-hour practice, and was examined on a table before being carted to the locker room.
Brendel wasn’t limping heavily when he was helped off the field, and the preliminary examination indicated that the injury wasn’t serious.
“Hopefully, he doesn’t need anything more than a day or two, but we’ll see,” said head coach Jim Mora.
Backup center/guard Scott Quessenberry also left practice with what may have been heat exhaustion or dehydration. Safety Randall Goforth aggravated a left shoulder injury, but that also isn’t expected to be serious. Cornerback Marcus Rios was sidelined with a headache, but wasn’t hit in the head.
Freshman linebacker Zach Whitley — who performed well in spring camp — has a concussion and wore a neck brace last week; his return date is uncertain.
» Mora wasn’t happy with how the Bruins began the second part of their two-a-day, and made them restart the Monday night practice roughly 15 minutes in. Later, he sent running back Craig Lee to the locker room. Continue reading →
» UCLA doesn’t have a lot of question marks, but one position group that’s still unsettled are the linebackers.
Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich called competition at outside linebacker (opposite Myles Jack) and inside linebacker (opposite Eric Kendricks) “wide open” — naming five candidates for the former and three for the latter.
Outside linebackers have shuffled up and down the depth chart this week, but on Friday, redshirt junior Aaron Wallace and sophomore Deon Hollins got more play than 19-year-old junior Kenny Orjioke. Wallace has gotten love from both Ulbrich and head coach Jim Mora this week, but he doesn’t look like he has the speed to be a great pass rusher. That’s an area that Hollins excels at, and he’s looked better than he did in spring.
The competition inside is crowded, but true freshman Kenny Young has been fun to watch. He’s not the same type of do-it-all stud that Myles Jack is, though his work ethic has sparked comparisons.
» After leaving Thursday’s practice following a hit to the head, linebacker Zach Whitley wore a neck brace on Friday. Not an encouraging sign, but it could have been precautionary. Continue reading →
» Head coach Jim Mora called UCLA’s Thursday afternoon session the team’s best practice yet in San Bernardino, pointing out the team’s improved athleticism along the front as well as its improved maturity.
Besides injury updates, Jim Mora spent the first 5:30 or so of Thursday’s interview scrum (video above) talking about the defensive line, and how having players like Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Kenny Clark, Eddie Vanderdoes and Ellis McCarthy was ideal for this year’s scheme.
» San Bernardino has been unseasonably cool this week, hovering mostly in the mid- to high 80s. Still, injuries have started to add up after four days in the Inland Empire.
The most serious injury right now is linebacker Cameron Griffin’s shoulder, which he landed on two days ago and has wrapped in a sling since. He’ll be examined further by doctors on Saturday.
“It doesn’t look like it’s real positive, but we’ll see,” Mora said. “Keep our fingers crossed.” Continue reading →