What did we learn about UCLA in San Bernardino?

Eddie Vanderdoes knows how to make an exit. (@puntingiswinning)

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?

The defense will survive its losses Continue reading

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UCLA notes: Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone high on UCLA receiver depth

» 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

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UCLA notes: Starting center Jake Brendel’s knee injury likely not serious

» 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

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UCLA notes: Two linebacker spots still ‘wide open’ in Jeff Ulbrich’s defense

» 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

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UCLA notes: Jim Mora thinks UCLA has ideal line for its defense

» 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

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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: Linebackers

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 will cover the status of each position group moving forward. Next up …

Linebackers

Myles Jack is already UCLA’s all-everything superstar, and did nothing this spring to suggest that his sophomore effort will far short of the already sky-high expectations. He continued to excel in coverage, and will play behind the ball when the team deploys a nickel formation. After finishing with just one sack last season, he’s also spent extra time focusing on his pass rushing moves.

He won’t practice at running back until the season starts, but that only gives him more time to cement his role as the Bruins’ defensive leader.

The question marks facing the team in its post-Anthony Barr era lie elsewhere. Continue reading

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Four-star linebacker Kenny Young commits to UCLA

Four-star linebacker Kenny Young committed to UCLA this morning on ESPNU, giving the Bruins a coveted prospect from Louisiana. Young had also considered LSU, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State.

He traveled to Los Angeles this past weekend on his final official, and is rated the fifth-best outside linebacker in the country by Rivals.com. John Curtis High teammate Malachi Dupre, a five-star wideout who also visited, opted to stay close to home at LSU.

Young is the fourth linebacker to join the Bruins’ class, following three-star prospect Cameron Griffin, and four-stars Dwight Williams and Zach Whitley.

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UCLA pushing for trio of Louisiana natives

Three Louisiana recruits are currently visiting UCLA, a thought that could make SEC loyalists feel some mixture of disbelief, indignation and nausea.

Over the last 10 nine years, only one player from the Bayou State — three-star prospect Jeremy McGee — committed to the Bruins. This time around, UCLA is gunning for a trio of top-100 recruits: receiver Malachi Dupre, linebacker Kenny Young and defensive end Davon Godchaux.

How coveted are they? LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron took the time to book the same flight to Los Angeles. Landing even just one of the three could do much for the Bruins’ profile in the Deep South, especially with an announcement coming on ESPNU.

Here’s a look at how they might fit on the roster.

Malachi Dupre, 6-3, 195, #2 WR, #15 overall

UCLA has talent at receiver, but no one that can single-handedly flummox opposing defenses. Continue reading

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