Left tackle Malcolm Bunche giddy about protecting Brett Hundley’s blind side

Transfer offensive lineman Malcolm Bunche gushed on Tuesday about being chosen to man the most important position on the offensive line in front of Heisman Trophy candidate Brett Hundley.

The graduate student who transferred from Miami (Fla.) in time for spring practice has played every position on the offensive line during his college career and is projected to start at left tackle in UCLA’s season opener.

“It’s a tremendous honor playing the blind side for one of the most explosive quarterbacks in college football,” Bunche said. “I just got to keep grinding, working hard on the position and protect my man Brett.” 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: 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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Myles Jack, Malcolm Bunche lead UCLA on Phil Steele’s preseason All-Pac-12 list

Is UCLA’s best offensive player … Malcolm Bunche?

Maybe in the wonky world of preseason all-conference teams. College football writer Phil Steele released his All-Pac-12 selections today, going four lineups deep on offense, defense, and special teams.

Seven Bruins made the four offensive teams, but the one ahead of them was arguably the strangest pick in the entire list. Bunche is no doubt an important piece of UCLA’s offensive line this upcoming season, but he transferred from Miami in the first place because he lost playing time. It’s also unclear whether the 6-foot-7 lineman is best suited at guard at tackle, though he practiced more at the former in spring.

Quarterback Brett Hundley, right guard Alex Redmond, and Y-receiver Thomas Duarte each made the second team, with Duarte slotted in at tight end. Continue reading

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UCLA post-spring position outlook: Offensive 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 …

Offensive line

UCLA is facing life without left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo, set to become the school’s highest-drafted offensive lineman since Kris Farris went to the Pittsburgh Steelers as a third-round pick in 1999. And yet, the Bruins aren’t in bad shape without the man they voted their offensive MVP, one who earned the conference’s Morris Trophy as well as All-American nods.

No returning lineman is as versatile or mobile as Su’a-Filo, and not having a dynamic pulling guard will likely impact the Bruins’ running game. What should balance out his absence is a unit that is deeper and more experienced that it was a year ago — a continuing reclamation project sparked by 2013′s stud signing class. Continue reading

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Spring notes: UCLA offensive line working through numerous injuries


UCLA’s offensive line continues to get dinged up.

Graduate transfer Malcolm Bunche left Wednesday’s morning practice early with an undisclosed injury, giving most of the first-team reps at right tackle to redshirt freshman Kenny Lacy. Starting right guard Alex Redmond has seen increasingly fewer contact reps with his left hand still wrapped in a cast; early enrollee NaJee Toran looks like the clear No. 2 behind him.

Guard John Lopez was also absent from practice, forcing even more juggling through the unit.

“It’s hard, and they’re going to make mistakes,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “But in the long run, it makes them understand how all five fit together.”

– Mazzone talked a bit about the development of redshirt freshman Asiantii Woulard, who will most likely claim the backup quarterback spot over Jerry Neuheisel by the start of the season. Neuheisel actually looks much more composed and mistake-free than he did even nine months ago, but Woulard’s upside is so much higher. Continue reading

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Spring notes: UCLA offensive line plays round of ‘musical chairs’


– UCLA juggled its offensive line significantly for the first time this spring, with two starters sitting out with minor injuries. Right guard Alex Redmond has been semi-limited the entire month with a cast over his left hand, while left tackle Caleb Benenoch hyperextended his knee early Monday night.

That meant Malcolm Bunche got most of the first-team reps at right tackle, his first time moving away from left guard this spring. The graduate transfer from Miami actually warmed up there early Monday evening before Benenoch was injured, with Scott Quessenberry taking his place at left guard. Head coach Jim Mora had been insistent that Bunche would stay at guard, but at around 6-foot-7, 330 pounds, the Bruins are probably going to at least try him outside some more before the season opener.

“He blocks out the sun,” said linebacker Myles Jack. Continue reading

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Spring notes: Linebacker Isaako Savaiinaea leaves practice with injury

– Inside linebacker Isaako Savaiinaea left UCLA’s practice early on Wednesday morning with his left arm in a sling. The severity of his injury is not yet clear, but he did not return to the field.

The Bruins are without both their inside starters from last season, with Jordan Zumwalt training for the NFL draft and Eric Kendricks still recovering from ankle surgery. Savaiinaea started one game last season, and was a candidate to play next to Kendricks this fall. Sophomore Jayon Brown and senior Ryan Hofmeister are also in the rotation.

Still, the team is thinner at outside linebacker, where a stable starter has yet to be found opposite Myles Jack (who actually worked with the inside linebackers during individual drills). Junior Kenny Orjioke is still the favorite to secure that spot, but rising sophomore Deon Hollins and true freshman Zach Whitley are vying for the job too. Continue reading

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Spring notes: Malcolm Bunche makes practice debut at left guard


– Graduate transfer Malcolm Bunche finally debuted after missing the first week of UCLA’s spring practice while waiting for his paperwork to clear the admissions department. The former Miami starter looked impressive as the first-string left guard, though he got tired fairly quickly.

Bunche looks like a tackle at 6-foot-7, but head coach Jim Mora said the plan is to keep the senior at guard — pointing out his “guard girth” at 327 pounds.

Scott Quessenberry got some first-team reps at guard late in practice, but if the line gets fully healthy, he’ll almost certainly be a reserve.

Alex Redmond has participated in every practice, but has a cast over his left hand after a pre-spring surgery. UCLA’s everyday starter at right guard last year as a freshman, Redmond has sat out a few series here and there.

– Mora didn’t have a timeline for injured reserve lineman Ben Wysocki, who was on the early two-deep this spring. He could be out for the spring with a sprained ankle.

– Eldridge Massington redshirted last season while working his way back from a torn ACL he suffered in high school, but looks like he could be developing into a decent possession receiver and/or red-zone target. He doesn’t look like he has track-type speed anymore, but he used his strength and size to make several end-zone grabs on Monday night.

Devin Lucien is again coming down with highlight catch after highlight catch, something that he’s done before in past camps. The athletic wideout came on late last season, but has long looked better in practices than he has in games. With Shaq Evans gone now, Lucien could finally be in for a breakout as a redshirt junior.

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