With the departure of all-time leading rusher Johnathan Franklin, UCLA’s tailback competition is wide open. Head coach Jim Mora has said all spring that he expects the Bruins to use a committee next season, but he isn’t happy with the progress so far
“There’s way too much dancing right now,” Mora said. “Our running backs are doing too much of this, like the keyboard of a piano. They need to freakin’ hit it and go. That’s something I’m disappointed in and they’re going to work hard on.”
Jordon James, Paul Perkins and Malcolm Jones have shared carries through camp, but no one has consistently stood out. Redshirt senior Damien Thigpen — third on the team last season with 849 all-purpose yards — is still recovering from a torn ACL, while Steve Manfro is rehabbing after shoulder surgery.
» Thursday’s practice was, Mora said emphatically, the best yet through the first six days of spring camp. However, the spurt of energy did spill over into some minor scuffles throughout the day. The two-hour session concluded with a massive group of players bumping and pushing each other.
“We’ve been banging on each other now for six days, and you can kind of expect that,” Mora said. “As long as it doesn’t get out of hand and it doesn’t turn into a brawl or a fight or somebody throwing haymakers, you’re going to get a little bit of that. That’s part of football.” Continue reading
Seven months after transferring out, Malcolm Jones is back at UCLA — without a scholarship in perhaps his final collegiate season.
“I never should have left,” Jones said. “It was a bad decision on my part. I was too heated at the moment. I didn’t really think of the consequences.”
The 6-foot, 220-pound tailback left the team after being involved in just six plays in last fall’s season opener, far less time action than he’d expected. It was the last straw in what had been a frustrating career as a Bruin, one in which he felt his talents weren’t being properly utilized. After being named Gatorade Player of the Year at Oaks Christian, Jones scored one touchdown in his first two seasons as a Bruin. Continue reading
Running back Malcolm Jones, who left the Bruins after playing just one game as a junior in 2012, had second thoughts after exploring options to transfer.
After the holiday season, he approached head coach Jim Mora about returning to the team. Mora said he didn’t have a scholarship available for Jones, but would welcome him back as a walk-on.
“Sometimes you get derailed when you’re young,” Mora said. “I don’t think any of us wanted to hold the fact that he left the team against him. We all wanted to give him that second chance because of the type of kid he is and because we believe in someone earning a second chance.” Continue reading
Malcolm Jones lay in bed Wednesday night, UCLA-Stanford-UCLA-Stanford, the decision pounding his mind like a hammer, the weight of the recruiting world on his shoulders.
And then, it was gone.
“I was in my room thinking about it, thinking about what I liked and don’t like about each school, and I just decided UCLA was the place for me,” said the Oaks Christian running back, rated a five-star prospect by Scout.com and the No. 6 running back nationally. “I went straight to my parents and told them, and they were excited about it, too.”
They should be – he’s staying close to home.
After months of debate, of jockeying and of cajoling, Jones settled on the Bruins, informing them of his decision on Thursday morning.
Ultimately, in a battle between two academic institutions with rising programs, the closer one won out.
“It’s a good football program, a good school, and I felt really, really comfortable,” said Jones, who was selected for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, along with teammate Cassius Marsh. “I liked how it’s in SoCal. I love being down here. I like the weather. I like everything about it.
“And my parents can come see me play.”
Play, and play early, he expects.
Though Jones will enter a backfield crowded like a London phonebooth – a junior, a sophomore, two redshirt freshmen and one true freshman – he said he anticipates to compete for playing time early.
“This is a team that’s up-and-coming,” Jones said. “They need big playmakers. It’s a big opportunity for me to help UCLA get back on top. That was a big part of my decision, knowing they don’t have one dominant back yet is another opportunity to show how good I am and get opportunities as a freshman.”
If his first year in Westwood is anything like his last year at Oaks Christian, he just might get those opportunities.
Jones has 870 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns for the 4-0 Lions, ranked first in the state and third in the nation by Maxpreps.com. His success is nothing new.
As a freshman: California State Freshman of the Year.
As a sophomore: 2,315 total yards, 29 touchdowns, state sophomore of the year.
As a junior: 1,844 yards, 32 touchdowns (playing mostly first-halves), runner-up state junior of the year.
But now, Jones owns another role.
He said he is about to become UCLA’s biggest salesman.
“I hope that me committing can get a lot of big-time names to come to UCLA, to not be afraid of losing,” Jones said. “I have to start looking and seeing who’s looking at UCLA and try to convince them, too.”
He is, after all, in it for the long haul.
There will be no flip-flopping coming that one fateful day, Feb. 3. National Signing Day.
“No, not at all,” Jones maintains. “It’s set for me. It’s set in stone.”
Just as much as he uses his instincts on the football field, Oaks Christian senior running back Malcolm Jones is using his instincts off the field.
After recently narrowing his college choice to UCLA and Stanford, Jones told me today that both schools are putting on a pretty good push toward the end.
“These were two of the first schools to recruit me,” Jones said. “Both of the schools have been emailing me more and calling me, and I’m really close to making my decision. I have one more trip to each school, and I should have my decision end of September maybe.”
If the decision has weighed on him, it certainly did not show on Friday night, in the Lion’s 28-17 win over Alemany.
Jones had 275 yards on 37 carries, scoring three times.
The instincts paid off.
He hopes they will again.
“It’s really up to me; I need to pick my good instinct,” Jones said. “What’s really important to me is first, the academics of the school, but also the coaching staff.”
Jones was scheduled to attend UCLA’s season opener with San Diego State on Saturday, but could not. He watched the game at home. He watched Derrick Coleman break runs of 31 and 29 yards. He watched Johnathan Franklin break a 12-yard touchdown run.
He watches, and it was tough.
“A little bit, when you see a school you’re watching, and the position play really well, you get a little worried,” Jones said. “But it just makes me want to go out and prove how good I am.”
How good is still up for debate.
Jones is rated the No. 6 running back by Scout.com as one of six major D-1 recruits from Oaks Christian. Recruiters haunt the school all the time, preying on the stars, praying they land one.
But, Jones said, he pays little attention.
It is UCLA and it is Stanford and the list ends there.
If heavily recruited running back Anthony Barr of Loyola commits as well, so be it.
“It’s pretty firm with just UCLA and Stanford,” Jones said. “Either school is going to get good recruits. (If Barr chooses UCLA) two better players going to UCLA, that’s how I look at it.”
I stole some time away from the beach in Hawaii to chat quickly with Oaks Christian running back Malcolm Jones.
Jones, you remember, is Scout.com’s No. 3 running back in the class of 2010, a power back with fantastic numbers (141 carries for 1,600 yards and 26 touchdowns while playing mostly only first halves) and a great work ethic.
Recently, Jones narrowed his list of potential colleges to Stanford and UCLA.
Here’s what Malcolm had to say:
Are UCLA and Stanford just at the top of your list, or is it just them two?
“I’m pretty much set on one of those two teams,” Jones said. “Both of them offer a really good education and both are teams who are on the rise and going to be good in the next couple years. I kind of want to be with a team that is still building up and needs exposure.”
Jim Harbaugh and Rick Neuheisel have similar backgrounds – college stars, pro quarterbacks, young coaches. Who would you rather play for?
“Either coach I’d love to play for,” Jones said. “They’re both young, exciting coaches who have a lot of enthusiasm. But right now, it’s the position coaches who are calling me the most.”
Why have UCLA and Stanford jumped to the top of the list?
“That’s the thing; those two schools said they needed me,” Jones said. “The other schools said they want me. These guys need me. That’s what separates them. The coaches and I both know I can make an early impact on both of those schools.”
How soon can we expect a decision?
“I’m hoping to make a decision in the next couple months,” Jones said. “September at least, maybe this month. Right now, its 50/50. Both schools are really good, and it’s really hard to decide. I don’t know if either school can do anything to push me forward. Right now, it’s a mental thing for me.”
Superstar running back Malcolm Jones of nearby Oaks Christian (Westlake Villiage) entered the practice facility and immediately caught the attention of Rick Neuheisel. Neuheisel, who was engaged in a conversation with two gentlemen, excused himself, walked straight to Jones and warmly embraced him.
Minutes later, Neuheisel brought Norm Chow to Jones, and the two enjoyed some playful banter.
If this kid isn’t the main focus of the Bruins’ recruiting intentions – and as the No. 11 prospect in the country by Rivals, he should be – then you could have fooled me.