UCLA receiver Mossi Johnson suffers season-ending knee injury

UCLA receiver Mossi Johnson is out for the season after suffering his second major knee injury in less than three years. (Andy Holzman/Staff)

UCLA receiver Mossi Johnson is out for the season after suffering his second major knee injury in less than three years. (Andy Holzman/Staff)

UCLA receiver Mossi Johnson is out for the season after tearing multiple knee ligaments, head coach Jim Mora confirmed Sunday.

The sophomore made eight catches for 41 yards in the Bruins’ first three games, and also played sparingly at safety the past two weeks. Mora said Johnson tore his ACL, MCL and PCL during one-on-one drills last week, but wasn’t sure which knee the receiver injured.

The Crenshaw High grad tore ligaments in his left knee back in January 2013, which forced him to delay his enrollment at UCLA until the following year. He caught 23 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown as a freshman. Bruin Report Online first reported news of Johnson’s injury.

Johnson is the fourth player that UCLA has lost for the season, following defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes (ACL), linebacker Myles Jack (meniscus), and cornerback Fabian Moreau (foot).

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UCLA receiver Mossi Johnson transitions to safety

One of UCLA’s promising young receivers might not spend as much time on offense anymore.

Sophomore Mossi Johnson switched to safety last weekend, playing a handful of snaps on defense to help bolster a secondary that lost cornerback Fabian Moreau for the season to a foot injury. The Crenshaw High product had made multiple catches in 10 straight games dating to last October, but only touched the ball once on offense at Arizona last Saturday. Darren Andrews got most of the minutes at slot receiver instead, and recorded career highs with three catches and 40 yards.

While both coaches and teammates have praised the 6-foot, 185-pound Johnson’s athleticism, neither defensive coordinator Tom Bradley nor head coach Jim Mora sounded certain as to how much and how quickly his defensive role would expand. The former said it would likely depend on the specific game situation, as well as the player’s own development.

“I’d rather be a week late with someone than a week early,” Bradley said, “and put him in a situation where he’s not quite ready for it. … We got him some reps in some coverages that he would know.”

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Scott White: Myles Jack won’t end up returning kicks for UCLA

UCLA linebacker Myles Jack won't return kicks in games despite doing so in practices, according to his coaches. (Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

UCLA linebacker Myles Jack won’t return kicks in games despite doing so in practices, according to his coaches. (Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

The first time it happened, Jim Mora dismissed it as “messing around.”

Myles Jack, he insisted, just loved being on the field — even if it meant doing something that would never translate into a game. The UCLA linebacker was not being considered a potential kick returner.

But four months have passed, and the 6-foot-1, 245-pound junior is still taking the occasional rep on special teams. And yet, once again, the coaching staff is not publicly regarding it as a viable option.

“That’s something we’re just toying with right now,” said Scott White, the Bruins’ linebackers coach and special teams coordinator. “But I don’t anticipate that being something that we go forward with.”

The two candidates White particularly likes are receivers Stephen Johnson and Mossi Johnson, who are entering their freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively. He praised the latter for his ball security, which he called the top quality he looks for in a return man.

“That’s first and foremost,” White said. “The guy that’s sure-handed. But at the same time, a guy that’s explosive enough and dynamic, can put their foot in the ground and hit it.”

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UCLA spring camp position review: Receivers

UCLA's Mossi Johnson catches a pass during spring football practice on April 2 at Spaulding Field.(Andy Holzman/Staff)

UCLA’s Mossi Johnson catches a pass during spring football practice on April 2 at Spaulding Field.(Andy Holzman/Staff)

UCLA has not produced a 1,000-yard receiver since 2011. Looking at the state of the Bruins’ offense, it’s a good bet that the drought will extend for another season.

Such is the nature of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone’s scheme. For three years, UCLA has divvied up targets between bevy of receivers, racking up significant total yards without creating a dominant No. 1 wideout. In 2014, Jordan Payton became the first Bruin to record more than 60 catches in the Jim Mora era; that same season, 12 others in the Pac-12 cleared that same threshold.

Payton might crack four-digit yardage as a senior, but the chemistry he built with Brett Hundley might not necessarily carry over when UCLA picks a new starter. (Even last year, Payton’s production tailed off as the season progressed; he didn’t top 58 yards or catch a single touchdown in his last four games.) This is not to say that the receiving corps are in any real trouble. After all, they return all but one member, and add a few others. Continue reading

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UCLA spring camp notes: Myles Jack practices at kick returner

» Myles Jack worked a bit as a returner on Monday, and yeah — it’d be a ton of fun to watch the linebacker toss his 6-foot-1, 231-pound frame around on special teams in a real game. Don’t hold your breath, though.

“If he’s doing that, he’s just messing around,” said head coach Jim Mora, who expressed surprise that Jack had been returning kicks. “Myles has to be moving out there. So if there’s a drill he’s not involved in, he just goes and gets involved. I didn’t even know he was taking reps back there. He’s not on the depth chart as a kick returner.”

And given UCLA’s depth there, putting Jack at further risk of injury seems foolhardy — no matter how thrilling the potential highlights.

In addition to No. 1 returner Ishmael Adams, the current rotation on kick and punt returns includes safety Jaleel Wadood, receiver Jordan Lasley, receiver Devin Fuller, running back Craig Lee, receiver Kenneth Walker, safety Randall Goforth and receiver Aaron Sharp.

» Not much has changed in the ongoing quarterback race. Josh Rosen, Jerry Neuheisel, Asiantii Woualrd and Mike Fafaul each took a share of reps today, and none of them did anything that seriously upset the perceived pecking order behind center. Continue reading

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