UCLA notes: Jim Mora warns against stereotyping Brett Hundley as ‘runner’

» Brett Hundley led UCLA with 748 rushing yards last season, but head coach Jim Mora emphasized at Pac-12 Media Days that his quarterback is — first and foremost — a passer.

“I say that about Brett because people have a tendency at times to see an African-American quarterback and say he’s a runner,” Mora said. “And I hate that stereotype. I always have. I coached Mike Vick. I believe we stereotype those guys started with that, and I don’t want that to happen with Brett.

“I’m going to make sure it doesn’t. It shouldn’t. The guy’s a passer, man, but he can run.”

» Mora smiled when asked about the weather in San Bernardino, where UCLA will start training camp on Aug. 4: “I hope it’s hot. I would just like us to be in triple digits. As long as we’re in triple digits, I’ll be happy.”

Unlike last summer, UCLA will not go down to San Diego for a three-day pre-camp session with Navy SEALs. Mora said the experience helped his team later in the season — particularly when it needed to bond together through the death of receiver Nick Pasquale — but didn’t want to dull the impact by repeating it too often.

» What does two-way superstar Myles Jack have in store for his sophomore season? Not even his teammates are sure.

“I’m excited,” said linebacker Eric Kendricks. “I don’t even know what to expect. He put on 15 (pounds) of muscle. He’s gotten so much stronger. He’s been working hard. That’s all you can ask of a guy. He doesn’t let any of this hype, this circle of fame get to his head.” Continue reading

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Which players have the best names in the Pac-12?

By now, you’ve read many of the lists that have proliferated in college football’s dry summer months. The best 100 players. The freakiest players. The best coaches, best offseasons, best uniforms.

But this? This is the most important of them all. With Pac-12 Media Days — schedule here — kicking off this morning, I have compiled the five best names from each team in the conference.

Without further ado …

Arizona: Sir Thomas Jackson, Antonio Smothers, Tra’Mayne Bondurant, Brogan Kemmerly, Abraham Mendivil

Not great depth here, as the latter two names sacrifice catchiness in favor of length. Still, Sir Thomas Jackson alone is an MVP candidate.

Arizona State: Ezekial Bishop, Demetrius Cherry, Zane Gonzalez, Jaxon Hood, Philip “Scooby” Wright III

Would be better if Scooby’s real first name weren’t Phillip, but otherwise still a solid quintet that lacks a superstar.

Cal: Hardy Nickerson, Avery Sebastian, Bryce Treggs, Brennan Scarlett, Maximo Espitia

A nice throwback in Hardy Nickerson, bookended by a name that makes me want to re-watch Russell Crowe take on a despotic Joaquin Phoenix. Continue reading

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‘Running backer’ Myles Jack looks to dodge sophomore slump

When Myles Jack first arrived at UCLA, he could only bench 230 pounds. He’s now up to 355.

Not bad uptick for a “running backer” that had one of the most thrilling two-way debuts college football has seen in years. In a story by the Daily News’ Jill Painter, Jack talks about how he plans to avoid a sophomore slump, and his desire to become the “LeBron James of football.”

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UCLA has seventh-best odds at winning national title

The latest Vegas odds now have UCLA within striking distance of the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Online sportsbook Bovada.lv gave Jim Mora’s team 14-to-1 odds to win the national title, seventh-best in the country and an improvement from the 25-to-1 odds they were given on January 7. Bovada.lv also slotted the UCLA’s over/under for total wins at 9.5.

Ask any Bruin, and he’ll almost certainly take the over.

“We’re not young anymore,” sophomore linebacker Myles Jack told Jay Mohr this week. “My (freshman) class played a lot. … I think with the toughness of the schedule, it’s the perfect season for us to make that run for the national push.”

Here are the current championship odds for some of the other top teams across the country: Continue reading

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Myles Jack leads Bruins on early national awards watch lists

Less than two months stand between now and the start of college football, and the rush of preseason watch lists is starting up.

Unsurprisingly, Myles Jack pops up more than once.

UCLA’s do-it-all linebacker and part-time running back landed on watch lists for both the Paul Horning and Bednarik Awards. Jack was one of five finalists for the former last season, given to the most versatile player in the country.

He is joined on the Bednarik watch list for top defensive player by fellow Bruin linebacker Eric Kendricks.

Quarterback Brett Hundley, whom UCLA is marketing as a Heisman candidate, is on the watch list for the Maxwell Award for player of the year.

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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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Linebackers Myles Jack, Eric Kendricks make Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list

Can UCLA pull off a repeat?

Linebackers Myles Jack and Eric Kendricks were both named to the 42-man watch list for the Lott IMPACT Trophy — which Anthony Barr won last year. Kendricks, a senior, also made last year’s preseason list.

One of the sport’s major national awards, its stated criteria is “to give equal weight to personal character as well as athletic performance from a defensive college player.”

Jack and Kendricks were two of the Pac-12′s 11 nominees. USC, Stanford and Washington each also placed two names on the list.

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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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UCLA post-spring position outlook: Running backs

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 …

Running backs

Last season was the first since 2009 that every UCLA running back finished with fewer than 600 yards. That year, the Bruins finished 7-6 overall and eighth in the Pac-10.

The situations aren’t all that similar, of course. Quarterback Brett Hundley and linebacker Myles Jack both helped buoy the running game through the final five games, combining for 584 of the team’s 1,007 yards and 12 of its 16 touchdowns. The Bruins have options on the ground, even disregarding its stable of running backs.

But those backs. Assuming injuries won’t concentrate on this unit as much as it did in 2013, there are enough bodies for at least a three- or four-man rotation through fall. Continue reading

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Report: Linebacker Myles Jack takes $5 million disability insurance policy

UCLA linebacker Myles Jack has taken out a disability insurance policy of more than $5 million, according to Yahoo! Sports.

That in and of itself is not unusual. Big-time NFL prospects often insure themselves against health-related disasters: USC’s Marqise Lee and South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney both did that last season, and quarterback Brett Hundley said he would too after announcing his return to UCLA in January.

Two factors make Jack’s move different: his age, and the policy’s “loss of value” rider. Continue reading

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