UCLA’s Myles Jack makes season debut at running back vs. Memphis

PASADENA >> Myles Jack is a running back again.

The reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year on both sides of the ball played exclusively at linebacker in UCLA’s season opener, but got his first carry at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. He was in on two plays on the Bruins’ first drive against Memphis, gaining one yard on a carry before subbing back out.

Jack had 13 tackles against Virginia in Week 1, and is expected to play offense only in certain packages this season. He rushed for 267 yards and seven touchdowns through four games in November 2013.

Starting running back Paul Perkins opened scoring with a 17-yard touchdown, helping the Bruins to a 13-7 lead over Memphis after one quarter.

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Jim Mora: Center Jake Brendel close to return from sprained knee

After missing his first start at UCLA, center Jake Brendel appears to be day-to-day in his recovery from a sprained knee.

Head coach Jim Mora said Sunday that Brendel was “very, very close” to returning to full action after injuring his MCL three weeks ago in training camp. The Bruins’ offensive line looked awful in Saturday’s 28-20 win at Virginia, and losing their most experienced lineman played a significant role.

Brendel dressed and warmed up at Scott Stadium, but sat on the bench while sophomore Scott Quessenberry took his place. The redshirt junior had started 27 straight games for UCLA over the last two seasons, giving Mora and his staff an anchor in the middle of the line.

“I didn’t realize that, until after the game yesterday, it was the first game since we’ve been here as a staff that Jake hasn’t been our starting center,” Mora said. “He’s a leader. He’s a great communicator. He’s got toughness. He’s got experience.” Continue reading

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VIDEO: Myles Jack talks about UCLA’s season opener at Virginia

After weeks of growing hype, UCLA will finally be able to focus solely on their Aug. 30 season opener at Virginia. Linebacker Myles Jack summed up the team’s attitude succinctly on Monday: “We lose this game, and everybody goes away.”

Jack also talked about linebacker depth, the lack of two-way players nationwide, as well as whether or not he expects to play some running back this weekend.

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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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Myles Jack calls ejection from UCLA’s Monday practice ‘embarrassing’

Myles Jack didn’t realize how just how far his name could carry a story.

On Monday, UCLA head coach Jim Mora tossed his star linebacker from practice at Cal State San Bernardino after the sophomore had an altercation with offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch. Jack slapped Benenoch in the helmet and taunted him, but the incident looked like a run-of-the-mill, mid-training camp tiff.

But given that it involved a player who successfully starred out on both sides of the ball last season, the headlines multiplied quickly.

“The platform that I guess I’m on, I’ve really got to watch out what I say or do,” Jack said Wednesday. 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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UCLA notes: Receiver Mossi Johnson returns to practice after shoulder injury

Safety Tahaan Goodman breaks up a pass intended for receiver Tyler Scott. Tuesday, August 5, 2014. (John Valenzuela/ Daily Bulletin)

Safety Tahaan Goodman breaks up a pass intended for receiver Tyler Scott. Tuesday, August 5, 2014. (John Valenzuela/ Daily Bulletin)

» Mossi Johnson appears to have avoided the worst. After leaving Monday’s practice with a left shoulder injury, he returned on Tuesday to participate in some light individual drills.

Head coach Jim Mora said Johnson — a surprise performer at inside receiver this spring — was diagnosed with a second-degree AC sprain. Johnson will likely be held out of full contact for two weeks, but an earlier return isn’t out of the question either.

In addition to being an obvious physical setback, a serious injury could have dealt a heavy emotional blow to a player that had already grayshirted the 2013 season to rehab multiple torn knee ligaments.

Elsewhere on the injury front, true freshman linebacker Cameron Griffin left Tuesday’s practice with a shoulder injury of uncertain severity. Linebacker Zach Whitley has been somewhat limited the first two days due to cramps.

» Tuesday’s best play can be credited to Myles Jack, who snatched a remarkable interception during one-on-one drills. Continue reading

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Myles Jack finds out that, yes, he did notch a sack as a true freshman

All-everything linebacker Myles Jack is good at a lot of things, but he wants to be a better pass rusher.

“I feel like things have slowed down,” he said. “I understand the angles, what I need to do in certain situations more with a year under my belt. Watching film this offseason, I understand more what I need to do. Hopefully it’s going to transpire this year. That’s really what I’m working on, to get a sack this year. One at least.

“I didn’t get one last year. I was kind of upset about that.”

Didn’t you sneak one sack in at the end of UCLA’s last season?

“Almost did.”

But Myles, you were credited with one in the Sun Bowl. There it is on the box score: In the third quarter, on 2nd-and-12 at the UCLA 30-yard line, you sacked Mark Leal for eight yards.

“Oh, I did? Oh, OK. I’ll take that.”

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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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