UCLA fullback Nate Iese talks about offensive role

After turning his lone catch last season into a touchdown, UCLA fullback Nate Iese has become a more dangerous offensive weapon.

He still doesn’t touch the ball often, but whenever the 6-foot-3, 250-pound redshirt sophomore does, it’s usually worth watching. Iese has two games with multiple catches, grabbing a pair of passes in the Bruins’ season opener at Virginia and another pair in their 20-17 win against Texas more than a week ago. His first catch of the season went for 17 yards; his fourth was a three-yard touchdown from backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel.

Iese credited that latter play to how wary the Longhorns defense was of UCLA’s jumbo package — one that lines linebacker Myles Jack as a tailback. Jack only has eight carries for 21 yards this season, but when he does come it, it still sucks defenses in towards the line of scrimmage.

“They bite up on the run so much, the back of the end zone is always left open,” Iese said. “We saw that early on in the game.” Continue reading

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UCLA notes: Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone high on UCLA receiver depth

» Despite Devin Lucien being sidelined by a head injury, UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone wasn’t concerned with the state of his receiving corps.

“I don’t look at this like, ‘Hey, these three guys are starters. These three guys are backups,’” he said Wednesday. “I’ve got about six guys out there that are all starters in my eyes. They kind of roll in, do their deal.”

Lucien finished his sophomore season strong, catching for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Bruins’ last five games. Without him lined up at outside, fellow camp standout Eldridge Massington would likely move into the starting lineup.

Junior Logan Sweet, who had three catches last year, also got first-team reps on Wednesday morning. Starting receiver Jordan Payton has practiced mostly at inside receiver the last few days due to other injuries, which helped open up a spot for Sweet.

“He’s really came a long ways from two years ago, when he first got here,” Mazzone said of Sweet. “He really figures into those top four or five guys at the outside for us.”

» Freshman quarterback Aaron Sharp participated in his first full practice after joining the team last night. Given how light the morning session was, however, the lefty didn’t get a chance to show off his arm. Continue reading

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Nate Iese adjusts to hybrid fullback role in UCLA offense


Nate Iese talked yesterday about his adjustment to fullback, a position that’s becoming more involved in UCLA’s offense.

Rather than sticking to “head-on” blocking, Iese will likely be used more as a pass-catcher. The Bruins have yet to find the right spot to fully take advantage of the rising sophomore’s athleticism and 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame, though he did have one touchdown grab last season.

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Jim Mora says to give his UCLA depth chart ‘zero credence’

When he wants to be, Jim Mora is as good an interview subject as any head football coach in the country: candid, witty, opinionated. There’s a reason that his transition from the NFL to college was bridged by a stint in the broadcast studio.

Then there’s the self-admitted “paranoid” side, the part that makes him loath to do anything that he doesn’t deem necessary. Take the tentative depth chart he released Monday night, one that goes four or five players deep at certain positions.

“Here’s how much credence I would put in the depth chart,” Mora said Tuesday afternoon, squeezing his right thumb against his index finger. “None.” Continue reading

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Freshman Thomas Duarte a potential spark to Y-receiver corps


This was last year’s red-zone motto for UCLA: “Put it on the top shelf where the kids can’t get it.”

Easy to do when your target is 6-foot-7. Joseph Fauria led the Bruins with 12 touchdown catches, the most for any tight end in the country. When Brett Hundley needed a safety valve as a first-year starter, he most often looked to the Mackey Award semifinalist.

Entering head coach Jim Mora’s second season, UCLA’s tight ends – better termed as Y-receivers in the Bruins’ fast-paced offense – don’t stick out nearly as much. Seniors Darius Bell and Grayson Mazzone are 5-foot-11 and 5-foot-8, respectively. Nate Iese and Jordan Barrett both measure at least 6-foot-2, but will likely be used more as blockers.

The difference maker could be true freshman Thomas Duarte, a prized 6-foot-3 recruit out of Mater Dei High. Named the Orange County Register’s Player of the Year as well as to the MaxPreps all-state team, his No. 18 jersey was retired in March alongside former USC quarterback Matt Barkley’s. UCLA coaches and teammates already point out Duarte’s wide passing radius and smooth game. Continue reading

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