Video: Jim Mora, Soso Jamabo, Ishmael Adams, Nate Iese

Head coach Jim Mora talks about the running back competition, playing in College Station and Texas A&M.


Running back Soso Jamabo talks about going back to Texas, competing with the other running backs and working with running backs coach/offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu.


Receiver Ishmael Adams talks about how comfort level at his new position, what his pitch for the No. 1 jersey would be and what the new game jerseys are like.


Tight end Nate Iese talks about refining his catching ability, working with the other tight ends and developing as a blocker.

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By the numbers countdown to kickoff: 10 days

Tight end Nate Iese. (Photo by Micah Escamilla/The Sun, SCNG)

Tight end Nate Iese could be a big factor in how the Bruins plan to replace Thomas Duarte’s red zone production last year. (Photo by Micah Escamilla/The Sun, SCNG)

Countdown the days to UCLA’s season-opener against Texas A&M with key stats facing the Bruins this year.

10 RECEIVING TOUCHDOWNS SCORED BY THOMAS DUARTE LAST YEAR

Thomas Duarte was UCLA’s main red zone target last season as he led the team with 10 receiving touchdowns. The hybrid receiver gave up his final year of eligibility in favor of the NFL, which left a gaping 6-foot-3, 221-pound hole in the UCLA offense.

Other than Duarte, no Bruin caught more than five touchdown passes from quarterback Josh Rosen. Jordan Payton was second on the team with five, followed by three from Devin Fuller. Both are now in the NFL.

Of UCLA’s returning receivers, only Darren Andrews and Kenneth Walker III caught a touchdown pass, each hauling in one last year. Running back Nate Starks also caught one last year.

While the entire receiving corps focuses on finding a replacement for Payton, the UCLA leader in career receptions, the tight ends could also help fill Duarte’s production. Tight end Nate Iese emerged as a receiving threat for the Bruins during training camp and could be a good target for Rosen.

“He’s big, he’s athletic,” Rosen said of Iese. “If you were to create a football player in Madden, I’m pretty sure a lot of his physical attributes would be on there.”

Freshmen Caleb Wilson and Jordan Wilson also impressed during fall camp. At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, Jordan Wilson provides a big target that UCLA hasn’t seen in recent years at tight end, head coach Jim Mora said.

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VIDEO: Kennedy Polamalu, Nate Iese and Ainuu Taua

Offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu talks about his football influences, his vision for the tight end position and the five options he has at running back.


Tight end Nate Iese talks about learning his new position, developing a chemistry with Josh Rosen and playing for Polamalu.


Fullback Ainuu Taua talks about the summer workouts and what working with Cam Griffin is like.

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UCLA fullback Nate Iese’s role expanding early in 2015

UCLA fullback Nate Iese is listed at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds. UNLV cornerback Torry McTyer is 6-foot, 180.

So when the two collided during the second quarter at Sam Boyd Stadium, one of them plowed on through while the other went flying.

Did Iese feel the contact? “Um, no.”

Iese took off out of the flats twice before the end of the frame, going against McTyer for 9- and 15-yard gains. He ended the 37-3 win with 30 yards on three catches, and now has 73 receiving yards on the season. Perennially underused early in his career, the redshirt junior only had 70 yards on 12 catches all of last season — although two went for touchdowns.

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UCLA spring camp notes: Steve Manfro to undergo knee procedure

» A few injury notes out of Thursday … Cornerback Ishmael Adams left the field yesterday looking like he’d slightly sprained his ankle, and spent today’s practice on the exercise bike.

Senior running back Steve Manfro is heading back to Westwood to get checked out after being bothered by both his shoulder and his knee. He had surgery on the latter after tearing his ACL in September, and will very likely have a minor procedure to shave off part of the meniscus. He’ll probably be sidelined through San Bernardino, but it’s not considered a serious setback.

» Josh Rosen had all the first-team reps today, and it turned out to be one of his roughest practices as a Bruin. He looked like he was forcing some deep balls in a way he didn’t do too much in spring, throwing one interception and a few others that were nearly picked off.

If he does win the starting job, there’ll definitely be at least one game where mistakes like that snowball; UCLA can only hope that that comes early in the season.

“I think he’s pushing to get better and he has a good grasp of the day,” head coach Jim Mora said. Continue reading

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