NFL draft roundup: Will UCLA produce another first-round pick?

Brett Hundley (17) runs for a touchdown in a 38-20 win over USC, as former Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, right, celebrates at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 22, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Brett Hundley (17) runs for a touchdown in a 38-20 win over USC, as former Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, right, celebrates at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 22, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

One of the lows in recent UCLA football history was the 2012 NFL draft. That was the year that not a single Bruin was picked, becoming a sort of epilogue on the recently expired coaching tenure of Rick Neuheisel. The same drought occurred in the 2009 draft, which followed Neuheisel’s debut season, and in the 1997 draft. Otherwise, the program had produced at least one selection every single year since the draft contracted to seven rounds in 1994.

But in the last two years, UCLA broke out of that 2012 slump in a big way, producing four picks in 2013 and five in 2014. That included a pair of first-round picks in defensive end Datone Jones and linebacker Anthony Barr.

Those nine picks signaled the team’s highest two-year draft total ever in the seven-round era — giving head coach Jim Mora and his staff a nice selling point on the recruiting trail. No longer can the school be depicted as a place that failed to maximize its talent.

This time around, UCLA’s three best prospects are quarterback Brett Hundley, defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, and linebacker Eric Kendricks. None of them are locks for the first round, but all three have at least a chance to be among the first 32 taken. If that happens, it will mark the first time UCLA has produced at least one first-rounder in three straight years since 1994-96 — when Jamir Miller, J.J. Stokes and Jonathan Ogden all became top-10 draft picks.

Defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa

Unsurprisingly, Odighizuwa impressed everyone in Mobile, Ala., during the weigh-in — looking as shredded as usual at 266 pounds and half an inch over 6-foot-3. He also measured out with 11 1/8-inch hands, the largest of any defensive lineman at the Senior Bowl, and a wingspan of nearly 82 inches.

He didn’t disappoint once practices and started either, drawing attention for his first step and fluid hips. Three years ago, Jones was the UCLA defensive end who started generating momentum with a big Senior Bowl showing, eventually becoming the first Bruin selected in the first round since 2006. If Odighizuwa follows up with a strong NFL combine, he could echo that rise. Continue reading

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UCLA’s Anthony Jefferson joins Senior Bowl, Eric Kendricks out

UCLA defensive back Anthony Jefferson stands over Oregon receiver Keanon Lowe after making a tackle at the Rose Bowl during the Bruins' 42-30 loss on Oct. 11, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA defensive back Anthony Jefferson stands over Oregon receiver Keanon Lowe after making a tackle at the Rose Bowl during the Bruins’ 42-30 loss on Oct. 11, 2014.
(Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Quarterback Brett Hundley declined an invitation to the Senior Bowl, but another UCLA player became a late add to the all-star roster: defensive back Anthony Jefferson.

Spending time at both corner and safety, Jefferson made 72 tackles and eight pass breakups this season, ranking third and first for the Bruins, respectively. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound defensive back was one of six UCLA players to make the All-Pac-12 second-team defense.

UCLA’s only other Senior Bowl participant will be defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa. Continue reading

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UCLA 40, Kansas State 35: Jim Mora, Bruins talk after Alamo Bowl

UCLA head coach Jim Mora and the Bruins spoke to the media following a 40-35 win over Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl, one that clinched a second straight 10-win season. During the press conference, Mora grew testy when asked about the team’s inability to close out games — as well as when asked about what appeared to be a handshake snub with K-State coach Bill Snyder.

Also on the podium were quarterback Brett Hundley, linebacker Eric Kendricks, linebacker Myles Jack, defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, and running back Paul Perkins.

Kendricks and Perkins were named Alamo Bowl MVPs on their respective sides of the ball.

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How UCLA’s Owamagbe Odighizuwa studies other athletes

If you missed it yesterday, here’s a link to the story on UCLA defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, who may be the program’s first-ever philosophy major. One tidbit that didn’t make it was how the senior studies other athletes.

Instead of just looking at players who play his position, he likes to examine everyone from tight ends to tackles to quarterbacks — focusing on some of the intangible aspects of how they carry themselves and prepare for games.

“I think schematically, some of those players that are in the NFL don’t do what we’re doing at UCLA,” he said. “Guys like J.J. Watt aren’t really doing what I’m doing. Schematically, they’re two different things. But I like the attitude he brings to the game, his approach and dedication. I like guys like Rob Gronkowski. He likes to have a good time off the field, but when the lights come on, he handles his business. And then you compare it to a guy like Tom Brady, who has a family life. He’s married with kids.

“I like to just get a feel for that. Continue reading

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