Myles Jack, Paul Perkins represent UCLA on Walter Camp watch list

UCLA tailback Paul Perkins ran for 1,575 yards to lead the Pac-12 in 2014. He is watch-listed for the Walter Camp, Maxwell and Doak Walker Awards. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA tailback Paul Perkins ran for 1,575 yards to lead the Pac-12 in 2014. The redshirt junior is watch-listed for the Walter Camp, Maxwell and Doak Walker Awards. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Both Myles Jack and Paul Perkins made the watch list for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award.

Representing UCLA among 48 other names, the linebacker and running back head into their junior season as arguably the biggest names on the Bruins’ offense and defense. The former is a versatile defender capable of matching up against wide receivers, while the latter was UCLA’s first conference-leading rusher in nearly 15 years.

Perkins is also on watch lists for the Doak Walker and Maxwell Awards, while Jack is in the running for the Butkus Award, Lombardi Award, Nagurski Trophy, Bednarik Award and Paul Hornung Award.

The Walter Camp watch list also included several other Pac-12 players: Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon and linebacker Scooby Wright III; Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan and linebacker Blake Martinez; USC linebacker Su’a Cravens and quarterback Cody Kessler; Cal quarterback Jared Goff; Oregon running back Royce Freeman; Utah running back Devontae Booker.

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UCLA running back Paul Perkins makes Doak Walker watch list

UCLA’s Paul Perkins, who ran under the radar for much of 2014, will enter the season as a candidate for the Doak Walker Award.

The Bruins’ talented junior was one of 69 names on the watch list to be college football’s top running back. Perkins ran for a conference-best 1,575 yards in 2014, but settled for an All-Pac-12 honorable mention behind four other tailbacks.

No UCLA player has ever won the Doak Walker Award, which was first handed out in 1990. The Bruins’ all-time leading rusher Johnathan Franklin was one of three finalists for the trophy in 2012.

Here are all the Bruins who have appeared on preseason watch lists this month: Continue reading

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UCLA tailback Paul Perkins named to Maxwell Award watch list

UCLA’s Paul Perkins earned a spot this morning on the watch list for the Maxwell Award, a trophy no running back has won in over a decade.

Obviously, this alone does not necessarily predict a tremendous season. There are 80 names populating the preseason watch list, 35 of whom are tailbacks. And as the spread offenses proliferate in college football, passing numbers are rising along with the use of backfield rushing committees.

To figure out the Bruin junior’s chances at the Maxwell, given to the top player in the country since 1937, let’s first look at the last four winners.

Year Name Carries Yards Avg Rush TD Catches Yards Rec. TD
2002 Larry Johnson 271 2087 7.7 20 41 349 3
1999 Ron Dayne 337 2034 6.0 20 1 9 0
1998 Ricky Williams 361 2124 5.9 27 24 262 1
1995 Eddie George 328 1927 5.9 24 47 417 1

Looking at these four seasons, 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground seems like the bare minimum — with only George missing out on the yardage mark. All four players also led teams that won at least nine games, and finished top-15 in either the final Coaches’ poll or the AP poll.

In the last few years, however, even those criteria haven’t been enough. Continue reading

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UCLA spring camp position review: Running backs

UCLA running back Nate Starks during football practice at UCLA on April 20, 2015. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

UCLA running back Nate Starks during football practice at UCLA on April 20, 2015. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

UCLA found backfield stability last season in the form of Paul Perkins, who broke out and became the first Bruin to lead the conference in rushing since 2001. As long as he’s healthy, the running game should churn along smoothly.

But what will make UCLA’s next quarterback even happier is the depth behind Perkins. One of the intriguing performances this spring camp came from Nate Starks, who had a promising albeit limited role as a true freshman last season. Starks only had 31 carries for 141 yards and two touchdowns, but those stats don’t accurately show how impressive some of those runs were. He also had his best game when UCLA needed him most, in a 17-7 win over Arizona. Against the Wildcats, Starks had five carries for 41 yards, including a 21-yarder on 3rd-and-11 deep in UCLA territory. He was also the primary back on the Bruins’ first fourth-quarter drive.

Last month, UCLA leaned a little harder on him. Perkins is the clear No. 1 on the roster, but Starks got a healthy share of first-team reps through camp too — and for the most part, proved he deserved them. Continue reading

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UCLA spring camp notes: Nate Starks looks like No. 2 tailback

— One of UCLA’s biggest questions in the past two offseasons surrounded the running back position, which lost all-time leading rusher Johnathan Franklin after 2012.

Paul Perkins answered that in a big way as a redshirt sophomore, becoming the Pac-12’s leading rusher with 1,575 yards (121.15 per game). His presence, as well as that of an entirely intact offensive line, will certainly make it easier for whichever quarterback ends up replacing Brett Hundley this upcoming season.

But who’s looming behind him? After UCLA’s first spring practice in pads, Nate Starks looks like the clear-cut No. 2 running back. As a true freshman in 2014, the Colorado native was fourth on the team with 141 yards — behind Perkins, Hundley and senior Jordon James. He’s picked up where he left off and appears to be the team’s second-best runner now.

While head coach Jim Mora agreed that Starks currently has the inside track on the backup role, he insisted there is still “great competition there.” One player he said has “flashed” through three practices is Craig Lee, a speedy four-star recruit in 2013 who has yet to play a down for the Bruins. Continue reading

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