By the numbers countdown to kickoff: 9 days

Eddie Vanderdoes (47) talks with Kenny Young (42) at practice. Photo by Steve McCrank/Daily Breeze

Eddie Vanderdoes (47) talks with Kenny Young (42) at practice. Photo by Steve McCrank/Daily Breeze

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, which led the team

9 RETURNING STARTERS ON DEFENSE

UCLA sent two big stars on defense to the NFL, but the Bruins are set to reload quickly with nine returning starters.

Eddie Vanderdoes replaces first-round pick Kenny Clark in the starting lineup after a season-ending knee injury last year. Vanderdoes had never missed a game in his college career prior to his injury and made 19 combined starts during his first two years with the Bruins.

Cameron Judge is set to take a starting outside linebacker role opposite Jayon Brown. Judge, a senior, played in 12 games last season and made one start while Myles Jack left school early to prepare for the NFL Draft and recover from a meniscus injury.

Deon Hollins started 12 games last season as an outside linebacker in UCLA’s 3-4 front, but with the team’s switch to a 4-3, defensive end Matt Dickerson worked mostly with the No. 1 unit during training camp. Dickerson played in every game last year and made one start, against Washington State.

The Bruins could have 10 (or possibly 11) upperclassmen starting on defense:

  • Defensive line: Takkarist McKinley (Sr.), Eli Ankou (R-Sr.), Vanderdoes (R-Jr.), Dickerson (Jr.)
  • Linebackers: Brown (Sr.), Kenny Young (Jr.) or Isaako Savaiinaea (Sr.), Judge (Sr.)
  • Defensive backs: Fabian Moreau (Sr.), Randall Goforth (R-Sr.), Jaleel Wadood (Jr.), Marcus Rios (R-Sr.) or Nate Meadors (So.)

The group’s experience is “golden,” Vanderdoes said.

“That’s the biggest asset we have right now,” he continued. “We’ve been through everything. … We’ve experienced big losses, small losses, everything, so I don’t think anything can faze us at this point. We’ve seen it all, we’ve experienced it all. We know what it’s like.”

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VIDEO: Jim Mora, Fabian Moreau, Randall Goforth

Head coach Jim Mora talks about the first week of training camp, the defensive backs and moving on to San Bernardino.


Defensive back Fabian Moreau talks about returning to the field and how badly it hurt to play on his broken foot last year.


Defensive back Randall Goforth talks about having Fabian Moreau back, playing with Jaleel Wadood and how he survives San Bernardino.

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UCLA spring practice standouts

Spring standouts for UCLA include Takkarist McKinley (top left) and Kenny Walker (far right). Photos by Brad Graverson and Thomas R. Cordova, Daily Breeze/Press-Telegram

Spring standouts for UCLA include Takkarist McKinley (top left) and Kenny Walker (far right). Photos by Brad Graverson, Thomas R. Cordova and Michael Owen Baker (Daily Breeze/Press-Telegram)

Spring camp is over and while we wait for the Bruins to resurface in San Bernardino, we’ll get to breaking down what happened over the past month of practice.

First, here are three things we learned and three things we’re left wondering about after 15 practices.

Second, if you missed any coverage from spring, you can find links to all the blog/Daily News stories in the week 4 wrap up.

Now finally, here are some players who stood out during spring and you should look out for when fall camp rolls around:

OFFENSE

Kenny Walker (left) makes a catch during the Spring Showcase on Saturday, April 23. Photo by Michael Owen Baker.

Kenny Walker (left) makes a catch during the Spring Showcase on Saturday, April 23. Photo by Michael Owen Baker.

Receiver Kenny Walker

I distinctly remember my first time watching Walker. It was last year’s season opener in the Rose Bowl when he dropped Josh Rosen’s flawless first-career passing attempt. It was a pretty big let-down.

Walker said he has worked tirelessly to change his perception as a fast receiver who can’t catch, and it showed during spring. He had some of the best plays of the day during the Spring Showcase, including a great over-the-shoulder catch near the sideline during seven-on-sevens. Continue reading

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UCLA defensive backs focused on developing depth during spring

Safety Jaleel Wadood is part of UCLA's deep secondary that was one of the best in the conference in 2015. (MICAH ESCAMILLA — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

Safety Jaleel Wadood is part of UCLA’s deep secondary that was one of the best in the conference in 2015. (MICAH ESCAMILLA — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

Despite losing cornerback Fabian Moreau early in the season due to a lisfranc injury, UCLA had one of the best pass defenses in the conference last year.

The Bruins led the conference in passing yards allowed per game (203.2) and held opposing quarterbacks to a 113.4 passer efficiency rating, which also was tops in the Pac-12. Here’s more on how UCLA stacked up against the other pass defenses in the Pac-12:

It could be much of the same good news for UCLA as every defensive back who started a game last season is returning. Moreau and John Johnson are both coming off injuries and are not expected to participate in any drills during spring practice. While the team waits for its “wounded warriors” to return, defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin said the focus will be on building depth and position flexibility during spring.

Continue reading

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Kenny Clark leads UCLA with All-Pac-12 first team selection

UCLA nose tackle Kenny Clark (97) was the Bruins' lone representative on the All-Pac-12 first team. He also caught at touchdown pass in UCLA's season-opening 34-16 win against Virginia. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA nose tackle Kenny Clark (97) was the Bruins’ lone representative on the All-Pac-12 first team. He also caught at touchdown pass in UCLA’s season-opening 34-16 win against Virginia. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Through most of the season, nose tackle Kenny Clark looked like UCLA’s best player. Pac-12 coaches agreed.

When the All-Pac-12 teams were announced Tuesday, Clark was the Bruins’ sole first-team representative on offense, defense, or special teams. The 6-foot-3, 310-pound junior was second on the team with seven tackles for loss, showed off his development as a pass rusher by notching his first five career sacks.

UCLA placed several more players on the second team. On offense, running back Paul Perkins, center Jake Brendel and left tackle Conor McDermott all earned spots. Linebacker Deon Hollins and defensive backs Randall Goforth and Jaleel Wadood filled in for the defense.

Receiver Jordan Payton, linebacker Aaron Wallace, and cornerback Marcus Rios were honorable mentions.

Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising part of the all-conference selections was Ka’imi Fairbairn settling for being a second-team specialist. The kicker became the Pac-12’s all-time leading scorer this season, hit a school-record 60-yard field goal, and is one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award. Throw in his respectable 20 of 23 conversion rate on field goals, and he seemed like a shoe-in on the first team.

Instead, Pac-12 coaches voted for Aidan Schneider. The Oregon sophomore was slightly more accurate at 20 of 22, but hadn’t attempted a field goal longer than 41 yards. Fairbairn’s three misses have come from 47, 49 and 50 yards.

See the full All-Pac-12 teams below: Continue reading

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