UCLA post-spring position outlook: Special teams

Spring football is done, and over three months still stand between us and the start of UCLA’s third season under Jim Mora — one that comes with national title aspirations and accompanying media glare. This blog has covered the status of each position group moving forward. Last in the series is …

Special teams

Recently, special teams hasn’t been a major concern for UCLA. Over the last two seasons, the team blocked 12 kicks and punts — an FBS total matched only by Rutgers. Last year, it ranked top-20 in both opponent punt and kick returns; in four of the five years prior, the Bruins ranked outside the top 40 in the former and the top 100 in the latter.

A key difference looms heading into this fall: Jeff Ulbrich is no longer the UCLA special teams coordinator.

Promoted the defensive coordinator, Ulbrich will continue coaching inside linebackers but surrenders lead oversight of the unit that helped extend his own professional career. Outside linebackers will be charged to new assistant Mike Tuiasosopo, who also holds the title of special teams coach. Continue reading

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UCLA post-spring position outlook: Secondary

Spring football is done, and over three months still stand between us and the start of UCLA’s third season under Jim Mora — one that comes with national title aspirations and accompanying media glare. This blog will cover the status of each position group moving forward. Next up …

Secondary

UCLA is very familiar with offense-to-defense success. With the last project off to the NFL as a top-ten pick, can the Bruins duplicate that sort of transformation?

Heading into the 2014 season, the best bet on the roster is Fabian Moreau — a former three-star running back who converted to cornerback as soon as he arrived in Los Angeles two years ago. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound soon-to-be junior earned an all-conference honorable mention in just his second year at the position — one in which he started 12 games. Continue reading

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Notes and quotes: UCLA 37, Cal 10

UCLA hardly looked unstoppable in its 37-10 win over Cal Saturday, but it did enough to earn its place as a top-10 team.

Some notes from the night:

– The defense held Cal to a season-low 320 offensive yards. The Bears’ 10 points were the lowest of Sonny Dykes’ (relatively short) head coaching career. If not for some untimely penalties, the Bruins might have kept Cal out of the end zone entirely.

The front seven continued its run as one of the conference’s best, sacking true freshman quarterback Jared Goff three times and coming up with clutch stops. Safety Randall Goforth had an interception, while cornerbacks Ishmael Adams and Fabian Moreau combined for three pass breakups. Continue reading

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UCLA 59, New Mexico State 13: Randall Goforth


Safety Randall Goforth’s six solo tackles tied a career high, matching his output against Nebraska in 2012 in his second game as a true freshman. The sophomore also tacked on a pair of pass breakups and a forced fumble against New Mexico State.

Asked if he thought it was his best game as Bruin, Goforth said: “I don’t know, really. I just go out there and do my job. We schemed for them pretty well this week, so my job was to just go out there and play fast.”

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Fabian Moreau earning praise as converted cornerback

Questions still abound in UCLA’s secondary, a unit that lost all four starters and returns few upperclassmen.

The group does have talent, however, and a starting lineup is nearly solidified: at safety, Anthony Jefferson and Randall Goforth, who have five combined career starts; at corner, Ishmael Adams, who played two games in 2012 before season-ending shoulder surgery.

The most unlikely of the quartet is sophomore Fabian Moreau.

The Florida native had played running back for most of his life. As a senior at Western High, near Ft. Lauderdale, he ran for 889 yards and 11 touchdowns. Tacking an additional seven touchdowns and 416 yards through the air, he was named All-County by both the South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Miami Herald. Continue reading

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Cornerback Priest Willis academically cleared by NCAA

Cornerback Priest Willis has received academic clearance from the NCAA, solidifying UCLA’s inexperienced secondary.

The Bruins heard the news at around 2 p.m., just a few hours before Thursday’s afternoon practice in San Bernardino. Arguably the most highly regarded of UCLA’s four freshman defensive backs, Willis has played well early on and should be a crucial piece of a secondary that returns no starters.

“He stands out,” head coach Jim Mora said. “He absolutely, positively can play corner at this level. He has the quickness. He has the burst. He’s got the length.”

– Safety Dietrich Riley is still working with the team as an undergraduate assistant. The junior had missed all of last season recovering from neck surgery, and took a medical retirement last month.

“I just think it’s important that we offer him that opportunity to see what he wants to do with his life,” Mora said. “For him to be out here with Tahaan (Goodman), with Tyler Foreman and some of those other (freshmen), it’s pretty selfless to me.

“He had big plans in terms of what his football career was gonna look like. It didn’t work out the way he wanted it. Rather than mourn, he’s just OK.” Continue reading

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Safety Randall Goforth trying to become physical presence

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Safety Randall Goforth said he’s up to 193 pounds, having added more muscle since playing at around 175 his first season at UCLA. He also talked about the Bruins’ thin defensive backs corps this spring, embracing a greater leadership role and getting ready to win a national championship.

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Tevin McDonald released for violation of team policy

Safety Tevin McDonald has been released from the UCLA football team for a violation of team policy. The junior was suspended for last year’s Holiday Bowl for reportedly failing a third drug test.

Head coach Jim Mora would not confirm whether this most recent violation was the same was the one that sidelined him for the Bruins’ season finale.

“I’m disappointed for Tevin,” Mora said. “I’ve known him since he was a young boy. Probably met him when he was five. I care about him and I hope that everything turns out well for him. He’s got a great family. He’s got very supportive parents, and I know they’ll find the right avenues for him to have success.” Continue reading

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