UCLA camp notes: Jerry Neuheisel takes first-team quarterback reps

Josh Rosen (3) and Jerry Neuheisel (11) listen to UCLA quarterbacks coach Taylor Mazzone at Cal State San Bernardino on Aug. 12, 2015. (Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Staff)

Josh Rosen (3) and Jerry Neuheisel (11) listen to UCLA quarterbacks coach Taylor Mazzone at Cal State San Bernardino on Aug. 12, 2015. (Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Staff)

» UCLA still technically has three quarterbacks competing to start, but after three days, it’s clear that Jerry Neuheisel and Josh Rosen are sharing the bulk of meaningful reps. Even when other Bruins have been asked about the race, they’ve usually discussed it purely as a Neuheisel vs. Rosen situation.

Mike Fafaul, who earned a scholarship this summer, got most of his action in seven-on-sevens today.

Neuheisel had his best day yet in training camp, and looks as if he’s taken a couple of steps forward since a relatively uninspiring spring. However, it’s going to take a lot to surpass both what Rosen has shown in practices and the higher ceiling he presents — even if Neuheisel is the one with meaningful game experience.

» A few notes on running backs. Nate Starks looks a bit more explosive than he did even in spring, and is now breaking off long runs at least once per practice.

So far, Bolu Olorunfunmi looks like a guy that could figure into the backfield rotation, though that may not be necessary given the existing depth at tailback. He won’t blow anyone away with highlights right now, but he has enough speed and can lower his shoulder into a defender or two. Continue reading

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UCLA spring camp position reviews: Defensive backs

UCLA Bruins defensive back John Johnson (7) during a NCAA college spring football game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Saturday, April 24, 2015. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

UCLA cornerback Johnny Johnson runs with the ball during the Bruins’ “Spring Showcase” at the Rose Bowl on April 24, 2015.
(Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Like UCLA’s offensive line, the secondary is a unit that has grown significantly during the Jim Mora era. Back in 2012, the Bruins were maligned for their pass defense, one that ranked eighth in the Pac-12. In the last two years, they haven’t ranked lower than fourth.

With every starter returning, there’s plenty of depth in the defensive backfield, one that has emphasized positional versatility to facilitate the use of shifting schemes and to better secure against injuries. This fall, the X-factor will be whether or not any one player makes the leap into becoming a dominant, shutdown corner.

The best candidate is likely still senior Fabian Moreau, who looked fantastic in spring and fall camp last year before a very uneven 2014 season. The former running back was burned repeatedly through the first half of his junior campaign, but eventually found more a rhythm as the year wound to a close. Position coach Demetrice Martin said in April that Moreau often appeared to be in great position for a play, then explicably stopped running all the way through. The Florida native has since made an effort to work on his ball skills and fix that habit. Continue reading

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Demetrice Martin breaks down UCLA’s veteran secondary

UCLA defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin said this week that he’s coaching the deepest secondary he’s ever had in Westwood — one that will also welcome a highly touted freshman this summer in four-star recruit Dechaun Holiday.

Much of that has been due to Martin’s own recruiting efforts, landing multiple four-star prospects every cycle. This year, the Bruins’ top five defensive backs have 80 combined games of starting experience in this system.

The assistant coach broke down a few of his players.

On cornerback Marcus Rios, who put on more than 20 pounds since the end of last season:

“Now he’s feelin’ a lot more cushion for the pushin’. I always joke with him, say he took his legs off and attached them to his shoulders, put his arms on his legs. He’s able to run into guys, feeling real muscular. … He’s fearless, man.”

On cornerback Fabian Moreau, who struggled out of the gates in what was a heavily hyped junior campaign:

“I call him a Cadillac. He’s a such a smooth, powerful guy, where sometimes he feels like he’s in great position, and then it looks like he relaxes. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Safety Randall Goforth on his return from shoulder surgeries

UCLA safety Randall Goforth missed all but two games in 2014 and eventually underwent surgeries on both shoulders. He got that junior season back due to a hardship waiver, but his recovery will keep him in a non-contact red jersey in spring camp.

As someone that’s notched 124 career tackles, Goforth is itching for the day he can deal out another hit.

“It’s a process,” he said, adding that the injuries have “humbled” him. “I’m consciously knowing that I’m staying out of contact, but once in a while, you know — that’s just in my DNA.”

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UCLA spring camp notes: Myles Jack moves to inside linebacker

UCLA started spring camp today, and while the starting quarterback race is still in its very early stages, but here are some other developments from this morning session.

— Myles Jack will be working a lot at inside linebacker this spring, although head coach Jim Mora said the junior will get reps outside as well. It’s a significant move for the UCLA defense, but not one that’s overly surprising given Jack’s skill set.

For all his talents, the 6-foot-1 linebacker has never been the most dangerous pass rusher. On the other hand, he matches up well in coverage even against some top receivers, and is so versatile moving sideline to sideline. The stats bear this out: he only has one sack in two season, but has 18 pass breakups in that same period.

No other Pac-12 linebacker can match that statistic in that same span. Second place goes to USC’s Hayes Pullard, who had 14.

“It gets him to the middle of the field where we can utilize his speed and things like that,” Mora said of Jack’s move. “If there was a disadvantage — some of the things he does on the outside puts him in man-to-man coverage situations. He’s a little less involved with that when he’s in the middle of the defense.”

Deon Hollins and Aaron Wallace are playing outside now, while sophomore Kenny Young is next to Jack.

Jack was also responsible for one of the session’s most notable plays. During one-on-one drills, he got tangled up with receiver Mossi Johnson on a contested ball. Both came down with at least one hand wrapped around the pass, and essentially wrestled each other for 15-20 seconds before Jack came up with it.

— Other position changes: offensive lineman Colby Cyburt is switching to tight end; offensive guard NaJee Toran is moving to the defensive line; linebacker Dwight Williams is moving to safety.

— Randall Goforth is back in a non-contact red jersey after undergoing surgeries on both shoulders. He’s getting a waiver for 2014 — a season that only saw him play two games — and will be a redshirt junior this upcoming season. Continue reading

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