VIDEO: Jim Mora talks about UCLA’s approach vs. Cal offense

UCLA head coach Jim Mora talked on Thursday about the keys to stopping Cal’s explosive offense, and also touched on the state of the Bruins’ offensive line: offensive tackle Simon Goines, who has yet to play this season after undergoing ankle surgery in August, had “a good week of practice”; offensive guard Alex Redmond remains a gametime decision with a sprained ankle.

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VIDEO: Jim Mora updates status of injured UCLA offensive linemen

Head coach Jim Mora said that center Jake Brendel (knee) is a gametime decision for UCLA’s home opener against Memphis this Saturday, but hinted that tackle Simon Goines (ankle) might be out for a while longer. He also talked about the maturation of reserve lineman Ben Wysocki, who is a new husband and father.

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UCLA notes: Defensive back Adarius Pickett switches to running back

» In what was a relatively quiet Saturday morning practice for UCLA, the team’s most notable development was a position change: cornerback Adarius Pickett switched to running back.

The true freshman enrolled early at UCLA as one of the country’s top defensive back prospects, rated eighth at his position nationally by Rivals.com and No. 126 overall. But given how deep the Bruin secondary has become over the last two years, there may be a better chance for him to make an impact on special teams and in the offensive backfield.

“I don’t know that he’d get in the rotation at defensive back,” head coach Jim Mora said. “Running back is still a spot where we’re looking for some depth. He seemed like the perfect guy. …

“We’re looking for reasons not to redshirt guys, rather than redshirt them.”

The move isn’t set in stone, but Mora said Pickett took the news well: “He certainly was open to it. His quote to Coach Meat last night was “I’ll leave here the starter” — not in an arrogant type of way, but a determined type of way. He’s excited about it.”

Of course, UCLA’s coaching staff has a good track record with moving players across the line of scrimmage. Anthony Barr turned into a top-ten NFL draft pick after moving from F-back to outside linebacker, and former running back Fabian Moreau looks like a potential pro at cornerback.

» Former starting tackle Simon Goines had surgery on Friday to remove bone spurs from his ankle, the latest in a series of leg injuries for the junior offensive lineman.

However, Mora wasn’t high on the idea of potentially redshirting Goines to get him fully healthy. The coach said he wants him to be mentally prepared to play by the the Bruins’ Sept. 13 game against Texas. Continue reading

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UCLA notes: Three true freshmen not participating in training camp

» A trio of true freshmen were left off UCLA’s training camp roster. Quarterback Aaron Sharp, linebacker Dwight Williams and receiver Jordan Lasley did not practice on Monday, and will not return to the team until Aug. 31, after UCLA’s season opener at Virginia.

“Those three guys did not live up to the standards that we’re looking for through the summer months,” head coach Mora said.

None of the three were expected to contribute immediately.

» Receiver Darren Andrews is officially out for the season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his knee. He will redshirt the upcoming season after initially tearing knee ligaments late last November, ending a season in which he caught four passes for 52 yards.

Cornerback Johnny Johnson is also out for the season after injuring his shoulder for the second year in a row. He had already redshirted the 2013 campaign.

» Promising inside receiver Mossi Johnson injured his left shoulder on Monday, and left the field with a UCLA staffer helping him hold his arm still. Mora said he hoped it was just a mild AC sprain.

Johnson played well in spring camp, and was likely the first receiver off the bench for either Devin Fuller or Thomas Duarte.

» Priest Willis — whom Mora once lauded as a “picture-perfect, beautiful corner” — struggled as a freshman transitioning over from safety. Continue reading

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Five players to watch during UCLA training camp

UCLA football is officially back.

In the Daily News this past weekend, I covered a few of the questions that UCLA answered in spring and will look to answer starting today.

With training camp kicking off at Cal State San Bernardino at 3 p.m., here are five players to watch out for through the next couple of weeks.

Linebacker Kenny Orjioke, Jr., 6-4, 235

Head coach Jim Mora said the prime objective for UCLA’s defense will be replacing the pass-rushing void left by Cassius Marsh and Anthony Barr. The latter’s most natural successor is Orjioke.

Still just 19 years old, the junior has off-the-charts athleticism but hasn’t quite turned that into on-the-field stardom. That started to change this past spring, when he started blowing past blockers on a more regular basis. He’ll be fun to watch if he keeps it up this fall.

Offensive tackle Simon Goines, Jr., 6-7, 330 Continue reading

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