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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Injury report: Left tackle Simon Goines fractured fibula

Left tackle Simon Goines is done for the season after fracturing his right fibula. He had surgery done Sunday morning at around 8 a.m., and will not be able to put weight on it for eight weeks.

He had returned to the starting lineup Saturday night after missing four games with an injured MCL, and his absence again forces three true freshmen onto UCLA’s first-string offensive line. The unit had one of its worst showings of the season against Arizona State, allowing nine sacks. Head coach Jim Mora said that after looking at film, quarterback Brett Hundley would have had a hard time avoiding most of those even with an early throw or run.

USC’s defensive front is just as impressive than the Sun Devils’. The Trojans have 32 sacks on the season to ASU’s 34, and are slightly ahead with 82 tackles for loss to 77.

– Receivers Grayson Mazzone and Darren Andrews will both have surgery for torn knee ligaments. Continue reading

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Injury update: Tailback Jordon James closer to full health


– Running back Jordon James is also expected to play after missing five of UCLA’s last six games. Coach Jim Mora admitted that he should not have let James play against Colorado, a game in which the junior tweaked his ankle after six carries.

“That’s on me,” he said. “He wanted to play, but sometimes the coach’s job is to protect him from himself. … But he’s really been good this week.

“Last week, when he was going to his left and trying to catch a swing pass, he couldn’t put his right foot in the ground and burst off of it. This week, I haven’t seen anything. I haven’t seen him limp, I haven’t seen him favor it at all on any of the cuts.”

Senior Malcolm Jones has also been cleared to play after taking a blow to the head on Friday. Continue reading

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Injury report: Three running backs battling ankle injuries

Here’s the rundown, per UCLA head coach Jim Mora: starter Jordon James is “fine”; senior Damien Thigpen is a game-time decision; reserve back Steve Manfro is out.

All three are battling ankle injuries, and both James and Thigpen entered Wednesday’s no-pads practice with their right ankles wrapped. The Bruins also have Paul Perkins and Malcolm Jones available, though the latter did not carry the ball against Arizona last Saturday.

Of breakout two-way star Myles Jack, Mora said simply: “He’s a linebacker.”

Backup left tackle Conor McDermott has also undergone shoulder surgery, the Los Angeles Times reported. Continue reading

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Injury report: Left tackle Simon Goines to return in reserve role

Left tackle Simon Goines will be available against Arizona in a reserve role this Saturday, UCLA coach Jim Mora said. The sophomore injured his right MCL, and was still limping noticeably as he entered practice without pads Tuesday.

Starting running back Jordon James is also expected to play, practicing in full pads. The junior had missed three full games, and took six carries last Saturday before reaggravating his ankle injury. Continue reading

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Jordon James, Eric Kendricks game-time decisions Saturday

UCLA running back Jordon James and linebacker Eric Kendricks are both game-time decisions against Colorado this Saturday, head coach Jim Mora said.

James has missed three full games since spraining his ankle in a 34-27 win at Utah on Oct. 3. The junior entered that game as the nation’s fifth-leading rusher. Continue reading

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Bruins could stick with three true freshmen on offensive line

Those three true freshmen on UCLA’s offensive line might stay there all season.

Assistant coach Adrian Klemm said Wednesday that if his current front five continues to perform, he could consider sticking with what is now his third starting lineup. Injuries have forced the fluidity: starting left tackle Simon Goines, who has a history of knee problems, is still limping with an injured right MCL; backup Conor McDermott (shoulder) is also sidelined.

“I want to have continuity, but at the same time, I don’t think a guy loses his position to injury,” Klemm said. “If we’re rolling and things are good, we have cohesiveness and we’re playing well, I don’t see any reason to shake it up. Continue reading

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LT Simon Goines, LB Eric Kendricks practice lightly

Wrecked by injuries, UCLA started three true freshmen on its offensive line in a 42-14 loss at Oregon.

Reinforcements are working back. Sophomore Simon Goines (knee) and Conor McDermott (shoulder) both practiced Tuesday, albeit without pads. Goines, who started at right tackle before moving to left, was still limping and had his right knee wrapped.

(Starting left tackle Torian White’s season ended on Oct. 3 when he broke a bone and tore a ligament near his ankle.)

“They develop a sense of urgency to get back,” head coach Jim Mora said. “I feel that with a lot of guys. You look at our injury report and it’s pretty vast. You see a bunch of guys that want to get back out here and do whatever they can, whatever they can.”

Linebacker Eric Kendricks, who played through a back bruise with the help of an anesthetic shot on Saturday, was at practice without pads. Continue reading

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