UCLA spring camp position review: Running backs

UCLA running back Nate Starks during football practice at UCLA on April 20, 2015. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

UCLA running back Nate Starks during football practice at UCLA on April 20, 2015. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

UCLA found backfield stability last season in the form of Paul Perkins, who broke out and became the first Bruin to lead the conference in rushing since 2001. As long as he’s healthy, the running game should churn along smoothly.

But what will make UCLA’s next quarterback even happier is the depth behind Perkins. One of the intriguing performances this spring camp came from Nate Starks, who had a promising albeit limited role as a true freshman last season. Starks only had 31 carries for 141 yards and two touchdowns, but those stats don’t accurately show how impressive some of those runs were. He also had his best game when UCLA needed him most, in a 17-7 win over Arizona. Against the Wildcats, Starks had five carries for 41 yards, including a 21-yarder on 3rd-and-11 deep in UCLA territory. He was also the primary back on the Bruins’ first fourth-quarter drive.

Last month, UCLA leaned a little harder on him. Perkins is the clear No. 1 on the roster, but Starks got a healthy share of first-team reps through camp too — and for the most part, proved he deserved them. Continue reading

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UCLA spring camp position review: Offensive line

UCLA's offensive line during spring football practice at Spaulding Field on April 23, 2015. (Andy Holzman/Staff)

UCLA’s offensive line during spring football practice at Spaulding Field on April 23, 2015. (Andy Holzman/Staff)

The improvement of UCLA’s offensive line has been a recurring storyline for more than a year, so you’re allowed some skepticism as you read this: Despite allowing 128 sacks over the last three seasons, this could be one of the team’s strengths.

As usual, the caveat is that the line will need to stay healthy. But unlike the last few years, the unit has the sort of depth that can sustain a certain amount of attrition. Two starters are crucial: left tackle Conor McDermott, and center Jake Brendel. The former has had shoulder problems in the past, but was a game-changing left tackle through the second half of last season. He looked healthy and capable all of spring. Brendel is still the only full-time center UCLA has had in the Jim Mora era, and the one game he missed wasn’t pretty.

Injuries to either one could throw the line completely out of whack. But the other spots? Losing someone for a few games wouldn’t be a death sentence. Continue reading

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Jim Mora: UCLA could use multiple quarterbacks for three games

For a moment, he teetered on the verge of divulging some real information.

Asked today if there’s a timeline on UCLA’s quarterback competition, head coach Jim Mora said: “Well, you know, the sooner the better, once we get to fall camp.”

After insisting for the past few weeks that no one will no the starter until the season-opening kickoff against Virginia, that felt for a moment like a softened stance.

Then he remembered that he was doing a conference call in late April, and that telling anyone whether the Bruins will start Josh Rosen or Jerry Neuheisel or Asiantii Woulard or Mike Fafaul serves the Bruins themselves little purpose.

“But it’s not something that we’re going to push,” Mora continued. “We want it to just happen the way it’s supposed to happen. Heck, we might go three games and not know who our starter is. … We might give each of them a quarter in each game. We don’t know yet.”

Welcome to the offseason.

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UCLA spring camp 2015 roundup

UCLA quarterbacks coach Taylor Mazzone, center, grappling with what he's seeing in the Bruins' Spring Showcase on April 24, 2015. (Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

UCLA quarterbacks coach Taylor Mazzone, center, grappling with what he’s seeing in the Bruins’ Spring Showcase at the Rose Bowl on April 24, 2015.
(Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

In today’s edition of Los Angeles News Group papers, I covered a few of the things we did and didn’t learn about the UCLA football team through 15 spring practices.

If you missed anything else that happened this month, here’s a recap.

» Storylines
Those who know Bill Roth say UCLA couldn’t have gotten a better play-by-play announcer
— UCLA ends spring without naming a starting quarterback, but Josh Rosen looks like the frontrunner
— Spring Showcase gives fans a glimpse at the Bruins’ new faces
— After enrolling early, Josh Rosen is adjusting quickly to life at UCLA
Deon Hollins is aiming to be UCLA’s next great linebacker Continue reading

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