UCLA spring camp notes: Steve Manfro to undergo knee procedure

» A few injury notes out of Thursday … Cornerback Ishmael Adams left the field yesterday looking like he’d slightly sprained his ankle, and spent today’s practice on the exercise bike.

Senior running back Steve Manfro is heading back to Westwood to get checked out after being bothered by both his shoulder and his knee. He had surgery on the latter after tearing his ACL in September, and will very likely have a minor procedure to shave off part of the meniscus. He’ll probably be sidelined through San Bernardino, but it’s not considered a serious setback.

» Josh Rosen had all the first-team reps today, and it turned out to be one of his roughest practices as a Bruin. He looked like he was forcing some deep balls in a way he didn’t do too much in spring, throwing one interception and a few others that were nearly picked off.

If he does win the starting job, there’ll definitely be at least one game where mistakes like that snowball; UCLA can only hope that that comes early in the season.

“I think he’s pushing to get better and he has a good grasp of the day,” head coach Jim Mora said. Continue reading

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UCLA plans to redshirt offensive lineman Scott Quessenberry

UCLA is planning to redshirt offensive lineman Scott Quessenberry, who underwent surgeries on both shoulders this offseason.

Quessenberry had started 19 games through his freshman and sophomore seasons, playing guard in all but one of those appearances. Head coach Jim Mora said he was unsure whether or not the former three-star recruit will switch to center when he returns in 2016. Quessenberry started the 2014 season opener against Virginia at center in place of Jake Brendel, who is now a redshirt senior.

Even without Quessenberry, the Bruins return plenty of game experience in the trenches, including Brendel and his 39 career starts. Five other linemen have combined for 73 starts.

Offensive tackles Caleb Benenoch and Simon Goines were also limited by injuries in spring, but project to be ready for at least part of preseason camp at Cal State San Bernardino. Linebacker Kenny Orjioke and running back Steve Manfro are also on track to be healthy this season.

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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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Freshman Nathan Starks could debut soon in UCLA backfield

After junior Steve Manfro tore his ACL on Tuesday, a spot opened up on UCLA’s running back depth chart. Nate Starks might be the most likely candidate to move up when the Bruins’ host Memphis this weekend.

“It’ll be fun to watch him play Saturday night,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said of the 5-11, 205-pound freshman. “A little bit bigger kid for us. Out of our norm. It’ll be fun to hand him the ball.”

Now out for the 2014 season, Manfro collected 107 rushing yards and 113 receiving yards in 2013. He had occupied the No. 3 spot behind senior Jordon James and sophomore Paul Perkins — who rushed for 80 yards against Virginia last Saturday and appears to have clinched a spot as the Bruins’ starter.

Starks hasn’t played yet this season, but was a four-star prospect who was rated the third-best 2014 recruit in Colorado. He is also the only tailback on the Bruins’ roster listed at more than 200 pounds.

“He’s really impressed me,” head coach Jim Mora said a week ago. “The first time we worked on Virginia (preparation) … all of a sudden, it was like, ‘Who are you? Where have you been?’ You’ve seen it out here in practice, when he’s doing service team stuff, working with the offense a little bit. He looks explosive. He looks more confident.”

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UCLA running back Steve Manfro suffers serious knee injury

UPDATE: Steve Manfro suffered a torn ACL.
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UCLA may have lost junior running back Steve Manfro to a serious knee injury. The redshirt junior — who was third on the depth chart behind Paul Perkins and Jordon James — was carted off Spaulding Field on Tuesday afternoon.

“Sometimes, they don’t end up being as serious as they look, but that looked serious to me,” said head coach Jim Mora, adding that it changed the entire mood of practice. Continue reading

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