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

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

UCLA notes: Graduate transfer Malcolm Bunche moves to starting left tackle

RB Jordon James, right, carries the ball during the UCLA practice at Cal State San Bernardino. Wednesday, August 6, 2014. (Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Daily Bulletin)"

RB Jordon James, right, carries the ball during the UCLA practice at Cal State San Bernardino. Wednesday, August 6, 2014. (Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Daily Bulletin)”

» UCLA might have found its new starting left tackle in graduate transfer Malcolm Bunche. Used mostly at guard through spring and the first two days of training camp, the 6-foot-7 lineman moved to the edge on Wednesday with surprisingly good results.

With starting right tackle Conor McDermott (shoulder) held out for the day, sophomore Caleb Benenoch moved from left to right — vacating a spot for Bunche to shift out. Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm said he may keep that formation moving forward.

You can read more about the Bruins’ offensive line situation here.

» Tahaan Goodman has been able to carry over the momentum he generated in spring. The sophomore safety just missed out on a highlight, one-handed interception. Quarterback Jerry Neuheisel had thrown a high ball over the middle, but Goodman jumped up and twisted back and got his right hand on it. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

UCLA notes: Receiver Mossi Johnson returns to practice after shoulder injury

Safety Tahaan Goodman breaks up a pass intended for receiver Tyler Scott. Tuesday, August 5, 2014. (John Valenzuela/ Daily Bulletin)

Safety Tahaan Goodman breaks up a pass intended for receiver Tyler Scott. Tuesday, August 5, 2014. (John Valenzuela/ Daily Bulletin)

» Mossi Johnson appears to have avoided the worst. After leaving Monday’s practice with a left shoulder injury, he returned on Tuesday to participate in some light individual drills.

Head coach Jim Mora said Johnson — a surprise performer at inside receiver this spring — was diagnosed with a second-degree AC sprain. Johnson will likely be held out of full contact for two weeks, but an earlier return isn’t out of the question either.

In addition to being an obvious physical setback, a serious injury could have dealt a heavy emotional blow to a player that had already grayshirted the 2013 season to rehab multiple torn knee ligaments.

Elsewhere on the injury front, true freshman linebacker Cameron Griffin left Tuesday’s practice with a shoulder injury of uncertain severity. Linebacker Zach Whitley has been somewhat limited the first two days due to cramps.

» Tuesday’s best play can be credited to Myles Jack, who snatched a remarkable interception during one-on-one drills. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

UCLA post-spring position outlook: Secondary

Spring football is done, and over three months still stand between us and the start of UCLA’s third season under Jim Mora — one that comes with national title aspirations and accompanying media glare. This blog will cover the status of each position group moving forward. Next up …

Secondary

UCLA is very familiar with offense-to-defense success. With the last project off to the NFL as a top-ten pick, can the Bruins duplicate that sort of transformation?

Heading into the 2014 season, the best bet on the roster is Fabian Moreau — a former three-star running back who converted to cornerback as soon as he arrived in Los Angeles two years ago. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound soon-to-be junior earned an all-conference honorable mention in just his second year at the position — one in which he started 12 games. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Spring notes: Noel Mazzone talks about Brett Hundley’s progress

– Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone talked more about quarterback Brett Hundley’s development over the past few months. Mazzone said Hundley is familiar enough with the playbook that he sometimes looks away from the sideline after just one hand signal.

– UCLA continues to run a lot of nickel defense, with safety Tahaan Goodman usually coming in as the fifth defensive back. The former four-star recruit played mostly special teams as a true freshman last season, and ended up with 12 tackles and two pass breakups.

When he gets on the field, rising senior Anthony Jefferson slides down to cornerback. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Tahaan Goodman commits to UCLA

Tahaan Goodman, the four-star safety out of Rancho Cucamonga, extinguished most of the surprise at his Wednesday announcement with this setup:

UCLA got its 14th four-star commitment in Goodman, beating out USC and Oklahoma in the final hat selection. He had also been linked to LSU and Texas A&M, but ended up staying close to home, the latest addition to an incredible recruiting push by the Bruins’ coaching staff. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound prospect — ranked California’s fourth-best recruit by Rivals.com — should figure into the defensive backfield rotation immediately, especially given that UCLA graduated three starters from its secondary.

The defending Pac-12 South champions, who also reeled in four-star defensive backs Tyler Foreman and Johnny Johnson over the weekend, now await an announcement from Priest Willis at 6 p.m. Willis, a standout at Marcos de Niza High in Tempe, Ariz., is thought of as a package deal with Goodman — both visited Westwood together this past weekend after Goodman’s plans for a trip to LSU fell through.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Defensive back Priest Willis announcing tomorrow

Elite defensive back Priest Willis will announce his college decision Wednesday at 6 p.m. PT. The press conference will take place at Marcos De Niza High in Tempe, Ariz., with UCLA being the presumptive favorite over LSU. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound prospect is rated a four-star safety by Rivals.com and a five-star cornerback by Scout.com.

Willis was on campus with four-star safety Tahaan Goodman this past weekend, which bodes well for the Bruins’ chance at getting the Rancho Cucamonga prospect too. Goodman originally planned to visit LSU.

UPDATE: Goodman will also announce tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. In less than 24 hours, UCLA’s top-10 class could vault past USC’s on both Scout.com and Rivals.com for the first time since 2002, when the Bruins landed Marcedes Lewis. UCLA is currently No. 9 and 10 on Scout and Rivals, while the Trojans are No. 10 and 7, respectively.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email