NFL draft roundup: Will UCLA produce another first-round pick?

Brett Hundley (17) runs for a touchdown in a 38-20 win over USC, as former Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, right, celebrates at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 22, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Brett Hundley (17) runs for a touchdown in a 38-20 win over USC, as former Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, right, celebrates at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 22, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

One of the lows in recent UCLA football history was the 2012 NFL draft. That was the year that not a single Bruin was picked, becoming a sort of epilogue on the recently expired coaching tenure of Rick Neuheisel. The same drought occurred in the 2009 draft, which followed Neuheisel’s debut season, and in the 1997 draft. Otherwise, the program had produced at least one selection every single year since the draft contracted to seven rounds in 1994.

But in the last two years, UCLA broke out of that 2012 slump in a big way, producing four picks in 2013 and five in 2014. That included a pair of first-round picks in defensive end Datone Jones and linebacker Anthony Barr.

Those nine picks signaled the team’s highest two-year draft total ever in the seven-round era — giving head coach Jim Mora and his staff a nice selling point on the recruiting trail. No longer can the school be depicted as a place that failed to maximize its talent.

This time around, UCLA’s three best prospects are quarterback Brett Hundley, defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, and linebacker Eric Kendricks. None of them are locks for the first round, but all three have at least a chance to be among the first 32 taken. If that happens, it will mark the first time UCLA has produced at least one first-rounder in three straight years since 1994-96 — when Jamir Miller, J.J. Stokes and Jonathan Ogden all became top-10 draft picks.

Defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa

Unsurprisingly, Odighizuwa impressed everyone in Mobile, Ala., during the weigh-in — looking as shredded as usual at 266 pounds and half an inch over 6-foot-3. He also measured out with 11 1/8-inch hands, the largest of any defensive lineman at the Senior Bowl, and a wingspan of nearly 82 inches.

He didn’t disappoint once practices and started either, drawing attention for his first step and fluid hips. Three years ago, Jones was the UCLA defensive end who started generating momentum with a big Senior Bowl showing, eventually becoming the first Bruin selected in the first round since 2006. If Odighizuwa follows up with a strong NFL combine, he could echo that rise. Continue reading

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Receiver Ryan Newsome picks UCLA over Texas

Receiver Ryan Newsome has verbally committed to UCLA, giving it a speedy threat that could add another dimension to Bruin offense.

Newsome, rated four stars by Scout.com and three stars by Rivals.com, picked UCLA over Texas — despite holding his announcement ceremony in the gym at Aledo (Texas) High, located west of Dallas and about a three-hour drive from the UT campus. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound prospect ran the 100-meter dash in 10.38 seconds last April, but also has the type of quickness that allows him to make plays in the open field.

He was named the Dallas Star-Telegram‘s Offensive Player of the Year earlier this month, helping Aledo to a state title with 1,073 receiving yards and 12 touchdown catches.

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Linebacker Osa Masina commits to USC over UCLA, Arizona State

Linebacker Osa Masina picked USC in an announcement ceremony Friday morning, leaving UCLA and Arizona State hats on the table at Brighton High, just outside of Salt Lake City.

Rated one of the top three outside linebackers in the country by both Scout.com and Rivals.com, Masina is considered the top recruit in Utah — finishing with 97 tackles, 10 sacks and an interception as a senior.

The Bruins are also awaiting a decision today from receiver Ryan Newsome, who is picking between UCLA and Texas.

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Defensive end Benning Potoa’e picks Washington over UCLA

Defensive end Benning Potoa’e has verbally committed to Washington over UCLA, choosing to stay close to home.

The four-star prospect was regarded as one of the top recruits in his state, and is a product of Lakes High in Lakewood — located an hour or so south of the UW campus. His older brother, Sione, was a former defensive tackle for the Huskies.

Washington has done a better job of landing in-state recruits since hiring Chris Petersen in December 2013. All but three of the top-10 prospects in the 2012 and 2013 recruiting cycles left the state, according to Rivals.com rankings. In 2014, the Huskies secured four commitments from similarly ranked recruits — and beat out UCLA for touted safety Budda Baker.

With Potoa’e, UW now has half of the in-state top-10 in 2015.

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UCLA recruit announcement schedule

UCLA’s recruiting class could change most dramatically on Feb. 4, when top prospects such as tight end Chris Clark and defensive tackle Joseph Wicker are slated to make Signing Day announcements. But there are a few other players scheduled to make their official decisions this week — ones that could provide surprise boosts to the Bruins’ haul.

Benning Potoa’e, DE, 6-4/265, Lakewood (Wash.)
Rating: Four stars, No. 18 position (Scout) … No. 21 (Rivals)
Announcement: 2:15 p.m. PT, Thursday, 1/22
Finalists: UCLA, Washington
Latest: Washington had most of buzz this week, but Huskies coach Chris Petersen reportedly moved his in-home visit from Thursday evening — which would have followed the announcement — to yesterday evening. Continue reading

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Brett Hundley among NFL draft early entries leaving with degree

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley poses for photos during Pac-12 Football Media Day at the Paramount Theater on July 24, 2014. (Andy Holzman/Staff)

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley poses for photos during Pac-12 Football Media Day at the Paramount Theater on July 24, 2014. (Andy Holzman/Staff)

In addition to his many spots in the UCLA record books, quarterback Brett Hundley has joined another small club.

The NFL draft early entry deadline passed last Thursday, and 84 players were declared eligible for selection. Of those, 10 — including Hundley, who majored in sociology — notified the league that they had already graduated.

The others are: Penn State defensive end Deion Barnes, Auburn receiver Sammie Coates, Akron receiver Zach D’Orazio, Louisville defensive back Charles Gaines, Colorado State running back Dee Hart, Kansas receiver Nigel King, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Penn State offensive tackle Donovan Smith, and Appalachian State receiver Tacoi Sumler.

The NFL granted the remaining 74 players special eligibility because they had been out of high school for at least three years. The Pac-12 accounted for 16 of those athletes, a tally that dipped from the 98 that left school early in 2014.

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UCLA’s Anthony Jefferson joins Senior Bowl, Eric Kendricks out

UCLA defensive back Anthony Jefferson stands over Oregon receiver Keanon Lowe after making a tackle at the Rose Bowl during the Bruins' 42-30 loss on Oct. 11, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA defensive back Anthony Jefferson stands over Oregon receiver Keanon Lowe after making a tackle at the Rose Bowl during the Bruins’ 42-30 loss on Oct. 11, 2014.
(Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Quarterback Brett Hundley declined an invitation to the Senior Bowl, but another UCLA player became a late add to the all-star roster: defensive back Anthony Jefferson.

Spending time at both corner and safety, Jefferson made 72 tackles and eight pass breakups this season, ranking third and first for the Bruins, respectively. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound defensive back was one of six UCLA players to make the All-Pac-12 second-team defense.

UCLA’s only other Senior Bowl participant will be defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa. Continue reading

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Tight end Alize Jones flips from UCLA to Notre Dame

Tight end Alize Jones has officially decommitted from UCLA and picked Notre Dame, ending a relationship with the Bruins that had cooled for weeks.

The Las Vegas Bishop Gorman product is rated the second-best tight end in the country by both Scout.com and Rivals.com, with the former granting him five stars to the latter’s four. UCLA has spent its recent recruiting efforts focused on No. 1 tight end Chris Clark, who is regarded as a better blocker than Jones.

Clark — a 6-foot-5, 253-pounder from Avon (Conn.) Old Farms School — decommitted from Michigan in early December, but the Wolverines piqued his interest again by hiring head coach Jim Harbaugh.

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UCLA’s Ellis McCarthy announces early entry into NFL draft

UCLA defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy warms up before the Bruins' 17-7 win against Arizona Wildcats at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 1, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy warms up before the Bruins’ 17-7 win against Arizona Wildcats at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 1, 2014.
(Keith Birmingham/Staff)

In a surprise move, UCLA defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy announced on Tuesday his decision to enter the NFL draft.

The junior, who did not start in any games this season, is the only Bruin to go pro early besides quarterback Brett Hundley — who had announced his own intentions to leave a full year ago.

“After careful consideration and prayer, I’ve decided to forgo my senior year and enter the 2015 NFL Draft,” McCarthy said in a statement he released on Twitter. “This was an extremely difficult decision but it is best for my family and myself. I will always be grateful for the opportunities the Bruin Nation has presented to me academically and athletically.”

A five-star recruit in 2012, McCarthy never fulfilled the hype that accompanied him out of Monrovia (Calif.) High, located less than 10 miles east of the Rose Bowl. Continue reading

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UCLA earns first top-10 finish in Associated Press poll since 1998

For the first time in 16 years, UCLA has finished the season as a top-10 team.

The Bruins earned a No. 10 ranking in the final Associated Press poll, released a few hours after Monday night’s conclusion to the first-ever College Football Playoff. It marks UCLA’s highest year-end placement since its No. 8 ranking following the 1998 season.

That campaign ended in a Rose Bowl loss, and since then, the Bruins have been left out of all but three final AP polls. They finished No. 16 after both the 2005 and 2013 seasons.

You can see the complete final 2014 rankings below: Continue reading

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