Pac-12 Media Days roundup: Bruins and Trojans and Huskies; oh my!

Photo gallery from Day 2 of Pac-12 Media Days (Andy Holzman/Daily News)

The Pac-12 stretched its annual media event across two days for the first time, In case you missed any of it, here’s a roundup of all the coverage that appeared in Los Angeles News Group newspapers.

Day 1
– Columnist Jill Painter, on the “glitz and glamour” of the Pac-12′s coaches and athletes.
– The Pac-12 returns 10 of its starting quarterbacks … leaving defensive backs somewhat forgotten.
– It’s a high-scoring conference, but its member teams find the end zone in different ways.
Steve Sarkisian does not care that his USC team received just one division vote to UCLA’s 37.

Day 2
– He isn’t the biggest UCLA name, but linebacker Eric Kendricks is ready to play.
– How many good quarterbacks does the Pac-12 have? Not one, not two, not three
– Washington suspended quarterback Cyler Miles, the Pac-12 Networks are going international, and other conference notes.

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UCLA notes: Jim Mora warns against stereotyping Brett Hundley as ‘runner’

» Brett Hundley led UCLA with 748 rushing yards last season, but head coach Jim Mora emphasized at Pac-12 Media Days that his quarterback is — first and foremost — a passer.

“I say that about Brett because people have a tendency at times to see an African-American quarterback and say he’s a runner,” Mora said. “And I hate that stereotype. I always have. I coached Mike Vick. I believe we stereotype those guys started with that, and I don’t want that to happen with Brett.

“I’m going to make sure it doesn’t. It shouldn’t. The guy’s a passer, man, but he can run.”

» Mora smiled when asked about the weather in San Bernardino, where UCLA will start training camp on Aug. 4: “I hope it’s hot. I would just like us to be in triple digits. As long as we’re in triple digits, I’ll be happy.”

Unlike last summer, UCLA will not go down to San Diego for a three-day pre-camp session with Navy SEALs. Mora said the experience helped his team later in the season — particularly when it needed to bond together through the death of receiver Nick Pasquale — but didn’t want to dull the impact by repeating it too often.

» What does two-way superstar Myles Jack have in store for his sophomore season? Not even his teammates are sure.

“I’m excited,” said linebacker Eric Kendricks. “I don’t even know what to expect. He put on 15 (pounds) of muscle. He’s gotten so much stronger. He’s been working hard. That’s all you can ask of a guy. He doesn’t let any of this hype, this circle of fame get to his head.” Continue reading

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Quarterback Brett Hundley doesn’t care about ‘big superstar’ status

It’s getting harder and harder for Brett Hundley to walk around unnoticed. This offseason, the redshirt junior has made the rounds the media rounds, been slapped on a budding Heisman campaign, and featured in a sketch video touting him as UCLA’s “Campus Enforcer.”

About par for the course when you turn down NFL riches for one last shot at collegiate glory. Hundley knows the Bruins have been marked as a dark-horse national title candidate. He knows that, lest the team stumbles, the hype is only going to grow with each passing week.

So, what is he thinking?

“I think I feel more confident and relaxed this season,” Hundley said Thursday, shortly before a UCLA official shuttled him off to yet another interview spot.

The Bruins were arguably the biggest attraction at the latter half of Pac-12 Media Days, drawing a crowd even during an impromptu game of cornhole on the Paramount Studios lawn. It helps that Hundley doesn’t seem to care. Continue reading

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Jim Mora: Leaving UCLA would have left Bruins with ‘empty lessons’

Over his first two seasons at UCLA, Jim Mora has fielded overtures everywhere from Washington to Texas to the San Diego Chargers. Each time, he said no, eventually signing an extension through 2019.

During his Pac-12 media scrum on Thursday, he again reiterated his commitment to the Bruins. Acknowledging that he was not the “the most popular hire in the history of college sports,” he said he wanted to reciprocate the trust athletic director Dan Guerrero gave him back in December 2011.

Mora also remarked on — and disapproved of — the way that some college coaches have changed jobs.

“Most importantly, I’m committed to our players,” he said. “We go recruit these kids, go into their homes and talk to their parents and we ask them to commit to us. We see coaches run out on them, and I don’t think that’s right. We sit in our meeting rooms and talk to our kids about being selfless and sacrifice and putting a team first. Then you see coaches when the first opportunity comes up to take off and better their situation, they run and do it and leave these kids behind with these, to me, empty lessons.

“And that’s not who I want to be. I’m saying there until they kick me out. That might be tomorrow, who knows. I’ve been kicked out before. But I’m staying until they kick me out.”

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Austin Roberts, Johnny Johnson out for UCLA’s season with injuries

UCLA freshman receiver Austin Roberts will be out for the season with a torn ACL, head coach Jim Mora confirmed Thursday.

The four-star recruit from Carmel, Ind., had been rated the nation’s 13th-best prospect at his position, and could have contributed to a deep corps of receivers had he not cut wrong on his left knee during seven-on-seven workouts.

“That’s unfortunate, because he was really doing well in the offseason,” Mora said.

Cornerback Johnny Johnson will sit out too, missing his second season in a row after separating his shoulder again and undergoing surgery.

Mora said all the players who were “iffy” in spring are on track to be ready in training camp, which starts on Aug. 4 in San Bernardino. Of primary concern were offensive tackles Simon Goines (knee) and Conor McDermott (shoulder), though Mora said Goines won’t immediately be in the starting lineup.

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Which players have the best names in the Pac-12?

By now, you’ve read many of the lists that have proliferated in college football’s dry summer months. The best 100 players. The freakiest players. The best coaches, best offseasons, best uniforms.

But this? This is the most important of them all. With Pac-12 Media Days — schedule here — kicking off this morning, I have compiled the five best names from each team in the conference.

Without further ado …

Arizona: Sir Thomas Jackson, Antonio Smothers, Tra’Mayne Bondurant, Brogan Kemmerly, Abraham Mendivil

Not great depth here, as the latter two names sacrifice catchiness in favor of length. Still, Sir Thomas Jackson alone is an MVP candidate.

Arizona State: Ezekial Bishop, Demetrius Cherry, Zane Gonzalez, Jaxon Hood, Philip “Scooby” Wright III

Would be better if Scooby’s real first name weren’t Phillip, but otherwise still a solid quintet that lacks a superstar.

Cal: Hardy Nickerson, Avery Sebastian, Bryce Treggs, Brennan Scarlett, Maximo Espitia

A nice throwback in Hardy Nickerson, bookended by a name that makes me want to re-watch Russell Crowe take on a despotic Joaquin Phoenix. Continue reading

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‘Running backer’ Myles Jack looks to dodge sophomore slump

When Myles Jack first arrived at UCLA, he could only bench 230 pounds. He’s now up to 355.

Not bad uptick for a “running backer” that had one of the most thrilling two-way debuts college football has seen in years. In a story by the Daily News’ Jill Painter, Jack talks about how he plans to avoid a sophomore slump, and his desire to become the “LeBron James of football.”

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UCLA has seventh-best odds at winning national title

The latest Vegas odds now have UCLA within striking distance of the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Online sportsbook Bovada.lv gave Jim Mora’s team 14-to-1 odds to win the national title, seventh-best in the country and an improvement from the 25-to-1 odds they were given on January 7. Bovada.lv also slotted the UCLA’s over/under for total wins at 9.5.

Ask any Bruin, and he’ll almost certainly take the over.

“We’re not young anymore,” sophomore linebacker Myles Jack told Jay Mohr this week. “My (freshman) class played a lot. … I think with the toughness of the schedule, it’s the perfect season for us to make that run for the national push.”

Here are the current championship odds for some of the other top teams across the country: Continue reading

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Three-star defensive tackle Bryce English commits to UCLA

UCLA has landed its first defensive line recruit of 2015.

Three-star tackle Bryce English announced his verbal commitment to the Bruins Monday night on Dallas’ Fox 4 station, adding another piece to a young, talented unit. UCLA already enters this upcoming season with seven freshman and sophomore defensive linemen, including star nose tackle Kenny Clark.

Rated the 22nd-best tackle in the country by Rivals.com, the 5-foot-11, 318-pound English was a Class 5A defensive honorable mention and the 7-5A District defensive MVP. He helped DeSoto High to the state semifinal, and was also invited to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

“It’s a great fit for me, defensive-wise,” English said of UCLA during his announcement. “I love the coaches. Coach (Angus) McClure, great D-line coach. I talked it over with my family right after I left UCLA. I just knew from there it was a great fit coming in. Being in Los Angeles, it’s a great city.”

He chose the Bruins over three other hats he had on the table: TCU, Arkansas and Arizona State. He had verbally committed to Texas in March 2013, when Mack Brown was still the Longhorns’ head coach, but decommitted in April.

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Brett Hundley earns spot on Davey O’Brien Award watch list

This award isn’t the focus of his school-run campaign, but UCLA’s Brett Hundley was tapped for another watch list on Wednesday.

The redshirt junior made the 39-man watch list for the Davey O’Brien Award, given each season to the top college quarterback in the country.

Hundley is among the six semifinalists from last year to return on the watch list. He is joined by 2013 winner Jameis Winston (Florida State), Marcus Mariota (Oregon), Sean Mannion (Oregon State), Braxton Miller (Ohio State) and Bryce Petty (Baylor).

Earlier this month, the UCLA star also made the watch list for the Maxwell Award for national college player of the year.

Here are the other Bruins who have landed on various preseason watch lists so far: Continue reading

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