UCLA spring camp notes: Myles Jack moves to inside linebacker

UCLA started spring camp today, and while the starting quarterback race is still in its very early stages, but here are some other developments from this morning session.

– Myles Jack will be working a lot at inside linebacker this spring, although head coach Jim Mora said the junior will get reps outside as well. It’s a significant move for the UCLA defense, but not one that’s overly surprising given Jack’s skill set.

For all his talents, the 6-foot-1 linebacker has never been the most dangerous pass rusher. On the other hand, he matches up well in coverage even against some top receivers, and is so versatile moving sideline to sideline. The stats bear this out: he only has one sack in two season, but has 18 pass breakups in that same period.

No other Pac-12 linebacker can match that statistic in that same span. Second place goes to USC’s Hayes Pullard, who had 14.

“It gets him to the middle of the field where we can utilize his speed and things like that,” Mora said of Jack’s move. “If there was a disadvantage — some of the things he does on the outside puts him in man-to-man coverage situations. He’s a little less involved with that when he’s in the middle of the defense.”

Deon Hollins and Aaron Wallace are playing outside now, while sophomore Kenny Young is next to Jack.

Jack was also responsible for one of the session’s most notable plays. During one-on-one drills, he got tangled up with receiver Mossi Johnson on a contested ball. Both came down with at least one hand wrapped around the pass, and essentially wrestled each other for 15-20 seconds before Jack came up with it.

– Other position changes: offensive lineman Colby Cyburt is switching to tight end; offensive guard NaJee Toran is moving to the defensive line; linebacker Dwight Williams is moving to safety.

– Randall Goforth is back in a non-contact red jersey after undergoing surgeries on both shoulders. He’s getting a waiver for 2014 — a season that only saw him play two games — and will be a redshirt junior this upcoming season. Continue reading

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Receiver Devin Lucien decides to transfer out of UCLA

Receiver Devin Lucien has left the UCLA football program, head coach Jim Mora confirmed on Tuesday morning.

“He’s decided to go a different direction,” Mora said. “I thought I knew what that direction was, but as of this morning I don’t know.”

Lucien, who would have been a redshirt senior, is expected to graduate and attempt to transfer. The former Crespi Carmelite standout often impressed during the Bruins’ offseason and preseason camps, but never became a consistent contributor in the receiving corps. Continue reading

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Q&A: March Madness edition — 3/24/15 Answers

Q: What is the over/under on the number of times CBS/Tru/ESPN will reference “Heart….Break….City” between Wednesday and game time?

A: My very scientific analysis puts it at 27.

Q: Snowball’s chance in hell of beating Gonzaga, a team which Mark Few states is the best he has coached?

A: kenpom.com gives UCLA a 23 percent chance of pulling the upset, which feels right to me. I don’t think the Bruins really have an answer for Kyle Wiltjer, though.

Q: Do you lend credence to the sentiment UCLA should not have been selected to participate in this year’s tourney?

A: Talking purely about the quality of basketball the Bruins were playing at the end of the season, I think it’s clear they deserved to be in the field. But there were clear questions about their overall resume — particularly their inability to win on the road — which is why I, like many others, didn’t think they would actually earn a spot come Selection Sunday.

I think UCLA proved it deserved a spot by beating SMU. Goaltending call or not, the Bruins outplayed the Mustangs for most of the game before giving up 19 unanswered points. (Still crazy to look at that number!) Beating UAB isn’t particularly impressive since the Bruins were so much more talented, but you do what you need to get to the Sweet 16.

Q: Playing the “what if” game: What if the goaltending wasn’t called? SMU tips the shot ball by Alford, and Kevon Looney gets the rebound. Continue reading

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UCLA lands linebacker Lokeni Toailoa, athlete Demetric Felton

Signing Day is almost a year away, but UCLA is already pulling in some big-time 2016 recruits.

Four-star inside linebacker Lokeni Toailoa was one of two players who committed to the Bruins on Monday, bringing their total verbal commitments to six. Three of those are ranked top-15 at their position according to both Rivals.com and Scout.com.

Toailoa is rated the second-best inside linebacker in the country by both recruiting services, and is a star at Rialto Carter High — the alma mater of UCLA defensive tackle Kenny Clark. He picked the Bruins over USC.

“It’s a great fit for me and my family,” Toailoa said. “It’s right down the street. … It wasn’t really the coaches. Football coaches come and go, but I could just see myself as a Bruin.”

Linebacker depth was a need following the departure of Butkus Award winner Eric Butkus, and Toailoa joins four-star prospect Khrys Barnes and five-star defensive end/outside linebacker Breland Brandt as the next members of a growing pipeline.

Also announcing for UCLA on Monday was three-star athlete Demetric Felton. The 5-foot-10, 170-pounder from Temecula Great Oak is a top-50 recruit in California, and is expected to play slot receiver for the Bruins.

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