Mike Mayock: UCLA LB Myles Jack looks like a top-10 draft pick

Former UCLA linebacker Myles Jack (30) is trying to be one of the top players taken in the 2016 NFL Draft. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

After missing most of the 2015 season, former UCLA linebacker Myles Jack (30) is trying to become one of the top players taken in the 2016 NFL Draft. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Myles Jack won’t be a full participant in this week’s NFL combine, but that doesn’t mean he’ll last long in the 2016 draft.

According to NFL Networks analyst Mike Mayock, the former UCLA linebacker looks like a top-10 pick — as long as he is medically cleared after tearing his lateral meniscus back in September. Jack recently told ESPN that he will do the bench press and interview with teams in Indianapolis, and expects to be fully cleared for drills early next month.

Expected to be an All-America candidate as a junior this past season, Jack injured his knee after appearing in just three games for the Bruins.

“Even though his season was cut short by injury this year, the tape I watched I saw a different guy this year than in past years,” Mayock said. “He was more physical, more confident in his physicality, able to come down and take on guards, tackles, fullbacks. I saw a guy that was more of a finesse player earlier in his career turn into a true linebacker this year.”

One of nine UCLA players invited to the combine, Jack is unquestionably the program’s top pro prospect. Defensive tackle Kenny Clark is the only other player in the conversation to be a first-round pick.

That Jack proved himself to be a powerful college tailback as well — rushing for 380 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first two seasons — only makes him more attractive to NFL franchises, even if they have no intention to use him on offense.

“The more you can reinforce to yourself that he’s highly athletic and adaptable,” Mayock said, “the more you’re gonna like him.”

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UCLA sends nine players to 2016 NFL Scouting Combine

Linebacker Myles Jack (30) is one of nine former UCLA players who will participate in the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine in late February. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Linebacker Myles Jack (30) is one of nine former UCLA players who will participate in the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine in late February. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Nine former UCLA football players will participate in the NFL Scouting Combine later this month, by far the largest total of Jim Mora’s four-year tenure.

Linebacker Myles Jack, a likely first-round draft pick, leads a group that also includes: defensive tackle Kenny Clark; kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn; running back Paul Perkins; receivers Jordan Payton and Thomas Duarte; and offensive linemen Jake Brendel, Caleb Benenoch and Alex Redmond. Ohio State and Notre Dame are the only college teams with more players set to appear at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, with 14 and 10, respectively.

Defending national champion Alabama will also send nine players to the Feb. 23-29 event.

UCLA had five participants in each of the last two NFL combines, and six in 2013. Only one Bruin, tight end Cory Harkey, was invited to the 2012 combine.

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Rick Neuheisel lashes out at Jim Mora’s criticism of his UCLA teams

Former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel wasn't happy with Jim Mora calling his old Bruin teams "soft." (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel wasn’t happy with Jim Mora calling his old Bruin teams “soft.” (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

On Tuesday, Jim Mora decided to explain the genesis of how he turned around the UCLA football program.

Appearing on The Herd with Colin Cowherd on FOX Sports 1, the Bruins’ current head coach described his first interview with athletic director Dan Guerrero back in December 2011.

“I’m thinking, ‘What do I say here?'” Mora said. “Do I tell him the truth or something like it’s a great school and we can be great? I said, ‘I think you’re soft. I think the football team is soft.’ Dan said, ‘That’s what I think, and we need to toughen it up.'”

This is not an entirely new story. Both Mora, who just completed his fourth season with the Bruins, and several players have told some version of it in the past — usually by describing the program’s culture in broader strokes rather than recalling a specific exchange. This iteration, however, was enough to set off former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel.

On Wednesday, the 55-year-old lashed out at Mora during his own radio show on SiriusXM.

“All he did was go and paint the walls black and wear black on the sideline, and thinks that that’s tough,” Neuheisel said. “I’ve been in the locker room. There’s all sorts of stuff about Sun Tzu, and The Art of War, and pain and all that kind of stuff. He takes the team to Navy SEAL training. Congratulations. I’m glad you had the money to do it. But don’t talk about toughness with my football team. I’ll go to war with anyone.” Continue reading

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UCLA assistant Scott White named Pac-12 Recruiter of the Year

UCLA’s Scott White was named Scout.com’s Pac-12 Recruiter of the Year today, joining two other Bruin assistant coaches who have earned that same honor.

Landing five-star recruit Mique Juarez helped push the linebacker coach and special teams coordinator ahead of competitors such as USC’s Tee Martin, Stanford’s Mike Bloomgren, and Washington’s Jimmy Lake — each of whom were honorable mentions. Juarez was the last of four highly touted linebackers to sign with UCLA, with the team having already announced the arrivals of four-star prospects Breland Brandt, Krys Barnes and Lokeni Toailoa.

White first served as a UCLA graduate assistant in 2011 under Rick Neuheisel, and remained on the staff in various capacities after the Bruins hired Jim Mora as they entered the 2012 season. Mora promoted him from defensive quality control to linebackers coach last February.

“We’ve been able to provide some stability here with the staff,” Mora said Wednesday, when speaking generally about his assistants. “When you promote from within, I think that helps you create that feeling of stability. … Quality promotions from within really help us.”

New UCLA quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo was named the conference’s top recruiter a year ago, when he was at USC, while offensive line coach Adrian Klemm earned the nod in 2013.

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Cathedral defensive end Hunter Echols commits to UCLA

A day after UCLA announced its latest recruiting class, the Bruins added one more prospect to its 2017 haul.

Los Angeles Cathedral defensive lineman Hunter Echols announced his commitment to UCLA on Thursday morning, but added that he will still be taking his visits to other colleges. Scout gives the 6-foot-4, 220-pound recruit a four-star ranking, and considers him the second-best defensive end in California.

The Bruins also have verbal commitments from defensive back Rhedi Short and linebackers Jaquan Henderson and Rahyme Johnson.

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