UCLA football, men’s basketball APR scores trending up

Both UCLA football and men’s basketball teams have earned their highest academic progress rates in a decade.

The former scored a four-year APR of 979 for the 2012-13 academic year, second in the Pac-12 behind Stanford. The program’s multi-year score has improved each year since it recorded a 915 in 2004-05.

Basketball was seventh in the conference at 969 — a significant improvement from the 951, 942 and 948 it scored in the three prior academic years.

Head coach Jim Mora earned a $50,000 bonus for having the football team reach an APR of at least 930, and a graduation success rate of more than 56 percent. Steve Alford earned a $10,000 bonus for having the men’s basketball team clear an APR of 925.

To compete in the NCAA postseason, teams must have a minimum four-year APR of 900 or a two-year average of 930. Starting in 2014-15, that bar rises to 930 and 940.

The five UCLA teams that earned perfect single-year APR scores of 1,000 were baseball, women’s cross country, women’s volleyball, women’s water polo and women’s golf — which also scored perfectly on its four-year average. Continue reading

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UCLA post-spring position outlook: Special teams

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 has covered the status of each position group moving forward. Last in the series is …

Special teams

Recently, special teams hasn’t been a major concern for UCLA. Over the last two seasons, the team blocked 12 kicks and punts — an FBS total matched only by Rutgers. Last year, it ranked top-20 in both opponent punt and kick returns; in four of the five years prior, the Bruins ranked outside the top 40 in the former and the top 100 in the latter.

A key difference looms heading into this fall: Jeff Ulbrich is no longer the UCLA special teams coordinator.

Promoted the defensive coordinator, Ulbrich will continue coaching inside linebackers but surrenders lead oversight of the unit that helped extend his own professional career. Outside linebackers will be charged to new assistant Mike Tuiasosopo, who also holds the title of special teams coach. Continue reading

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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

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Jordan Zumwalt goes to Steelers in sixth round as UCLA’s fifth 2014 selection

After sitting through most of Saturday morning, UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt finally got a call from the Pittsburgh Steelers. He became the 192nd overall pick, going in the sixth round of the NFL draft.

The 6-foot-4, 235-pound defender has holes in his game, but caught the eyes of scouts with his fiery playing style. Zumwalt pushed his draft stock up late with a Co-Sun Bowl MVP performance, earning himself an invite to the Senior Bowl. He’ll likely contribute immediately on special teams, with a chance to play himself into the linebacker rotation.

He was the fifth Bruin to be taken in the 2014 NFL draft, following a pair of fourth-round picks in defensive end Cassius Marsh and receiver Shaq Evans. Continue reading

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UCLA’s Cassius Marsh, Shaq Evans picked in fourth round of NFL draft

In the span of eight picks Saturday morning, UCLA doubled its 2014 NFL draft production.

Defensive end Cassius Marsh and receiver Shaq Evans both went in the fourth round, going 108th overall to the Seattle Seahawks and 115th overall to the New York Jets. They were the third and fourth Bruins picked this year, after linebacker Anthony Barr (ninth) and offensive guard Xavier Su’a-Filo (33rd).

Despite racking up 10.5 tackles for loss last season, Marsh is a bit of a tweener at 6-foot-4, 252 pounds — perhaps too small for defensive end and too slow for linebacker at the next level. Still, he is a versatile player who also worked out for teams as a tight end.

Evans led the team with 709 yards and nine touchdowns on 47 catches. He won’t beat anyone flat out with his speed (4.51-second 40-yard dash), but has good enough hands and size at 6-foot-1 to develop into a useful target.

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Offensive lineman Xavier Su’a-Filo goes 33rd overall to Houston Texans

He had to wait a day, but the best offensive lineman in recent UCLA history now knows his professional destination.

Xavier Su’a-Filo became the 33rd overall pick of the NFL draft on Friday, going to the Houston Texans as the first pick of the second round. Although talk of a potential first-round selection didn’t materialize, Su’a-Filo remains the highest-drafted Bruin offensive lineman since Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden, the fourth overall pick in 1996. Continue reading

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UCLA post-spring position outlook: Linebackers

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 …

Linebackers

Myles Jack is already UCLA’s all-everything superstar, and did nothing this spring to suggest that his sophomore effort will far short of the already sky-high expectations. He continued to excel in coverage, and will play behind the ball when the team deploys a nickel formation. After finishing with just one sack last season, he’s also spent extra time focusing on his pass rushing moves.

He won’t practice at running back until the season starts, but that only gives him more time to cement his role as the Bruins’ defensive leader.

The question marks facing the team in its post-Anthony Barr era lie elsewhere. Continue reading

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UCLA post-spring position outlook: Defensive line

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. Over the next week, this blog will cover each of the Bruins’ position groups. Next up …

Defensive line

The star power is there. Just look at Owamagbe Odighizuwa, the former five-star recruit who doesn’t look like he’s missed a step after hip surgeries. Or Eddie Vanderdoes, another five-star defensive end who more than lived up to the billing as a Freshman All-American. Or Kenny Clark, the mammoth nose tackle whom defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich already called one of the team’s best players.

The unit’s only significant loss was defensive end Cassius Marsh, who finished second on the team with 10.5 tackles for loss and even chipped in a two-yard touchdown catch. Tackle Seali’i Epenesa and sack specialist Keenan Graham also graduated, but both saw their roles dwindle to varying degrees toward the end of the season. Continue reading

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UCLA post-spring position outlook: Offensive line

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. Over the next week, this blog will cover each of the Bruins’ position groups. Next up …

Offensive line

UCLA is facing life without left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo, set to become the school’s highest-drafted offensive lineman since Kris Farris went to the Pittsburgh Steelers as a third-round pick in 1999. And yet, the Bruins aren’t in bad shape without the man they voted their offensive MVP, one who earned the conference’s Morris Trophy as well as All-American nods.

No returning lineman is as versatile or mobile as Su’a-Filo, and not having a dynamic pulling guard will likely impact the Bruins’ running game. What should balance out his absence is a unit that is deeper and more experienced that it was a year ago — a continuing reclamation project sparked by 2013′s stud signing class. Continue reading

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UCLA post-spring position outlook: Receivers

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. Over the next week, this blog will cover each of the Bruins’ position groups. Next up …

Receivers

Even after losing No. 1 target Shaq Evans, UCLA won’t lack for targets. Just look at how Evans’ numbers changed from his junior to senior season: he tripled his touchdown total to nine, but dipped from 60 catches and 877 yards to 47 and 709 in 2013. The Bruins ranked 44th in the country in passing yards per game, but no individual was among the top 100 nationally in receiving yards per game.

The diversification of UCLA’s receiving corps continues this fall. Continue reading

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