Kansas St. defensive coordinator Tom Hayes recalls UCLA stint

On a Kansas State staff which has four coaches combining for 89 seasons on campus, Tom Hayes is a relative newcomer. The defensive coordinator is finishing up just his fourth year as a Wildcat.

But it’s not as if the 31-year coaching veteran lacks experience. His winding career includes a nearly decade-long stop at UCLA, back before anyone playing in this year’s Alamo Bowl was born.

“It was different in many ways,” Hayes said. “One thing is I had a lot more hair and it was dark.” Continue reading

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Malcolm Bunche’s UCLA career ends early due to academic issues

UCLA offensive lineman Malcolm Bunche did not travel to San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl due to an academic issue, effectively ending the graduate transfer’s career with the Bruins.

The 6-foot-6, 310-pound lineman transferred from Miami and earned a starting spot to open his lone season in Los Angeles, but was moved from left tackle in favor of Conor McDermott after six games. He started three games at left guard, then was benched entirely when sophomore Alex Redmond returned from a sprained ankle.

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Mora: Alamo Bowl won’t override Brett Hundley’s body of work

UCLA had barely touched down in San Antonio on Sunday afternoon when the NFL draft again reared its head.

Shortly after the Bruins were welcomed at their team hotel by a three-man mariachi band, someone asked a question that will no doubt pop up again this week: Will the Alamo Bowl be quarterback Brett Hundley’s last chance to audition for the pros?

Head coach Jim Mora said emphasized that NFL scouts likely wouldn’t weigh one game more heavily than the 39 others that the third-year starter has played at UCLA.

“You look at the body of work,” Mora said. “Now, you’re also looking for patterns. What gives a guy trouble or where he excels. In that respect, one game can start to predict a pattern. But I think if you’re an instant evaluator, if you go off one game or one throw or one tackle or one quarter, that’s where you run into failings. Continue reading

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Would Alamo Bowl win affect your perception of UCLA’s season?

Given all the hype of a Pac-12 title, of playoff contention, of a #BruinRevolution, there’s really no arguing that this season of UCLA football has been a disappointing one. Much has been written about that already, both here and elsewhere, and none of it has changed much since the regular-season finale.

But, what I’m wondering now is this: Has time passed given you, the fans, a chance to reassess the season as a whole? That is, would a win over No. 11 Kansas State — one that would stand as clearly the best nonconference win of Jim Mora’s tenure — be enough to change your perception of 2014, or at least make you feel like the program is trending upward?

UCLA hasn’t ended a season in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll since its eighth-place finish in 1998. Since then, it has been unranked in 11 of the last 13 final polls. The two exceptions followed the 2005 and 2013 seasons, both of which were capped by Sun Bowl victories and a No. 16 ranking.

The Bruins are currently No. 14 in the AP poll. If they beat the No. 11 Wildcats convincingly, they have a good shot to break the 16-year streak.

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Weekly Q&A — 12/23/14 Answers

Q: Brett Hundley is a great QB, but he didn’t seem to progress substantially from last year to this year. With UCLA starting a new QB next year and with Josh Rosen enrolling early, do you think they need more help in the QB coaching department going forward?

A: Hundley has not developed as much as some people may have hoped through his three years at UCLA, but I still wonder a bit whether that’s due more to the coaching staff or to Hundley’s own shortcomings. There’s no doubting he has all the physical tools and is capable of “wow” moments; he might just need some more time before everything clicks, and if that happens in the NFL, I think it would be an indictment on the Bruins’ staff not being able to do more with him.

But Rosen does give the staff another chance to prove it can mold a new quarterback. I think they deserve a year to show they can.

Q: Pretend like Hundley was coming back next year (I know he’s not). Is there any question that UCLA would start the year ranked in the top five?

A: Under the “Hundley returns” hypothetical, UCLA would have a chance at being a preseason top-five team if it puts a beatdown on Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl — but even then, I wouldn’t put money on it. Voters feel burned after buying into what was supposed to be a playoff contender, and wouldn’t be likely to pick the Bruins that high again for the second year in a row.

Q: Who do you think will be a bigger star next year, Paul Perkins or Jordan Payton? Continue reading

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Linebacker Zach Whitley has not been practicing with UCLA

UCLA linebacker Zach Whitley has not practiced with the team for the last week, but head coach Jim Mora said the true freshman is still on the team.

Mora did not disclose the reason for Whitley’s absence. Earlier this month, the coach refuted reports that he had dismissed the former four-star prospect, rated a top-100 recruit nationally this past spring.

Whitley enrolled at UCLA in January after decommitting from Alabama and performed well in camp, but suffered a concussion in August that may have stunted his development. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound defender played in nine games this season and made one tackle.

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UCLA continues preparation for Kansas State in Alamo Bowl

Here’s a roundup of this weekend’s news from Spaulding Field, where Tyler Keckeisen and Phil Collin filled in while I was still in Chicago for UCLA basketball.

» Star receiver Tyler Lockett isn’t the only part of Kansas State’s offense that concerns UCLA’s defenders.
» The Bruins need to get past last month’s Stanford loss to focus on the Wildcats.

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Jordan Payton confirms he will return to UCLA for senior year

Jordan Payton confirmed on Saturday that he will return to UCLA as a senior next season, ending talk of him potentially declaring for the NFL draft.

“I’m coming back,” Payton told reporters after practice. “There were reports saying that I was leaving or something, but I’m coming back. Didn’t really even think about leaving, to be honest with you.”

Payton was not projected to be a high draft pick, but ranks seventh in the Pac-12 with 896 receiving yards and 10th with seven touchdown catches. A polished wideout who excels at gaining yards after the catch, the junior is responsible for more than a fifth of the Bruins’ receptions this season.

With the Alamo Bowl left to play on Jan. 2, he has a shot to become UCLA’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Nelson Rosario had 1,161 in 2011.

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