Spring notes: UCLA trending away from 3-4 base defense

– UCLA has run its nickel defense almost exclusively through the last couple of weeks of spring camp, something due partly to injuries but also to a bit of a schematic move away from the team’s 3-4 base.

The Bruins are deep in the secondary after returning all four starters from last season and getting a breakout performance from safety Tahaan Goodman. They are less so at outside linebacker, where the rotation currently consists of Myles Jack, Kenny Orjioke and Deon Hollins. Going into nickel alleviates that problem a bit, and also allows Jack to move behind the ball and flash his excellent pass coverage skills.

“I’m not going to put myself into this 4-2-5 world, or if I’m going to be a 3-4 guy,” defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said. “I’m going to let the players dictate where we go.”

At least one player likes the change.

“I hope we stay that way,” Hollins said. “We initially moved more nickel because we had a lot of injuries, but our nickel’s looking really salty.”

– Outside linebacker Kenny Orjioke looked good during one-on-one drills against running backs this morning. The rising junior defended three straight passes before giving up back-to-back catches to fullback Nate Iese — the latter of which was made over strong coverage by Orjioke. Continue reading

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UCLA has raised $40 million toward new football facility


UCLA announced that it has raised $40 million in cash and pledges toward its new football facility, $10 million short of the original projected cost. The school also released new renderings of the building from ZGF Architects.

Head coach Jim Mora’s recent contract extension stipulated that if construction on the facility does not begin by October 2015, all his potential buyouts would be waived.

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VIDEO: Defensive end Owa Odighizuwa looks forward to UCLA spring game

Head coach Jim Mora is hoping to make UCLA’s “Spring Showcase” this Saturday an actual football game, and defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa might be itching for a real snap more than anyone other Bruin.

The former five-star recruit missed all of last season following two hip surgeries. He’s shaken most of the rust off through three-plus weeks of spring practices, but a truly competitive setting would help too.

“It would help me a lot,” he said. “It would help me from the standpoint of getting my routine that I’ve always done, and getting into the flow of things with my team. I’m excited for it.”

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Report: Linebacker Myles Jack takes $5 million disability insurance policy

UCLA linebacker Myles Jack has taken out a disability insurance policy of more than $5 million, according to Yahoo! Sports.

That in and of itself is not unusual. Big-time NFL prospects often insure themselves against health-related disasters: USC’s Marqise Lee and South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney both did that last season, and quarterback Brett Hundley said he would too after announcing his return to UCLA in January.

Two factors make Jack’s move different: his age, and the policy’s “loss of value” rider. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Linebacker Myles Jack addresses potential future at running back, again

On Monday night, linebacker Myles Jack was asked again about his potential future at running back — a question he’s fended off time and time again since erupting for seven touchdowns in four games last season.

Though running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu hasn’t given up on recruiting him to offense, Jack said his heart remains set on being a full-time linebacker. That is, unless a certain former UCLA star asks him to do both.

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Spring notes: ‘Real’ spring game hinges on health of UCLA offensive line

– With the UCLA in injury-prevention mode, Monday night practice was fairly light and almost entirely non-contact. The Bruins ran some seven-on-seven drills, but otherwise, there wasn’t much competitive work to start the week.

Head coach Jim Mora said he wasn’t sure yet whether or not he would keep the team out of pads for the rest of the week. Schools around the country have already held their spring games, and many of them seem to have played full-on competitions rather than the mixed-drill event UCLA held a year ago. Mora said last week that he hopes for more “actual football” on Saturday at the StubHub Center, but much of that will depend on the team’s health.

“You always want to put on a good show for your fans,” Mora said. “People come out that support your program, I think it’s important that you put on a good show for them. Our primary objective has to be the health of our football team, and I think everyone would understand that.” Continue reading

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