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 …


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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Spring notes: Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich relishes breaking up scuffles

– Thursday’s practice featured a fight that started, as usual, when a few receivers and defensive backs got in each other’s faces. The main culprits: Jalen Ortiz and Tyler Scott on offense, and Ishmael Adams and Tahaan Goodman on defense.

Head coach Jim Mora stopped practice to admonish the team as a whole. Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich talked a bit about managing player emotions, but actually sort of enjoyed jumping in and pulling players apart.

“It brings me back to my playing days,” he said. “I kind of like it. Maybe too much. The potential of someone hitting me … it was awesome.”

– Ulbrich also said that the experiment of putting Zach Whitley at outside linebacker is over. The four-star early enrollee looks far more comfortable inside, where he has returned since missing Monday’s practice due to a bruise.

“It was a thing where, we thought he could maybe compete outside and that might be the best situation for our defense,” he said. “I don’t think that’s true anymore.” Continue reading

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Spring notes: Linebacker Isaako Savaiinaea leaves practice with injury

– Inside linebacker Isaako Savaiinaea left UCLA’s practice early on Wednesday morning with his left arm in a sling. The severity of his injury is not yet clear, but he did not return to the field.

The Bruins are without both their inside starters from last season, with Jordan Zumwalt training for the NFL draft and Eric Kendricks still recovering from ankle surgery. Savaiinaea started one game last season, and was a candidate to play next to Kendricks this fall. Sophomore Jayon Brown and senior Ryan Hofmeister are also in the rotation.

Still, the team is thinner at outside linebacker, where a stable starter has yet to be found opposite Myles Jack (who actually worked with the inside linebackers during individual drills). Junior Kenny Orjioke is still the favorite to secure that spot, but rising sophomore Deon Hollins and true freshman Zach Whitley are vying for the job too. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Four-star linebacker Zach Whitley enrolls early

One of the top recruits in UCLA’s class was four-star linebacker Zach Whitley, a Houston-area native who originally committed to Alabama. He flipped to the Bruins early last month and enrolled early, getting a head start on preparing for his freshman season.

He took questions from the media on Wednesday …

On deciding to flip from Alabama to UCLA last month:

“It was a lot going into that decision. Me and my dad had a long discussion about what’s best for me as a player and as a student. I just felt more comfortable coming here instead of Alabama.

“It really surprised my school, my teammates. A lot of my teammates, I told them in the past I was considering UCLA. A certain amount of them knew, but not a lot. It was a surprise. A lot of them were upset, and you had a lot that were very happy for me for making my decision. Continue reading

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Four-star linebacker Zach Whitley flips to UCLA

UCLA isn’t just keeping coaches away from blue-blood programs. The same day head coach Jim Mora turned away inquiries from Texas, four-star linebacker Zach Whitley flipped his verbal commitment from

Scout.com’s Brandon Huffman first reported the news. According to Rivals.com’s Edward Lewis, Whitley will enroll in spring alongside Galena Park North Shore teammate Najee Toran, a three-star offensive lineman.

The Houston-area product had committed to the Crimson Tide last May.

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