UCLA: Cassius Marsh

UCLA spring wrap

May, 2, 2014
May 2
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Three things we learned this spring
  1. Raising the (next) Barr: All indications are that Kenny Orjioke probably has the inside track at outside linebacker to replace the departed Anthony Barr. Aaron Wallace (dealing with grade issues) and Deon Hollins are still very much in the mix. Several members of the staff said they were pleased with what they saw from Orjioke -- though it’s worth noting he didn’t play in the spring game for reasons not revealed.
  2. Welcome back, Owa: After missing last season with a hip injury, defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa (aka the scourge of spellcheck), returned with a very strong spring session that included a pair of sacks in the spring game. His return bolsters a pass rush that has to replace Barr and Cassius Marsh.
  3. Back depth: The staff has been very pleased with the progress of running back Jordon James. But they feel equally solid about Paul Perkins, Steven Manfro and redshirt freshman Craig Lee. Combined with the scrambling ability of quarterback Brett Hundley, the Bruins should build upon last year’s average of 196.6 yards per game.
Three questions for the fall
  1. Line-up: While the coaching staff feels pretty good about its offensive line, finding the right replacement for Xavier Su'a-Filo is still paramount. They think they might have it in graduate transfer Malcolm Bunche from Miami. But a couple of starting spots should still be up for grabs when the Bruins return for fall camp.
  2. Backup plan: A lot rests on the legs and arm of Hundley – a Heisman trophy candidate and presumptive top 10 pick in 2015. Whether it’s Jerry Neuheisel or Asiantii Woulard backing him up remains to be seen. Neither were particularly sharp in the spring game, with Neuheisel throwing two interceptions and Woulard completing just 4 of 13 passes.
  3. More D-to-O coming? We know about Myles Jack and the impact he made on offense for the Bruins last season. He didn’t get any carries in the spring, though Jim Mora said they’ll likely have some packages for him. Will we see others? Eddie Vanderdoes? Ishmael Adams? Not that they’ll give it away in the spring, but it will be fun to watch this fall to see how many defensive players see offensive time.
Way-too-early prediction: The Bruins will win the Pac-12 South for the third time in four years. With Hundley at the helm and an experienced defense, the Bruins not only have the fewest question marks among their Southern brethren, but they have plenty of talent to match on both sides of the ball. Staying healthy will be key, as will gaining some early momentum with critical conference games against ASU, Utah and Oregon in the first half of the season.

Myles Jack keeping focus on defense

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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LOS ANGELES – UCLA’s much-ballyhooed dual-threat threat Myles Jack -- the first player in league history to win the Pac-12’s defensive and offensive freshman of the year -- has zero carries this spring.

None. Nada. A 230-pound donut of spring offensive production. And the reason is obvious to the man pulling the strings in Westwood.

“He is a defensive player -- period -- who maybe will have some offensive packages,” stressed UCLA coach Jim Mora. “He hasn’t taken a single offensive snap this spring, nor will he. In training camp, either. He plays defense for us. The important thing is to help us maximize his abilities at linebacker. He’s phenomenal on either side of the ball. But in his mind and the reason he came here is to play linebacker. I’m not going to take that away from him. It would hurt our football team.”

In a whirlwind 2013, Jack went from heralded recruit to starting linebacker to overnight social media/SportsCenter sensation. Six carries, 120 yards and one rushing touchdown later against Arizona, the “Jack of all trades” puns were as viral as the common cold.

[+] EnlargeMyles Jack
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillUCLA's Myles Jack is focusing on defense this spring, but he could have some offensive packages during the fall.
“It was definitely crazy,” Jack said. “My life pretty much changed after that Arizona game. People really knew who I was after that. It was definitely pandemonium in terms of my phone. Guys I hadn’t talked to in a long time were hitting me up. It was wild.”

This spring the UCLA coaching staff has reminded Jack that he is, above all else, a linebacker. They’ve kept him strictly on one side of the ball, but haven’t ruled out that we might see him get some carries when the leaves start to turn. For now, the emphasis is on making him the best linebacker he can be.

And he was pretty good last season, posting the second highest number of tackles in school history for a true freshman with 75. That was enough to earn him second-team All-Pac-12 honors and placement on several freshman All-America teams. He was good, but not great. And he knows it.

Too often last season, Jack would rely on his athleticism rather than trusting in his still-developing technique. He’d guess. When he guessed right, the result would be a tackle for a loss or a highlight play. When he guessed wrong, what could have been a sack turned into a 3-yard gain. He was athletic enough to compensate. But the coaching staff is confident that when he reaches that sweet spot between athleticism and technique, well, look out.

“I’m not even close to where I need to be yet,” Jack said. “In high school I carried the ball and played defensive end. I was in a four-point stance and I’d just run around the other guys. But in the Pac-12, these offensive linemen are big and fast. I need to do a better job with my hands and shedding blocks and reading my keys.”

His collegiate offensive exploits speak for themselves. His 66-yard touchdown run against the Wildcats thrust him into the national spotlight and he ended the season with 267 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. He set a UCLA true freshman record with four rushing touchdowns against Washington, and on the other side of the ball, he led the Bruins with 11 passes defended and added a two interceptions with a pick-six in the bowl win over Virginia Tech.

Mora was quick to note that Jack isn’t the only dual-threat the Bruins have on their roster. Last season defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes rushed for a touchdown and had an 18-yard reception. Linebacker Jordan Zumwalt had a 12-yard catch and defensive lineman Cassius Marsh had a 2-yard touchdown reception.

“If they can help us on either side of the ball, we’re going to continue to use them,” Mora said. “We’re going to continue to use Myles on offense and in packages. We’re going to continue to use Eddie Vanderdoes. We’re going to continue to use Kenny Clark. We’re going to find a guy that can replace Cassius. We’ve got guys like Ishmael Adams that we can play on both sides of the ball. But we have to make sure they are full entrenched at one position before we ask them to branch out. Otherwise you hurt their ability to grow.”

Top 2013 performances: Myles Jack

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3
9:00
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We're looking at some of the top individual performances in the Pac-12 in 2013.

Up next: Dawgs get Jack’d (and Marsh’d)

[+] EnlargeMyles Jack
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsUCLA freshman LB/RB Myles Jack had four rushing touchdowns in a victory over Washington.
Who and against whom: UCLA freshman linebacker/running back Myles Jack took his offensive encore to another level as the Bruins topped the Huskies 41-31 at home.

The numbers: Jack rushed for 59 yards on 13 carries with four touchdowns. On the other side of the ball -- at his "real" position -- he added five tackles and a pass breakup.

A closer look: One week earlier against Arizona, the nation got its first glance at Jack the running back. He carried six times for 120 yards and a touchdown – including a 66-yard score in the win over the Wildcats. A week later, the Huskies couldn’t keep him down (or other UCLA defensive-turned-offensive-players for that matter). Jack opened the scoring with an 8-yard touchdown run. A series later, defensive end Cassius Marsh caught a 2-yard touchdown pass to give the Bruins a 14-0 lead. And we’re going to give Marsh a little extra credit on that catch. Brett Hundley didn’t exactly soft toss it. Jack would add his second and third touchdown runs -- both from 1 yard out -- in the first half as the Bruins held a 27-17 advantage at the break. He added No. 4, a 2-yard run, midway through the third quarter. He became the first UCLA freshman to score four times in a game. The Bruins scored touchdowns on their first four possessions and five of their six scores came from players who are defense first.

Talent drain leaves Pac-12 defenses in flux

January, 20, 2014
Jan 20
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The Pac-12 has seen a flurry of defensive coordinator movement over the last couple of weeks -- starting with the power struggle for former Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox to the recent exoduses of Stanford’s Derek Mason to Vanderbilt as head coach and UCLA’s Lou Spanos to the Tennessee Titans as linebackers coach. Oregon’s promotion of Don Pellum to defensive coordinator to replace Nick Aliotti will also shine a spotlight on the Ducks’ defense in 2014 and beyond.

And then there is, of course, former USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who mysteriously continues to be out of work.

[+] EnlargeKevin Hogan, Scott Crichton
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesOregon State defensive end Scott Crichton is among the Pac-12 defensive stars entering the NFL in 2014.
Look at the top five scoring defenses in the Pac-12 in 2013: Stanford, Oregon, USC, Washington and UCLA, respectively. All five have had defensive coordinators in flux in the young offseason.

That makes for an interesting transition period for the Pac-12. Defenses had closed the gap in recent years with several teams ranking in the top 25 nationally in scoring defense. That in itself is an achievement considering the level of offensive skill players and the diversity of offenses in the conference.

But when you look ahead to 2014, there are a lot of quarterbacks coming back to man the league’s high-powered offenses -- Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Taylor Kelly, Sean Mannion, Connor Halliday, etc. You combine that with a massive talent drain of defensive players graduating or declaring for the NFL, plus all of the shifting within the defensive coaching ranks, and you have to wonder if 2014 is going to be the Year of Offense in the Pac-12.

Consider a few of the defensive standouts leaving: Anthony Barr (UCLA), Will Sutton (ASU), Shayne Skov (Stanford), Dion Bailey (USC), Terrance Mitchell (Oregon), Scott Crichton (Oregon State), Trent Murphy (Stanford), Carl Bradford (ASU), Deone Bucannon (Washington State), Trevor Reilly (Utah). There are a couple dozen others who aren’t mentioned who were high-impact guys like Stanford’s Ben Gardner and Ed Reynolds, Eric Kendricks, Jordan Zumwalt and Cassius Marsh from UCLA and Alden Darby, Osahon Irabor and Robert Nelson from ASU.

In total, 19 of the 25 all-conference defensive players from 2013 will be gone next year -- including 10 of 12 from the first team. Plus about a dozen more that were honorable mention are leaving or graduating. That is a major hit to the defensive talent in the league.

The Pac-12 is rarely appreciated nationally for its defensive prowess, either from a player or coaching perspective. And now three of the best coordinators in the conference are gone, one has moved from Washington to USC and another is looking for a gig.

Pac-12 offenses are going to be loaded in 2014 while the defenses have huge question marks. There is plenty of young talent. Guys like Myles Jack (UCLA), Addison Gillam (Colorado) and Su’a Cravens (USC) have all made names for themselves early in their careers. There are also some very notable returners like Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (Oregon), Henry Anderson (Stanford), Shaq Thompson (Washington) and Hayes Pullard (USC).

But a lot more is gone than is coming back.

That opens the door for all sorts of comparison storylines. Wilcox did an outstanding job re-tooling the defense at Washington. And now Pete Kwiatkowski will be measured against what Wilcox was able to accomplish. Likewise, Pendergast probably should have been USC’s MVP for what he did with the Trojans in one season. Now Wilcox has to take over an outfit that is losing a lot of playmakers to the NFL. No doubt, he’ll be compared to his predecessor. Just as Pellum will be compared to Aliotti, and whoever fills the seats at Stanford and UCLA will be compared to what Mason and Spanos were able to accomplish.

The guard is changing, as it does every year in college football. This year it might be the Pac-12 defenses that take a step back.

Season wrap: UCLA

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
7:30
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The UCLA Bruins weren’t able to advance to the conference championship game for a third straight year, but it was far from a disappointing season.

Struggling with the death of a teammate early in the year, UCLA coach Jim Mora kept his team poised but always compassionate to the situation. They went 2-3 against ranked teams but dominated Virginia Tech in their bowl game. Mora and his key coaches have been locked up, Brett Hundley is coming back for another year and things are definitely looking up in Westwood.

Oh yeah, UCLA is 2-0 against USC under Mora. That in itself is reason for Bruins fans to feel pretty good.

You can read our graded review of UCLA here.

Offensive MVP: Without question, it’s Hundley, who threw for 24 touchdowns (to nine interceptions) and also lead the team in rushing with 748 yards and 11 touchdowns. Not to be forgotten is that he also caught a touchdown. I think he also punted, once. He’s an electric athlete who should get considerable Heisman buzz next season. In fact, UCLA has already kicked off his campaign with a #Hundley4Heisman push.

Defensive MVP: On a team loaded with a lot of good defenders, which way do you go? Is it tackling machine Eric Kendricks and his 106 stops? Jordan Zumwalt and his understated 93 tackles and three forced fumbles? Cassius Marsh and his 10.5 tackles for a loss? All are good options. But every offensive coordinator feared Anthony Barr, who had 20 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks. He also forced five fumbles and recovered four of them.

Best moment: Watching the final 30 minutes of the Nebraska game. When you consider the emotional strain the team had been under, it was hard not to get a little choked up as the Bruins erased a 21-10 halftime deficit en route to a 41-21 victory. Then again, I know UCLA fans also enjoyed the 35-14 win over USC at the Coliseum. The best moment of all, however, might have been this.

Worst moment: Off the field, the answer is obvious. And the Pac-12 blog can’t give Mora & Co. enough credit for the job they did. On the field, you have to look at the failed comeback and subsequent loss at home against Arizona State. The Bruins trailed 35-13 at the half and made a game of it in the 38-33 loss. But the final drive was marred with holding penalties and sacks.

What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 13

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
7:15
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A few storylines to keep an eye on this week in the Pac-12:

  1. North race: Oregon’s road is clear. If they win out, they will be the North Division champs. If they lose either of their final two games, both against conference opponents, Stanford will win the North by virtue of its tiebreaker. That is assuming, of course, Stanford gets by Cal in the Big Game. Stanford’s final game is a nonconference matchup against Notre Dame.
  2. [+] EnlargeKelly
    AP Photo/Rick BowmerTaylor Kelly and Arizona State can win the Pac-12 South with a win at UCLA on Saturday.
    South race: A lot will be decided this weekend when Arizona State travels to UCLA. If ASU wins this game, it will win the South. If UCLA wins and beats USC next week, it will be the South champs for the third straight year. USC is still in the mix, but the Trojans need some help. They need to beat Colorado and UCLA and hope that ASU drops its next two games.
  3. Bowl picture: Eight teams are bowl eligible with three more still in the mix. Washington State can become bowl eligible this weekend with a win over visiting Utah. Utah could still become bowl eligible with a win over Washington State and a win over Colorado in the season finale. Colorado could still become bowl eligible with a win over USC and a win over Utah. Recall that Colorado received a waiver from the NCAA that allows their two FCS victories to count toward bowl eligibility.
  4. Questionable quarterbacks: We’re still waiting to see the status of Washington quarterback Keith Price. The Huskies have kept him on ice this week, though he said he’s confident he’ll play. If he can’t, the Huskies will go with Cyler Miles. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota says his knee is near 100 percent. One quarterback we know for sure isn’t playing is Utah’s Travis Wilson, who learned that his playing career might be over after concussion tests revealed a preexisting condition. The Pac-12 blog wishes him the best as the Utes move forward with Adam Schulz -- a strong-armed former walk-on.
  5. Clutch quarterbacks: The ASU-UCLA game obviously has massive Pac-12 South implications. But it also features two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league in ASU’s Taylor Kelly and UCLA’s Brett Hundley. Remember last year’s game in Tempe? UCLA won in the closing seconds and both quarterbacks led their team on late scoring drives. The Bruins have had to find creative ways to score points. Last week it was LB/RB Myles Jack, who scored three rushing touchdowns, and DE-turned-tight end Cassius Marsh, who snagged a touchdown reception. ASU has had no problems getting production from Marion Grice, who has 20 touchdowns on the season and is closing in on 1,000 yards. Line play will be critical as ASU’s veteran front seven will push a young UCLA offensive line.
  6. Sense of urgency bowl: Both Washington and Oregon State are bowl eligible. But the Huskies are still lacking a quality road win and the Oregon State offense hasn’t been what it was the first half of the season. Washington has dropped all three road conference games this year and four straight dating back to last year’s Apple Cup. Quarterback Sean Mannion has an unfavorable 3-to-7 touchdown to interception ratio in his last two games, though he’s 199 yards shy of the school’s single-season passing mark. Brandin Cooks is now one of five Pac-12 receivers to ever reach 100 receptions in a season. Speaking of school records, Washington running back Bishop Sankey is to break Washington's single-season rushing mark. He has 1,396 yards, and if he keeps up his average of 139.6 yards per game, he'll top Corey Dillon's 1,695 yards in 1996. Both teams need this one to have the semblance of a salvaged season.
  7. Trying to get to a bowl: Aside from the bowl implications, the Cougars will be honoring 19 seniors. The Cougars are yet to win a conference home game this year while Utah is yet to win a conference game on the road. Combine that with Connor Halliday throwing at least one interception in every game and Utah’s inability to intercept the ball (only two on the year) and you have quite the conundrum. Washington State has had 10 or more receivers catch a pass in nine games this year.
  8. In control: The Ducks travel to Arizona this week, where they’ll face a Wildcats team looking to better its bowl situation. Ka'Deem Carey has now gone for at least 100 yards in 13 consecutive games and is second in the country with an average of 150.3. On the other side, Byron Marshall is nine yards shy of reaching 1,000. Assuming he does, that would be seven straight years the Ducks have had a 1,000-yard rusher. And there is the other streak -- Mariota's Pac-12 record of 353 passes without an interception.
  9. A Song of Ice and Fire: Yes, that’s a tip of the hat to my Game of Thrones friends. The Trojans are on fire right now, having won four straight and five of their last six. They are 5-1 since Ed Orgeron was named interim head coach, including a win last week over No. 4 Stanford. But weather conditions are expected to be in the 30s and there is the possibility of snow in Boulder. USC isn’t traditionally a cold-weather team. Colorado is coming off a big home win against Cal and the Buffs still have something to play for in late November. Been a while since we typed that.
  10. Big Game: This is the season finale for Cal, which has a chance to make something of an otherwise depressing season. Of course, to do it, they’ll have to knock off a Cardinal team that probably smells blood after its loss to USC last week. The Bears are more than a 30-point underdog and the Cardinal have to win in the event Oregon drops one of its final two Pac-12 games. The Bears are trying to avoid their first winless conference season since 2001. The Cardinal have forced a turnover in 35 consecutive games.

Penalties finally bite UCLA in loss to Cal

October, 7, 2012
10/07/12
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Penalties have officially become a problem for UCLA.

The Bruins racked up 12 penalties for 99 yards during their 43-17 loss at California on Saturday and now lead the nation in both number of penalties (53) and yards penalized (519).

UCLA has lingered near the tops of those lists for most of the season, but before Saturday it hadn't really been an issue because the Bruins were winning in spite of them. Against Oregon State, UCLA's only other loss, the Bruins had season lows of seven penalties and 56 yard penalized.

But Saturday, penalties became an issue on both sides of the ball, helping to extend California drives and serving to stop UCLA drives on offense. Coach Jim Mora said he knew a reduction in penalties would be needed at Cal and so it was more disappointing that the numbers stayed high.

"It wasn't really a concern to me until (Saturday) night," Mora said. "The reason it became a concern was because we put an emphasis on it."

The Bruins committed two personal fouls, a facemask, an illegal block and three defensive offsides Saturday, and several were critical.

In the third quarter, Cassius Marsh jumped offsides on a third-and-2 play and gave Cal a first down. A sack on the next play set up a second-and-21, but a facemask by Aaron Hester gave Cal another first down. Two plays later, Zach Maynard hit Keenan Allen for a 34-yard touchdown that gave the Golden Bears a 29-14 lead.

With about nine minutes left to play and UCLA trailing 29-17, quarterback Brett Hundley completed a pass to Johnathan Franklin to the California 8-yard line, but a holding call wiped it out. Instead of knocking on the door for a touchdown that would have gotten the Bruins to within five points, they faced a second-and-16.

Two plays later, Cal defensive back Michael Lowe intercepted a Hundley pass and returned it 57 yards to set up the game-sealing score. But it wasn't the timing of the penalties that had Mora as concerned as the nature of them, he said.

"If we have a hold or a facemask, first of all, are we up against a guy that maybe we're overmatched?," Mora said. "If that's not the case then are we not doing things technique-wise to get ourselves in position to avoid the penalty?

"I felt like some of the penalties that we had ... we just weren't using the appropriate technique that we should use to get ourselves in position to not have to hold and not have to grab a facemask or not have to reach out and trip somebody or something like that."

The solution? Better coaching.

"It's just something we've got to continue to stress and we will continue to stress," Mora said.

Video: Jim Mora post-practice Monday

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
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LOS ANGELES - -UCLA coach Jim Mora met with reporters after practice Monday at Spaulding Field and talked about using officials at practice, the weather in Houston -- including the possibility of rain -- the anticipation of the first game and the maturity of defensive lineman Cassius Marsh.






Patrick Larimore has a concussion

August, 7, 2012
8/07/12
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SAN BERNARDINO -- UCLA linebacker Patrick Larimore missed practice Tuesday after suffering a recurrence of concussion symptoms, coach Jim Mora said.

Larimore left practice Monday with what was at first thought to be heat-related illness, but Mora said it was a concussion. Larimore, a senior starting middle linebacker, had a concussion earlier this year and sat out the latter part of spring practice.

"We really have to be careful with that given the fact that he had the concussion at the end of spring," Mora said. "He didn’t come to meetings yesterday, we rested him all day, we’ll re-evaluate him in the morning and see how he is."

Running back Malcolm Jones and receiver Joseph Fauria also did not suit up Tuesday. Jones has a mild groin strain and is expected to return this week. Fauria felt tightness in his hips and is day to day. Linebacker Anthony Barr suffered a hand injury at the end of practice and was going to be examined Tuesday evening and defensive back Randall Goforth was also carted off at the end of practice because of an unknown injury.

Additionally, Cassius Marsh and Jeff Baca left practice because of heat-related symptoms. Tre Hale, Simon Goines, Brett Downey, Dalton Hilliard and Jordan Zumwalt did not practice because of heat-related symptoms from Monday. Kenny Walker, who had an asthma attack Monday, was back on the field Tuesday.

Temps and tempers soar at UCLA camp

August, 7, 2012
8/07/12
8:50
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SAN BERNARDINO -- UCLA started practice an hour and 15 minutes later Tuesday in an effort to avoid the scorching midday temperatures at Cal State San Bernardino and it helped in terms of reducing the number of heat-related injuries.

It didn't, however, stop coach Jim Mora from boiling over.

Mora said he noticed a consistent lack of crispness throughout the session and it came to a head about two thirds of the way through when he loudly scolded the coaching staff, using several choice words in his most animated outburst thus far in camp.

During a water break for the players, Mora huddled his assistants and continued to admonish them, yelling so loudly that he nearly lost his voice at one point.

"I believe that the players are going to raise up to the level that the coaches demand of them and I don’t have much sympathy for people that don’t operate at a high standard all the time," Mora said. "That’s what we’re getting paid and paid well to do, so if we’re not doing it then it’s my responsibility to make sure we’re getting back to it. I just felt like it needed to be addressed."

Another issue that needed to be addressed was how to keep players from overheating. On Monday, when practice began at 2:45 p.m., five players left practice with heat-related symptoms and needed to be iced down and given IVs. Mora changed the practice time to 4 p.m. for Tuesday and only two players suffered heat symptoms.

The scariest was when defensive end Cassius Marsh appeared to faint on the field at the end of a play. Offensive lineman Jeff Baca also wobbled off the field and needed treatment. Mora said the team would again practice 4 p.m. Wednesday as the National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat warning that lasts thorough Friday.

"There’s no doubt this is a tough environment to practice in and I don’t want to discount that, but the bottom line is we have to adjust to it because we have to play in it on August 30th," Mora said, referring to UCLA's season opener at Rice.

(Read full post)

UCLA preseason preview: Defensive line

August, 2, 2012
8/02/12
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With UCLA training camp set to begin Saturday at Cal State San Bernardino, we're taking a preseason look at the roster and breaking down the Bruins position by position.

We went through the offense first, looking at the quarterbacks, offensive line, receivers and running backs. Special teams came next, and then we started on the defense with the defensive backs and then the linebackers. The final group to get the breakdown treatment in the defensive line.

DEPTH CHART AT THE END OF SPRING PRACTICE:
Left Defensive End
Datone Jones (6-4, 275, Sr.) OR
Owamagbe Odighizuwa (6-3, 270, Jr.)
Sam Tai (6-2, 275, Fr.)

Nose Tackle
Brandon Willis (6-2, 280, So.)
Donovan Carter (6-1, 305, Sr.)
Seali’i Epenesa (6-1, 310, Jr.)
Kevin McReynolds (6-2, 300, Fr.)
Brandon Tuliaupupu (6-1, 315, Fr.)

Right Defensive End
Cassius Marsh (6-3, 275, Jr.) OR
Owamagbe Odighizuwa (6-3, 270, Jr.)
Iuta Tepa (6-2, 255, Jr.)
Wesley Flowers (6-5, 254, So.)

PROJECTED OPENING-DAY DEPTH CHART:
Left Defensive End
Datone Jones (6-4, 275, Sr.)
Owamagbe Odighizuwa (6-3, 270, Jr.)
Sam Tai (6-2, 275, Fr.)

Nose Tackle
Brandon Willis (6-2, 280, So.)
Donovan Carter (6-1, 305, Sr.)
Seali’i Epenesa (6-1, 310, Jr.)
Kevin McReynolds (6-2, 300, Fr.)
Brandon Tuliaupupu (6-1, 315, Fr.)

Right Defensive End
Cassius Marsh (6-3, 275, Jr.)
Ellis McCarthy (6-5, 330, Fr.)
Iuta Tepa (6-2, 255, Jr.)

KEY LOSSES:
Nate Chandler, started five games and appeared in 14; Graduated.
Justin Edison, started 12 games at tackle; Graduated.
Damien Holmes, 14-games starter at defensive end; switched to linebacker.
Keenean Graham, key reserve at defensive end; switched to linebacker.

(Read full post)

Cassius Marsh has been named to the watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award given annually to the nation's top defensive end.

Marsh, a 6-foot-3, 275-pound junior out of Oaks Christian High, had 22 tackles in 12 games for the Bruins last season and was second on the team with two sacks. He played 11 games as a freshman and became a starter by the end of the season. He has spent his first two seasons as a defensive tackle but is moving to end this season as the Bruins transition to a 3-4 base defense.

Marsh is one of 40 players on the pre-season watch list. Whitney Mercilus of Illinois, a player UCLA faced in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl last season, won the 2011 award before becoming a first-round draft pick by the Houston Texans. The Hendricks Award winner will be announced Dec. 5.

Five things to watch: UCLA spring scrimmage

May, 4, 2012
5/04/12
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Jim MoraPeter Yoon/ESPNLA.com One thing Jim Mora will be watching Saturday is how his players adapt to a different environment.

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA's spring football practice session will end Saturday with the annual spring scrimmage game at the Rose Bowl. The action begins at 5 p.m.

With a new coaching staff and positional battles across the board, there will be plenty of newness on the field, so here are a few pointers on what to look for during the game:

1. THE QUARTERBACKS
They have been the most-watched players since the beginning of spring practice, so why should the spring finale be any different?

Coach Jim Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone have yet to pick a starter for next season, and you have to figure performance in this scrimmage will be a large portion of each quarterback's grade when it comes to making a call.

Mora would not divulge how the reps would be divided among the quarterbacks, but you have to guess Brett Hundley, Richard Brehaut and Kevin Prince will get the bulk. Prince has been hampered by a sore shoulder over the last two weeks, so he could be limited.

The keys to determining who plays best go beyond who is able to complete passes. The coaches are looking for command of the offense and good decision making as well as play-making ability.

"There are a lot of decisions that need to be made by the quarterback in this offense," Mazzone said. "Before the snap, at the snap, after the snap. You’re looking for how guys make those decisions under fire. And you are looking for a guy who can make those decisions then make the throws that need to be made. And you want a guy who can create plays when there’s no plays there to be made."

2. THE TEMPO
The high-paced offense has been one of the hot topics all spring and the Bruins will put it on full display Saturday. They are running a no-huddle offense with the plays coming in from the sideline and the quarterbacks calling them from behind center.

After each play the offense scrambles to the line and resets to do it all over. This is a far cry from the methodical, clock grinding Pistol offense UCLA ran the last two seasons, so it will be a change for the players to play at this accelerated pace for the first time in game-like conditions.

Also worth noting is whether or not the defense can keep pace. The Bruis struggled mightily last season against high-paced teams such as Houston, Arizona and Oregon. The Bruins defense seemed lost early in the spring,but has come on strong over the last couple of weeks so it will be interesting to see which unit deals best with the high pace.

(Read full post)

Mean ol' Cassius Marsh brings new attitude

May, 3, 2012
5/03/12
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Cassius MarshPeter Yoon for ESPNLA.comCassius Marsh

LOS ANGELES -- It's been an awfully quiet spring for Cassius Marsh, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

It's actually a very good thing in some eyes.

UCLA's spring camp has been littered with a dust-up here, a fracas there as well as skirmishes and a near brawl, but Marsh has not been involved in any.

A year ago, Marsh seemed to be in the middle of all of them. A 6-4, 295-pound defensive lineman with a mean streak, Marsh frequently found himself pushing and shoving after the whistle whenever he was on the field.

This spring? Not a peep. You'd be hard-pressed to find a play this spring in which Marsh didn't stop playing when the whistle blew, let alone find one where he was involved in extracurricular activity. It's the new Cassius Marsh, he said.

"As a man, I recognize that I made a lot of mistakes last year and I’m not willing to make those mistakes again," Marsh said. "I’m trying to develop not only as a player, but also as a man and as a teammate. I need to be a leader for these guys because I’m not a young guy any more. I don’t have that excuse any more."

The lowlight of Marsh's season came at Arizona when Marsh got in the middle of the on-field brawl at Arizona and replays showed him swinging his helmet at Wildcats players. The Pac-12 suspended 10 players for their actions in that benches-clearing brawl, but Marsh drew a two-game suspension--the most severe penalty of all.

Last spring, Marsh foreshadowed that nasty side when he got entangled in a shoving match then slammed his helmet to the ground, stripped off his shoulder pads and made a big production of walking off the field in the middle of practice.

This spring, Marsh's production has come in full uniform. He's among the first to arrive at practice and is regularly first in line for drills. He's leading by example and trying to leave his turbulent past behind.

"I try to just listen and be the best example I can for the rest of these guys," Marsh said. "I’m not going to cause scenes like I might have in the past. It’s football and things will happen and you just have to learn to get over that and not worry about it. After the whistle blows, it’s the next play. Don’t worry about the last one."

Defensive line coach Angus McClure, the only full-time coach remaining on staff from last season, said he has been quite impressed with the new attitude Marsh brought to camp.

"He’s matured quite a bit," McClure said. "He’s quietly become one of our leaders. He’s a real lead by example guy and it's been great to see."

(Read full post)

Five things to watch: California at UCLA

October, 28, 2011
10/28/11
6:49
AM PT
1. BOUNCE BACK EFFECT
UCLA was demoralized in its last game and the Bruins will have sat on that embarrassing 48-12 defeat at Arizona for nine days by the time they take the field against Cal, so the early going in this game will tell a lot about the mindset of the UCLA players. The players say they still have pride and expect to come out with fire and energy that will show their resiliency. But if things don't go well in the first quarter and UCLA comes out flat and uninspired, that will be a bad sign not only for this game, but for the rest of the season. That would be a pretty clear indication that the team has simply given up. UCLA has shown character by following each of its first three losses with victories, but last week's loss will be much more difficult to overcome than the previous three.


CalUCLA2. ANY WARM BODIES?
The Bruins will play without five suspended players for the entire game and will miss a sixth for the first half. Receivers Taylor Embree, Shaquelle Evans, Randall Carroll and Ricky Marvray along with defensive lineman Cassius Marsh will sit out the entire game and offensive lineman Albert Cid is out for the first half because of their roles in a brawl last week against Arizona. The receiver corps is a particular issue because the Nelson Rosario and Josh Smith will be the only receivers with playing experience this season available for the game. Jerry Rice, Jr. is coming off the scout team to fill in and Jerry Johnson is expected to come back from an ankle injury that has kept him out almost a year, but Smith and Rosario will certainly need to stay near the oxygen tanks when they are on the sidelines. Marsh's absence is significant because the defensive line has struggled this season and he has been one of it's better performers.

3. BATTING DOWN THE PASSES
Cal features one of the top receiver tandems in the country with Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones. Allen leads the nation with 129.43 yards receiving per game and Jones averages 85.57. That will put a lot of pressure on the UCLA secondary, with cornerbacks Aaron Hester, Sheldon Price and Andrew Abbott in the thick of that battle. Price is still recovering from a knee injury and tried to play through it last week, but clearly wasn't at full speed. UCLA has struggled against the pass at times this season, giving up 244 yards per game through the air and top-flight receivers such as Juron Criner of Arizona, Marquess Wilson of Washington State, Markus Wheaton of Oregon State and Tyron Carrier of Houston have all had big games against the Bruins. Now they have to face two elite receivers and prevent both from breaking out.

4. RUNNING ON EMPTY
Last year when these teams met, UCLA was on a roll running the ball, having averaged 322.3 yards rushing in the three previous games but California defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast devised a defensive scheme that nullified the Pistol attack and became the blueprint for UCLA opponents the rest of the season. The Bruins gained only 26 yards rushing in that game and averaged only 128 yards on the ground the rest of the season. UCLA has a more diverse offense this year, but will rely heavily on Johnathan Franklin, Derrick Coleman and the run game this week because of the receiver shortage. Cal is No. 27 in the nation against the run this season, so if Pendergast again draws up an effective plan, it could turn into a long day for UCLA.

5. THE HOT SEAT
Keeping an eye on coach Rick Neuheisel may prove a worthwhile endeavor in this game. Publicly, he's handled a difficult week with class and dignity, but you have to wonder what's really brewing under the surface. On game day, he'll be exposed by the heat of the battle. It's doubtful much will change. He's usually pretty animated and emotional on the sideline, but look for subtle differences. Does he appear stressed? Are his players responding to his coaching? Are they listening to him? Is he yelling as much? Also try and steal a glance of the athletic department brass. Athletic director Dan Guerrero and senior associate athletic director Bob Field may give away their thoughts about Neuheisel and the direction of the program with their expressions as the game progresses.

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