UCLA: Dalton Hilliard

Bowl game gives injured players chance to return

December, 21, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Bowl games mean a lot of different things to those who get to participate: A last shot at glory, a last chance to play with graduating seniors, a chance to end the season on a positive note.

For three UCLA Bruins who have played key roles this season, the Holiday Bowl offers the chance to play in one more game and not have their season end on the sidelines.

Receiver Devin Lucien, running back Steven Manfro and safety Dalton Hilliard all have missed games because of injuries and are looking forward to getting back on the field against Baylor on Dec. 27 in San Diego.

"Any time someone comes up to me and tells me we're going to have to sit you out, that scares you," Hilliard said. "You never know when your last play is and you never know when you're going to have a serious injury. Thankfully I was blessed that this wasn't too serious and I'm able to come back out and play with these guys."

Hilliard missed the Pac-12 championship game after suffering a separated shoulder in the regular-season finale against Stanford.

He missed only one game, but he's also the only senior among the three so he's especially thankful to get one more shot at playing with the team. He said he put in a lot of extra work in the training room getting treatment and rehab over the last couple of weeks to ensure he could play in the bowl.

"There was no way I was going to let that first Stanford game be my last game as a Bruin," Hilliard said.

Manfro, a starter for most games this season, sprained his ankle on his first carry Nov. 10 at Washington State and missed the USC game and the two Stanford games. He said he wanted badly to play each game, but that every time he tested his ankle it was clear he wasn't ready. That's no longer the case, he said.

"I feel like it's 100 percent now," he said.

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UCLA-USC rivalry just another game to Mora

November, 15, 2012
Jim MoraStephen Dunn/Getty ImagesJim Mora's previous detachment from the UCLA-USC rivalry seems to be serving him well.

LOS ANGELES -- It turns out, the best man to coach UCLA this week doesn't care much about beating USC.

At least, Jim Mora doesn't care about beating USC any more than he cared about beating Rice or Houston or Arizona State.

Mora will lead his Bruins team on to the field Saturday at the Rose Bowl for the 76th installment in one of the most intense college football rivalries, but he insists on treating it like every other game.

The Pac-12 South Division title, a spot in the conference championship game and hopes for a Rose Bowl invitation hang in the balance, the first time since 1993 that the crosstown showdown carries such winner-take-all ramifications, but Mora refuses to let it become bigger than the Week 5 game -- whomever that was against.

The No. 17 Bruins (8-2, 5-2) have a better record than No. 18 USC (7-3, 5-3), are ranked ahead of the Trojans for the first time since 2001 and can earn some national buzz as a program with a victory Saturday. That's why a guy who has very little invested in the rivalry is the perfect man to coach the Bruins this week.

"It's almost like an unfair advantage," safety Andrew Abbott said. "I feel like he knows about the rivalry, but he never really cared that much about the rivalry. It kind of blocks out all the old history and it gives you a different feel that our coach doesn't care about what's happened in the past, he just knows this year. And that's the mindset that your team takes on."

Mora came to UCLA as the first football coach without a UCLA background -- as a player or coach -- since Red Sanders died just before the 1958 season. Sanders was the guy credited with saying "Beating 'SC is not a matter of life and death, it's more important than that."

Every coach since has adhered to that mantra, and those who don’t beat USC immediately draw the ire of the fan base, soon lose the support of the boosters and eventually end up out of Westwood.

But Mora's outside-the-box hire last December came with a naivety and unfamiliarity with this rivalry. He spent most of his career in the NFL, where rivalries such as this one do not exist. His head coaching stints came with the Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons and it would be a stretch to find a true rival for either of those teams.

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For Bruins, nothing else matters

November, 12, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- For the UCLA Bruins, this is the only game that matters.

All season, UCLA coaches and players have spewed the tired cliche that the next opponent is the only one that counts. This week, you finally believe them.

The Bruins and the USC Trojans will play the next chapter in one of the country’s most heated and storied college football rivalries Saturday at noon in a game that will decide the Pac-12 South champion ... and just how far UCLA has come as a football program.

UCLA is enjoying one of its most successful seasons in the past 15 years and is well on the way to putting years of mediocrity in the rearview mirror. But unless the Bruins can end USC’s run of city domination, nobody will believe UCLA football has turned any kind of corner.

UCLA (No. 17 BCS, No. 17 AP) is ranked ahead of USC (No. 18 BCS, No. 21 AP) in the national polls and BCS standings. The Bruins (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) have a better record than the Trojans (7-3, 5-3) and are a half-game ahead of USC in the conference standings. Even so, until the Bruins can find a way to defeat USC in a game with postseason implications on the line, UCLA will remain the pesky, little, kid brother to the national powerhouse across town.

“It would definitely validate that UCLA is an elite program,” safety Andrew Abbott said. “Where we’re going in the future. Where this team is about to go. Where we’ve been. This would be a big win for us.”

The old saying around UCLA is that for any season to be a success, it has to include a win over USC. If that’s the case, there haven’t been very many successful seasons as of late. USC has won five in a row against UCLA and 12 of the past 13.

Last year, the Bruins had a chance to win the outright Pac-12 South title in their game against USC, and then-coach Rick Neuheisel pointed to that achievement as evidence that UCLA had closed the gap between the schools.

UCLA then flopped in historic fashion with a 50-0 loss that was the largest margin of victory in the rivalry in 81 years. Neuheisel was served walking papers a couple of days later, and UCLA remained a long way from joining the college football elite.

“That’s in the past, but until we change it, until we do something about it, it’s going to be stuck in people’s minds,” safety Dalton Hilliard said. “This is just another opportunity for us to hopefully get that whole debacle out of their minds and hopefully another opportunity for us to prove to ourselves and the nation that we are a different team.”

The players say this is a different team. First-year coach Jim Mora has instilled a new, no-nonsense attitude among the team and a new way of thinking in the locker room. Players are no longer thinking about the results of the game, only the process of executing plays. Each game carries equal importance, and that attitude has put UCLA in a position it has not reached in quite some time.

The Bruins have posted eight regular-season wins for only the second time in 14 seasons and have a legitimate shot at an upper-tier bowl game for the first time since 2005. A win Saturday would keep the Bruins in the picture for their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1998. That’s the kind of thing that would be program-changing.

“It’s a feeling I’ve never felt before,” Abbott said. “The implications of this game. What we can achieve if we can win this game. What it means for UCLA in the future is special.”

The key to reaching those plateaus, of course, is remaining true to the mantra that every game is the same. That will be more difficult this week because the stakes involved will attract a national spotlight on a game that always receives plenty of local attention.

Quarterback Brett Hundley, prepping to take snaps in the UCLA-USC game for the first time, said people started talking to him about this game at the beginning of the year. It’s the game everyone always wants to talk about, he said, and they all want to know if this is finally the year UCLA beats USC.

But Hundley said that every game is important and that the stakes in Saturday’s game would not be nearly as high if the Bruins hadn’t used the one-game-at-a-time mentality to win eight of their 10 games this season.

“I honestly believe there has been a lot riding on every game,” he said. “Every game means something. This game means a lot, but all the other previous games have built up to make it so this game means a lot.”

For the first time in recent memory, Bruins fans have some reason for hope. UCLA has a better 10-game record than USC for the first time since 2001. The Bruins are ranked higher than the Trojans, marking the first time in 12 seasons the teams will meet with UCLA positioned higher in the poll.

Also, the Bruins are playing at home, where even some of the best USC teams over the past decade have struggled. These Bruins, with their record and quality of victories, have shown they are for real, though most are withholding their final verdict until after the USC result is in.

“Whoever wins, that’s all you’re going to hear about all year,” running back Johnathan Franklin said. “That’s when the flags are going to come out, and whoever wins, everyone is going to be wearing their T-shirts. It’s for the city. It’s for bragging rights. It’s for everything.”

That "everything" includes the idea that UCLA is, indeed, a program ready to join the nation’s elite again. To do that, UCLA must defeat USC.

Nothing else matters.

Five things to watch: UCLA vs. Washington State

November, 9, 2012
The UCLA Bruins end the road portion of their regular-season schedule with a difficult trip to Washington State for a 7:30 p.m. game Saturday night that will be televised by ESPN2.

The Bruins (7-2, 4-2 Pac-12) have a four-game win streak over Washington State (2-7, 0-6) and have outscored the Cougars, 141-63, during that stretch. Washington State is currently on a six-game losing streak and has lost three in a row at home. The Bruins are 3-1 on the road this season. Here are five things to watch:

Avoid the trap

Coach Jim Mora says he doesn't believe in trap games, but there is no mistaking that this game is exactly that. The Bruins are riding high after a resounding 66-10 victory over Arizona put them atop the Pac-12 South Division and into the BCS standings for the first time since 2006. Not only that, but the Bruins are now the "it" team in Los Angeles as USC struggles with its image and UCLA is ranked ahead of USC for the first time in a decade. The Bruins play the Trojans next week, so there is always the possibility of getting caught looking ahead and add it all up and you have a possible letdown game coupled with a team possibly looking ahead that is playing on the road against a last-place team. In other words, it's a classic trap game.

Weather the storm

The weather forecast in Pullman, Wash., calls for the game-time temperature to be 23 degrees. It looks as if the Bruins will escape the light snow projected for Friday night, but that is not the kind of cold any UCLA players have experienced over the last couple of seasons. It will be the same weather for both teams, obviously, but for a team coming from 90-degree temperatures earlier this week, it will be a major adjustment. The ball will be harder to throw, catch and hold on to, especially with frozen hands. It could be particularly troubling for quarterback Brett Hundley, who hails from Arizona. Still, the Bruins can at least rely on their ground game if passing proves difficult. As indicated in the next item, that is not a luxury the Cougars have.

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Five things to watch: UCLA at California

October, 5, 2012
The UCLA Bruins (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) will play at California (1-4, 0-2) Saturday at 7 p.m. in a game that will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks. It will be the 83rd meeting between the teams and though UCLA holds a 50-31-1 record in the long-standing rivalry, the Bruins are looking to end a losing streak more than a decade long in Berkeley. Here are a few keys to the game:

1. Pomp and circumstance

California’s Memorial Stadium got a makeover last season and no team in the conference is happier than UCLA to see the old place go. The Bruins have not won there since 1998, a string of six consecutive losses. However, the Golden Bears have conveniently scheduled a ceremony for Saturday during which the stadium will be rededicated to Californians who have lost their lives in war. Cal also will conduct a special card stunt for the fans, and this also happens to be homecoming weekend in Berkeley. Put it all together and this will be by far the most difficult road environment the Bruins have faced all season; they will have to block out all of the distractions in order to succeed.

2. Sack exchange

UCLA’s sack masters, Anthony Barr, Damien Holmes and Datone Jones, could be in for a big day against a California team that has given up 25 sacks, more than any other team in the nation. Barr has six sacks this season, Holmes has four and Jones has two among his team-leading nine tackles for a loss. Holmes had three of his sacks last week after switching to outside linebacker and will again start outside Saturday, so it could be a big day of pass rushing for the Bruins, who are tied for sixth in the nation with 17 sacks.

3. Picking their spots

UCLA enters the game tied for second in the nation with nine interceptions. Sheldon Price is tied for the national lead with four interceptions and Stan McKay has had one in each of the past two games. Cal quarterback Zach Maynard is susceptible to bad passing stretches. He has had five passes intercepted this season and is ninth in the conference and No. 94 in the nation with a 121.82 passer rating. UCLA safety Tevin McDonald will be licking his chops. McDonald had a school-record three interceptions last season against Maynard, who had four passes intercepted in the 31-14 UCLA victory last season.

4. The long run

UCLA enters the game No. 4 in the nation in total offense with 558.4 yards per game and No. 13 in rushing offense with 243.4. That bodes well for Johnathan Franklin and the UCLA rushing attack, which will go up against a California defense that is giving up 174.8 yards per game on the ground to rank last in the Pac-12. Franklin is third in the nation with 697 yards rushing. The Golden Bears have been particularly vulnerable to big gains, having given up 28 runs of 10 yards or more this season. That list includes runs of 62, 55, 49 and 33 yards.

5. They’ve got skills

Despite California’s 1-4 record, the Golden Bears are loaded at the skill positions on offense. Receiver Keenan Allen, an all-Pac-12 selection last season, is among the best in the country at his position and also returns punts and has a 39-yard run for a touchdown on a reverse. Fellow receiver Bryce Treggs was one of the top receiver recruits in the nation last season. Running backs Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson pack a one-two punch on the ground and are averaging 5.46 yards per carry. Sophomore speedster Brendan Bigelow has not been used much (only 10 carries), but he showed what he can do with touchdown runs of 81 and 59 yards against Ohio State, so he is someone to watch.

UCLA defense looking to keep pace

September, 12, 2012
Andrew AbbottRichard Mackson/US PresswireUCLA will need to be ready for a fast pace against Houston, and hopefully get some plays from its secondary like this one by Andrew Abbott against Nebraska.

LOS ANGELES -- Case Keenum may be gone, but the aerial attack employed by the Houston Cougars remains.

The Cougars and new quarterback David Piland have picked up right where Keenum, the NCAA's all-time passing leader, left off. Piland ranks No. 2 in the nation with 791 yards passing and Houston is No. 4 in the nation in passing offense with 395.5 yards per game.

They run a high-tempo version of the spread, similar to the one UCLA is running, and got off a mind-boggling 115 plays last week in a 56-49 loss to Louisiana Tech. It's a style that is certain to keep the UCLA defense on its toes.

"They are up-tempo and do a tremendous job of protection and they get the ball out quickly so it's hard to get pressure on them," UCLA coach Jim Mora said. "That means our coverage has to be good downfield."

Last year, the UCLA secondary couldn't quite keep up. Keenum completed 30 of 40 passes for 310 yards and Houston racked up 469 yards of offense in a 38-34 victory over the Bruins. Safety Dalton Hilliard said the key this year is to be ready on every play.

"Get lined up because they are coming," Hilliard said. "We have to have the mindset that we are going to be ready every play and ready to play fast."

Because of Houston's high tempo, the UCLA secondary got caught out of position and the players had a difficult time making on-field adjustments before the snap. A few tweaks at halftime helped and Houston scored only one second-half touchdown in that game, but, by then it was too late.

"Communication is key," cornerback Aaron Hester said. "I think last year we weren't on the same page a lot in the first half and that's when they put up all their points. In the second half we slowed them down so now it's just all about starting fast and staying fast."

That hasn't been easy for the Bruins so far this season. In the first two games, UCLA has given up 48 points in the first half and only six in the second half. While it's nice to know that the halftime adjustments are paying off, the Bruins would like to play a solid defensive game from the get-go. Against an offense like Houston's, the Bruins have a chance to prove they can do just that.

"We want to be a full 60-minute defense," Hilliard said. "We see this as a great opportunity to show what we can do against such a high-powered offense."

Helping matters this year is the fact that the Bruins have been going against their own offense for the last two months. UCLA keeps the offensive pace high during practice, which is quite a change from last year when the Bruins ran a more methodical pistol attack.

"We see speed all day, every day, in practice so I feel like we’ll be much better prepared for the game, Hester said. "Essentially, it’s kind of the same thing as far as concepts and tempo. It's pretty familiar to us now so we won't be overwhelmed by it."

Other notes:

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Five things to watch: UCLA at Rice

August, 30, 2012
UCLA plays at Rice Thursday at 4:30 p.m. PT. The game will be televised by CBS Sports Network. Here are five things to watch:

Jim Mora takes over as coach for the Bruins and promises a tougher and more disciplined style of football. The Bruins were prone to careless penalties and turnovers over the last two seasons and Mora's style may help cut down some of those things. Keep an eye on Mora's game management as well because things are a little different in college than they are in the NFL and Mora has never coached a college game before.

Redshirt freshman Brett Hundley will take the field for the first time as a college player. Hundley, a 6-2, 223-pound dual-threat, has been highly anticipated since his arrival at UCLA but didn't win the job last season and sat out honing his craft. He'll almost certainly have to deal with first-game jitters and he'll have to figure out how to handle those nerves. It's been almost two years since he took a live hit and he's never been tackled by a college player, so some Rice player is surely looking to give him a welcome blow. Hundley brings more athleticism to the position than Bruins quarterbacks of the past, so it will be worth noting what he can do with his legs.

The UCLA offense has a new look this season, switching from the run-based Pistol to the uptempo spread. It is designed to get the ball into the hands of UCLA's playmakers so players such as Jordon James, Damien Thigpen and Steven Manfro who didn't really have a place in the Pistol will now have a chance to shine. The receiving corps is also filled with relatively unknown players, but Shaquelle Evans, Jerry Johnson, Devin Lucien and Kenneth Walker are all capable of breaking a big play. Add in the running abilities of Johnathan Franklin and Hundley as well as the sure hands and mismatch provided by Joseph Fauria and there are plenty of ways this offense can attack. Gong against a defense that was No. 111 in the country last season should help get the wheels rolling.

Rice isn't exactly a juggernaut of a football program, but the Owls do have some playmakers of concern for the Bruins' defense. Speedster wideout Sam McGuffie is a Michigan transfer who led the team in rushing yards and catches two years ago, though he struggled with injuries last season. He'll line up as a receiver, but will probably also get carries. The tight end trio of Luke Willson, Vance McDonald and Taylor Cook are all about 6-5 and 255 pounds, which will create matchup problems for UCLA's defense. Willson was the team's leading receiver last season and he and McDonald are legitimate NFL prospects. If quarterback Taylor McHargue is over his turnover-itis, the Owls could be much better than their No. 91-ranked offense from last season.

UCLA switched to a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Lou Spanos, but it's been a challenge finding four linebackers. Eric Kendricks and Jordan Zumwalt bring proven experience, but combine the number of plays everyone else in the two-deep has played at linebacker at the division I level and you get zero. Damien Holmes and Anthony Barr -- tops on the depth chart, are moving from new positions. As with most defenses, the linebackers are counted on to make most of the tackles, but this is an unproven group, especially considering UCLA hardly did any live tackling during camp.

Bruins add O-line depth with Jacob Seydel

August, 18, 2012
UCLA practicePeter Yoon/ESPNLA.comUCLA practiced at Spaulding Field Saturday for the first time since a new field turf was installed.

LOS ANGELES--Instead of leaving some players in San Bernardino a'la the Junction Boys, UCLA came back from their two-week training camp with one extra body.

Jacob Seydel, an offensive lineman transfer from Riverside College, was with the Bruins during practice Saturday when the Bruins returned from Spaulding Field after spending the first two weeks of camp at Cal State San Bernardino.

Seydel, a 6-6, 285 pound sophomore, will be eligible to play this season. He was dressed only in shorts as he goes through the mandatory NCAA acclimatization period, but will compete for playing time during the remainder of camp.

He helps add some depth to an offensive line that was hit hard by injuries during the first two weeks of camp. Jeff Baca and Greg Capella, projected starters, and Alberto Cid, a key reserve, were held out of practice again on Saturday and there is no word on a return date for them. Chris Ward recently took a medical retirement.

"One of the things we talked about all camp is the need to build depth on our offensive line and this was an opportunity to do that so we took advantage of it," coach Jim Mora said. "We have scholarships available and he’s a guy that’s worthy."

Mora said Seydel would compete mostly at guard but may also get some time at tackle.

"He’s athletic, he’s got good size," Mora said. "He’s got good hands, good feet, good toughness. He’s a smart kid."

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Mora pushes reset button on UCLA practice

August, 15, 2012
SAN BERNARDINO--Jim Mora employed the old if-at-first-you-don't-succeed method when UCLA's practice didn't get off to a particularly sharp start Wednesday morning at Cal State San Bernardino.

About 20 minutes in to the session, Mora pushed control-alt-delete and had the players start over from the pre-practice warm up. He said it was a bit of a fun hangover after a team bowling trip the night before and implored the team to learn how to re-focus after a fun experience.

"Sometimes they just need a little push to get going," Mora said. "What I think they are starting to understand is that every time you step on the field, regardless of the circumstances, you have to focus in. I thought they responded well."

Safety Dalton Hilliard also noticed a lack of focus during the early portion of practice with some guys standing on the sideline holding various conversations and not paying attention to what was going on in practice. He fully supported Mora's decision to restart.

"We needed it," Hilliard said. "Whenever we have success and come off of a big win or having fun, we have to be able to flip the switch and put work in."

Hilliard, a senior, said he later regretted not taking action himself and had a meeting with some other seniors about making sure they take the initiative in those situations.

"That’s not something [Mora] should have to do," Hilliard said. As seniors, we have to take it upon ourselves to be like ‘hey guys, let’s focus up.’ As seniors we have to take that a little more seriously especially these next two days with guys focusing on getting back to Westwood. We can’t have our guys lose focus and we have to really make sure the guys finish strong."

O-Line adjusting: The offensive line, down more than a handful of players because of injuries and heat-realted issues, is starting to get some players trickling back into action.

Alexandru Cheachir returned Wednesday morning after sitting out several days with heat issues while Simon Goines, Michael Padovese and Will Oliver were all in attendance. They did not dress, but getting outside is a strong indication that they are close to a return from their heat issues.

The falloff of lineman that ran rampant early in camp seems to have halted, thanks in large part to an adjustment of how they are practicing. Early on, the linemen spent the entire time in the sun, even doing conditioning drills in between periods.

Now, the linemen get frequent breaks in the shade and rest even while the skill players run pass patterns.

"When you’re down numbers and you go at the tempo that we go at, you have to be careful with those guys, Mora said. "They’re the biggest guys, it takes them the longest to cool off so we modified how we practice them strictly because of numbers."

Center Jake Brendel, one of the few linemen who has not had heat problems during camp, said the extra rest has made a big difference.

"It’s really helped," Brendel said. "We’re getting back to full rest, getting back to as rested as we can be to get to the next team period. Lowering the heart rate down and regrouping because this offense can be really intense."

Injury updates: Offensive lineman Torian White will have a procedure later this month to correct a heart rhythm problem. He is cleared to practice until then and is not expected to miss time after the minor procedure...Receiver Devin Lucien sat out of practice for the second consecutive day with a concussion. There is no timetable for his return...running back Damien Thigpen, who has a history of hamstring issues, did light work on the side after feeling tightness in his lower body, Mora said.


Bruins follow Brett Hundley into the dark

August, 11, 2012
Brett HundleyPeter Yoon/ESPNLosAngeles.comOn his first day of practice after being named the starting quarterback, Brett Hundley led the Bruins during a spirited session.

SAN BERNARDINO -- UCLA shed some light on who its starting quarterback will be, but the Bruins were literally in the dark at the end of practice Saturday night.

Coach Jim Mora moved the practice start time back a half hour to 6 p.m. and there was very little daylight left by the time newly-named starting quarterback Brett Hundley was finishing up his first day as the official starter two hours later. The facility they are using at Cal State San Bernardino has no lights so the team ran two-minute drills in conditions that made it very difficult to see.

"That was a lot of fun," Mora said. "I think the guys enjoyed it. I think it took some guys back to when they were younger and playing on the streets and you went until your mom called you in, it didn’t matter how dark it was."

The session had an energy level that had been missing the last few days as UCLA has fought through temperatures of 105 and higher. It was 96 at the start of practice Saturday night and was in the low 90s by the time the session was over. Plus, nearby storms left a cloud layer that blocked the sun and kept things even cooler.

"I think the combination of having yesterday off and it was cooler and they are young, they’re kids," Mora said of the increased energy level. "They like to play ball. They like to go out in the yard and play ball and tonight probably took them back to when they were younger. It was a good energy."

Because of expected high temperatures again Sunday, Mora moved practice to 4 p.m., rather than taking the field at the previously scheduled 11:45. The cooler temperatures Saturday night had a major impact as no players left because of heat-related symptoms for the first time in six practices.

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Patrick Larimore has a concussion

August, 7, 2012
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
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.

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Imagining how UCLA's season might go

August, 3, 2012
The preseason positional reviews are in and camp is set to begin, so with a little time to kill, how about a prediction on UCLA's upcoming season?

Preseason predictions by nature are pretty silly because nobody knows how a season is going to unfold, what players are going to emerge as stars and which won’t live up to their preseason accolades. Everyone loves a prediction, however, so predict we must.

But how about taking the silliness factor up a notch and not only project who will win each of UCLA’s games, but how? That’s right, fictional game recaps before the games happen. As if giving you just a score wasn’t enough of an inane endeavor, we present the following dreamed-up version of how UCLA's season might go:

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UCLA preseason preview: Defensive backs

July, 31, 2012
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 quarterbacks, offensive line, receivers and running backs. Special teams came next and now we begin our breakdown of the defense with the defensive backs.


Left Cornerback
Sheldon Price (6-2, 180, Sr.)
Anthony Jefferson (6-1, 184, So.)
Erick Zumwalt (5-10, 170, Fr.)

Strong Safety
Andrew Abbott (5-8, 180, Sr.)
Dalton Hilliard (5-11, 198, Sr.)
Dylan Price (5-10, 206, So.)

Free Safety
Tevin McDonald (5-11, 185, So.)
Stan McKay (6-1, 205, Jr.)
Anthony Thompson (6-1, 208, Fr.)

Right Cornerback
Aaron Hester (6-1, 207, Sr.)
Brandon Sermons (6-0, 195, Jr.)
Marcus Rios (6-0, 180, Fr.)


Left Cornerback
Sheldon Price (6-2, 180, Sr.)
Anthony Jefferson (6-1, 184, So.)
Marcus Rios (6-0, 180, Fr.)
Erick Zumwalt (5-10, 170, Fr.)

Strong Safety
Dalton Hilliard (5-11, 198, Sr.)
Andrew Abbott (5-8, 180, Sr.)
Taylor Lagace (6-1, 200, Fr.)
Dylan Price (5-10, 206, So.)

Free Safety
Tevin McDonald (5-11, 185, So.)
Stan McKay (6-1, 205, Jr.)
Kenny Orjioke (6-4, 222, Fr.)

Right Cornerback
Aaron Hester (6-1, 207, Sr.)
Ishmael Adams (5-8, 186, Fr.)
Brandon Sermons (6-0, 195, Jr.)
Randall Goforth (5-10, 173, Fr.)
Justin Combs (5-7, 162, Fr.)

Tony Dye, safety, team leader in tackles in 2010. Graduated.
Alex Mascarenas, safety, key reserve in 2011. Medical retirement.
Dietrich Riley, safety, five-game starter in 2011. Injured.

(Read full post)

Dalton Hilliard gets shot at going both ways

May, 1, 2012
Dalton HilliardPeter Yoon/ESPNLA.comDalton Hilliard has moved back to defensive back from running back but still could play both ways.

LOS ANGELES -- Dalton Hilliard's wish of playing both ways has come true over the last couple of practices.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, it's not for the reasons he'd hoped.

Hilliard, a safety for his first three seasons at UCLA, switched to running back before spring practice began, but has been forced back to the defense after a rash of injuries has left the Bruins thin in the defensive backfield.

Early on in camp, Hilliard told anyone who would listen that he intended to play both ways, but the coaching staff didn't seem as into the idea as Hilliard. Now, Hilliard is saying "I told you so."

"I’ve kind of known that I was going to have to go back to defense because we’ve had so many guys injured," Hilliard said. "I actually went up to the office yesterday and talked to coach about possibly helping out the defense a little bit."

Hilliard has performed well as a running back -- a position he hasn't played since high school -- and shown the promise of a playmaker on offense. But with cornerbacks Anthony Jefferson, Brandon Sermons and Librado Barocio recently joining a growing list of injured Bruins defensive backs that already included safeties Dietrich Riley, Alex Mascarenas and Andrew Abbott, Hilliard started feeling sorry for his former position mates.

"I noticed that we had numbers down," Hilliard said. "As a running back, we have a lot of depth and the reps aren’t too taxing. [The defensive backs] are only a couple of guys deep and the reps can be taxing with the pace we’re moving in practice."

So Hilliard went to defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin and coach Jim Mora and asked if he could help out.

"You gotta love that attitude, man," Mora said. "That willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team...I love his enthusiasm. The fact that he’d come in the day before a scrimmage and he hasn’t taken a snap on defense and says I know we’re hurting a little on defense, give me some snaps on defense, how can you not love that?"

Martin joked that is was only a matter of time.

"He's a guy that played high school running back his whole career and then came to college and played safety," Martin said. "He still has those demons inside of him to go play running back. All right, go chase those demons out. You’ll be back over."

(Read full post)



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