UCLA: Kenny Orjioke

UCLA spring wrap

May, 2, 2014
May 2
7:30
AM PT
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.

UCLA enters spring with few holes

April, 2, 2014
Apr 2
5:30
PM PT
One of the ways a football team transitions from a group of wishful maybes to a sense of near-ontological certainty is when its collection of spring practice questions becomes mostly an array of appealing potential options.

So we have UCLA as it transitions from an underachieving program (1999-2011) to a good one (2012-2013) to one that has the makings of a national contender in 2014.

[+] EnlargeJim Mora
Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty ImagesWith few questions to answer this spring, Jim Mora has the makings of a special 2014 season with UCLA.
While the Bruins have questions on their depth chart, there isn't any particular area of vexing concern. The five positions where starters need to be replaced seem likely to be filled by promising athletes with playing experience. If those more veteran players don't rise to the fore during spring practices, that mostly speaks to the program's strong recruiting under Jim Mora.

Further, it's reasonable to project that those 20 or so freshmen and sophomores who saw significant playing time last year will physically and mentally mature into their primes.

There simply aren't any worrisome voids on this team.

As in:
There are, of course, important questions.

Is defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa fully healthy? He told reporters Tuesday that he is. So then is the former A-list recruit ready to break through as a senior?

What does LB/RB Myles Jack do for an encore after one of the best true freshman seasons in recent memory?

And speaking of what's next, is it reasonable to project Hundley taking a strong step forward as a third-year starter? Of course, that's why the program has already launched a Heisman Trophy campaign.

A lot of variables beyond personnel go into a special season -- a Rose Bowl-, College Football Playoff-type season. A team needs a great offseason. It needs positive chemistry and leadership. It needs to avoid injuries. It needs to stay hungry. It needs laser-like focus every week.

Returning starters do not guarantee anything. National champion Florida State only had 11 of them last year.

But on paper, UCLA appears to be the most likely candidate to break the five-year Stanford-Oregon Pac-12 hegemony atop the Pac-12. The Bruins might even be a team that catches the notice of the CFP selection committee in December.

Defense 3-headed monsters: Pac-12 South

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
12:00
PM PT
You remember the three-headed monster, right? It's about returning production that will scare -- terrify! --opponents. Or not.

On offense, it's elite combinations at quarterback, running back and receiver.

On defense, it's elite combinations of a leading tackler, a leader in sacks and leader in interceptions.

This year, we're breaking things down by division. We've already done offense for the South and North divisions.

Next up: South Division defensive three-headed monsters.

1. USC

LB Hayes Pullard, DT Leonard Williams, S Su'a Cravens

The skinny: Pullard was second-team All-Pac-12 after leading the Trojans with 94 tackles. While DE Devon Kennard led the Trojans with nine sacks last year, Williams was a force inside with six. It's also possible, of course, that attention to Williams, a certain preseason All-American, will open things up for a DE/OLB, such as J.R. Tavai. Cravens is likely to become as a true sophomore an all-conference performer. He had four interceptions last year, second on the team.

2. UCLA

LB Eric Kendricks, OLB Kenny Orjioke, CB Ishmael Adams

The skinny: Kendricks ranked third in the Pac-12 with 8.8 tackles per game last year. Does he finally break through on the all-conference team after two years as an honorable mention? Orjioke is the frontrunner to replace Anthony Barr. He's 6-foot-4, 240 pounds and has tons of potential. He, however, had just 12 tackles and two sacks as a sophomore. Adams led the Bruins with four interceptions last year.

3. Arizona

LB Scooby Wright, DE Reggie Gilbert, "spur" LB Tra'Mayne Bondurant

The skinny: Wright earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 as a true freshman, finishing with 83 tackles, including 9.5 coming for a loss. With both MLB Jake Fischer and weakside LB Marquis Flowers gone, he seems like a favorite to lead the team in tackles, even if he stays at strongside backer. Gilbert ranked second on the team with four sacks, though it's possible the Wildcats defense will do some juggling to increase anemic sack numbers this fall. Or a new guy, such as LB Antonio Smothers or DL Jeff Worthy, will break through. Bondurant, a hybrid LB/safety, led the Wildcats with four interceptions in 2013.

4. Arizona State

LB Salamo Fiso, DE/OLB Viliami Latu, S Damarious Randall

The skinny: The Sun Devils are replacing nine starters on defense, but Randall and Fiso are two of the three returning starters. It is notable that coach Todd Graham has been moving guys around on defense this spring, so ultimate positions are a matter of conjecture at this point. Fiso ranked fourth on the team with 71 tackles. Sophomore Latu might have a lead in the battle to replace Carl Bradford at the highly productive "devil" LB position. Randall had three interceptions last year.

5. Utah

LB Gionni Paul, OLB Jacoby Hale, S Eric Rowe

The skinny: Paul, a Miami transfer, is drawing raves this spring. He was a terror on the scout team a year ago. Hale is likely to replace Trevor Reilly, who led the Utes in tackles and sacks last year, at the "stud" linebacker. He was second on the Utes with 10 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks a year ago. As for the Utes’ leader for interceptions, well, funny you should ask about a team that had just three picks all of last year, tied for fewest in the nation. We're going with Rowe, even though he didn't have a pick in 2013 and had just one in 2012.

6. Colorado

LB Addison Gillam, TBA, CB Greg Henderson

The skinny: Along with Wright and UCLA's Myles Jack, Gillam was a true freshman LB revelation last year. He led the Buffaloes with 107 tackles. He might be a good bet to lead the team in sacks, too. The Buffs are replacing leading sacker Chidera Uzo-Diribe (4), and it's unclear who will fill that void. D-lineman Samson Kafovalu is a possibility, but he's sitting out spring focusing on academics. Derek McCartney -- yeah, that McCartney -- has been playing well this spring. Henderson led the Buffaloes with four picks a year ago.

Biggest shoes to fill: UCLA

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
6:00
AM PT
Starters in, starters out. That's college football. Players' eligibility expires and they leave for the rest of their lives, which might include the NFL or not. And they leave behind shoes of various sizes that need to be filled.

In alphabetical order, we will survey each Pac-12 team’s most notable void. Today we look at UCLA.

Biggest shoes: OLB Anthony Barr

A two-time All-Pac-12 first-team selection, Barr was one of the most feared linebackers in the nation. He totaled 65 tackles last season, but did most of his damage in the backfield, where he tallied 20 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks. He also forced five fumbles (recovering four of them). He ranked second in the league in tackles for a loss and third in sacks.

Stepping in: Kenny Orjioke (maybe)

The junior-to-be has a ton of upside and potential. He’s built like Barr (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) and possesses similar natural athleticism that made Barr such a productive edge rusher. Orjioke produced 11 stops last year, including two tackles for a loss and a pair of sacks. But he’s not the only one in the mix. Aaron Wallace and Deon Hollins should also get looks. Wallace appeared in 13 games last year and had five tackles, while Hollins appeared in 11 with seven stops and a tackle for a loss. UCLA’s linebacker corps is solid, despite the departure of Barr and Jordan Zumwalt. Myles Jack is a gifted playmaker and Eric Kendricks has been one of the most productive linebackers in the league the last couple of years. Those two will occupy plenty of attention, leaving Barr’s replacement room to work on the edge.

Previous big shoes

Grades: California 43, UCLA 17

October, 6, 2012
10/06/12
11:08
PM PT
UCLA dropped its seventh consecutive game at California, extending a losing streak that is now 14 years, when they fell to the Golden Bears, 43-17, Saturday in Berkeley. Here's how we have them grading out:

GradePASS OFFENSE
Brett Hundley was constantly under pressure and was sacked five times. He had a season-high four passes intercepted and was inaccurate on downfield passes for most of the game. He completed 31 of 47 passes but had only 253 yards -- only 5.38 yards per pass play.

GradeRUSHING OFFENSE
Johnathan Franklin had 103 yards rushing for his fifth 100-yard performance on six games, but the Bruins had only 129 yards on the ground. Hundley was fairly effective when he escaped the pocket, but Jordon James and Damien Thigpen combined for only 19 yards.

GradePASS DEFENSE
California quarterback Zach Maynard tied career highs with 25 completions and four touchdowns and had 295 yards through the air -- the second-highest total of his career. Before Saturday, he had only five touchdowns this season. The Bruins sacked him three times, but that is two fewer than the five per game Cal had allowed before Saturday.

GradeRUN DEFENSE
Until a 68-yard run by C.J. Anderson late in the game, the Bruins had been solid against the run. Cal finished with 186 yards rushing and averaged 4.4 yards per carry, but before that late Anderson run, with the game out of hand, Cal was averaging less than three yards a carry. The Bruins also forced two fumbles.

GradeSPECIAL TEAMS
Steven Manfro muffed a punt when Kenny Orjioke ran into him when Manfro was trying to make a fair catch, the second time that has happened to the Bruins this season. Ka'imi Fairbairn was 1-for-2 on field-goal attempts and punter Jeff Locke had a solid game. Two blocked extra-point attempts against Cal save the grade here.

GradeCOACHING
The Bruins showed a lack of focus and discipline in committing 12 penalties for 99 yards -- several at crucial times. The offensive play calling showed reluctance to go downfield and UCLA gave up on the run too early. The team seemed to lose its fight late when the score got out of control.

UCLA preseason preview: Linebackers

August, 1, 2012
8/01/12
3:20
PM PT
Patrick LarimoreJim Z. Rider/US PresswirePatrick Larimore leads a group of talented, experienced players at linebacker for UCLA.

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. Next up: Linebackers.

DEPTH CHART AT THE END OF SPRING PRACTICE:

Left Outside Linebacker
Jordan Zumwalt (6-foot-3, 235 pound, Junior) (4) OR
Keenan Graham (6-2, 247, Jr.)
Aramide Olaniyan (6-1, 210, So.)
Ryan Medina (6-1, 230, Sr.)

Left Inside Linebacker
Patrick Larimore (6-2, 250, Sr.)
Jared Koster (6-1, 208, So.)
Jason Stewart (6-2, 237, Fr.)
Todd Golper (6-0, 235, Jr.)

Right Inside Linebacker
Eric Kendricks (6-0, 230, So.)
Ryan Hofmeister (6-0, 225, So.)
Mike Orloff (6-3, 222, Fr.)

Right Outside Linebacker
Damien Holmes (6-2, 250, Sr.)
Aaron Wallace (6-2, 230, Fr.)
Anthony Barr (6-4, 235, Jr.)

PROJECTED OPENING-DAY DEPTH CHART:

Left Outside Linebacker
Jordan Zumwalt (6-3, 235, Jr.) (4) OR
Keenan Graham (6-2, 247, Jr.)
Aramide Olaniyan (6-1, 210, So.)
Jeremy Castro (6-2, 250, Fr.)

Left Inside Linebacker
Patrick Larimore (6-2, 250, Sr.)
Aaron Porter (6-1, 230, Fr.)
Todd Golper (6-0, 235, Jr.)
Ryan Medina (6-1, 230, Sr.)

Right Inside Linebacker
Eric Kendricks (6-0, 230, So.)
Aaron Wallace (6-2, 230, Fr.)
Ryan Hofmeister (6-0, 225, So.)

Right Outside Linebacker
Damien Holmes (6-2, 250, Sr.)
Anthony Barr (6-4, 235, Jr.)
Nate Iese (6-4, 237, Fr.)

KEY LOSSES:
Sean Westgate, 46 tackles, 3 interceptions; two-year starter. Graduated.
Glenn Love, 39 tackles; part-time starter and key reserve. Graduated.
Isaiah Bowens, 9 tackles; key reserve expected to challenge for starting role. Injured.

(Read full post)

UCLA preseason preview: Defensive backs

July, 31, 2012
7/31/12
9:43
PM PT
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.

DEPTH CHART AT THE END OF SPRING PRACTICE:

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.)

PROJECTED OPENING-DAY DEPTH CHART:

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.)

KEY LOSSES:
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)

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PASSINGATTCOMPYDSTD
B. Hundley81576863
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
P. Perkins633044.82
B. Hundley29742.61
RECEIVINGRECYDSAVGTD
J. Payton1926614.01
D. Fuller14835.90
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Offense159288447
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Scoring30246