UCLA: Shaquelle Evans

How Pac-12 players fared in Senior Bowl

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
1:00
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The Pac-12 was represented by six players in the Senior Bowl on Saturday, but the group's impact on the game was minimal.

Five of the six were defensive players, with Stanford fullback Ryan Hewitt (3 carries, 11 yards) the lone offensive player from the conference.

Utah cornerback Keith McGill, who drew rave reviews throughout the week, capped his solid trip to Alabama with a good performance that included a game-sealing interception of Miami's Stephen Morris. McGill measured in at 6-3, 214 pounds and has drawn comparisons to former Stanford star Richard Sherman.

Reviews for two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton of Arizona State were mixed, but his production in the game was there. Sutton was tied with Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy for a conference-high four tackles, including one for a 3-yard loss.

Washington State safety Deone Bucannon recorded three tackles, and Cal's Deandre Coleman followed up a well-reviewed week of practice with a pair of tackles.

Oregon receiver Josh Huff and UCLA's duo of linebacker Jordan Zumwalt (groin) and receiver Shaquelle Evans (undisclosed injury) practiced throughout the week, but did not play.
In a Scouts Inc. list of superlatives from the week, only Huff was included Insider. However, Todd McShay mentions McGill in the accompanying video:
Best vertical speed: Josh Huff, Oregon. We were surprised by Huff's quick start and extra gear when tracking the ball down vertically.

Here is the official box score from the game.

Pac-12 stats

Offense
  • Ryan Hewitt, Stanford: 3 carries, 11 yards.
Defense
  • Will Sutton, Arizona State: 4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss
  • Trent Murphy, Stanford: 4 tackles
  • Deone Bucannon, Washington State: 3 tackles
  • Deandre Coleman, Cal: 2 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss
  • Keith McGill, Utah: 1 tackle, 1 interception
Did not play
  • Josh Huff, Oregon: "precautionary reasons"
  • Shaquelle Evans, UCLA: undisclosed injury
  • Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA: groin injury

Pac-12 Senior Bowl notes: UCLA duo out?

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
8:00
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Here is the last look at how the Pac-12 players performed in Alabama before Saturday's Senior Bowl.

[+] EnlargeShaquelle Evans
AP Photo/Nati HarnikUCLA WR Shaquelle Evans has been a Senior Bowl standout in practices, but might miss the game.
First, some news on the injury front.

UCLA receiver Shaquelle Evans, who had been impressive throughout the week, will not play in the game due to a minor undisclosed injury. His teammate with the Bruins, LB Jordan Zumwalt, is doubtful with a groin strain.

And now, to some observations.

According to the official Baltimore Ravens website, Washington State safety Deone Bucannon has stood out.
Buchannon passes the eye test. He’s cut up and looks like he’s in phenomenal shape. He’s got the right mentality too, talking about how he’ll play anywhere and wants to prove himself on special teams. He’s projected as a possible second-round pick.

Zumwalt, Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy and Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton were all included on a list of winners and losers. It was good news for Zumwalt, not for Murphy and Sutton.
Zumwalt: Zumwalt showed great instincts and an ability to cover sideline to sideline. He was all over the field and, despite a wiry frame (6-foot-4, 231 pounds) flashed impressive power as a pass rusher.

Murphy: Maybe it was because he was going against Martin most of the time, but Murphy couldn't beat his man off the edge and failed to showed dominant power. There will definitely be some teams that question whether the nation's sack leader can transition over to the NFL.

Sutton: Sutton dropped 10 pounds to 315 for the Senior Bowl and never seemed comfortable. He looked slow and without great explosion.


Best agility at the Senior Bowl? Possibly Oregon receiver Josh Huff.

Huff may be the most fluid athlete at the Senior Bowl. He shakes past, slips around and jumps over defenders, spinning, twisting and dashing with ease. While Mike Davis of Texas, Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt and several other receivers stood out, I talked to several scouts who thought Huff was the most impressive of the bunch.


Cal defensive tackle Deandre Coleman was mentioned as a player that improved his draft stock by the NFL Network.

The Detroit Lions are keeping a close watch on Utah corner Keith McGill, who is drawing interest because of his size.

Pac-12 Senior Bowl: Day 3

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
1:15
PM PT
Some interesting stuff about former Pac-12 players trying to impress NFL coaches and scouts at Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala.

[+] EnlargeWill Sutton
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsWill Sutton's weight is one of the topics at the Senior Bowl this week.
Seems like there's plenty of debate about Arizona State DT Will Sutton's weight. It's nice the ESPN's draft folks are pointing out that the film on Sutton -- and his Senior Bowl practice performances -- don't lie.
DT Will Sutton, Arizona State: At 6-foot, 315 pounds, he isn’t going to win any Mr. Universe contests, and his body type will likely be a concern for NFL teams. Even if he loses some weight between now and the draft, his height could be an issue, as it will for Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald. But teams can’t forget about how well he performs on the field. He has a quick first step for his size and he can disrupt running plays in the backfield, plus his girth and low center of gravity make it tougher for taller offensive linemen to get under him and move him off the ball, as we’ve seen in practices this week.

If NFL teams looking for a 3-technique defensive tackle can throw out his measurements and just watch the tape, they’ll see a guy who can make an impact early.

USA Today gave Oregon WR Josh Huff a "rising" grade from his week of practice.
Wide receivers are often overlooked in Oregon’s offense due to the Ducks’ explosive running game. He’s not being overlooked during Senior Bowl practices.

The Atlanta Falcons coaching staff made sure Day 1 to get the ball in Huff’s hands. The 5-11, 201 wide receiver continually gets separation and is an available target. He caught a pair of passes in the end zone during Wednesday’s practice. The first, he was falling backwards but still had the wherewithal to come down with the reception. Huff was able to high-point the second catch over the cornerback.

If it weren’t for a diving attempt for a third touchdown reception which went through Huff’s outstretched arms, the wide receiver may have gotten top billing.

But Huff hasn't, apparently, been perfect.
Oregon wideout Josh Huff might be the gifted of the North's receivers but he showed the same frustrating struggles with consistency which characterized his career with the Ducks. Possessing broad shoulders, strength and toughness, Huff is capable of fighting through safeties to gain position, as well as the quickness and speed to separate from cornerbacks. Unfortunately, the tendency to lose focus on the details -- like exploding through his routes or securing the football through the entire catch process -- again came into play during Wednesday's practice. Huff can make the spectacular play, demonstrating the ability to track the ball over his shoulder on vertical routes as well as twirling to make acrobatic catches against tight coverage. He also dropped a beautiful deep ball down late in practice down the right sideline and too often was knocked off his feet by aggressive cornerbacks.

One of the things you start to realize reading a lot of Senior Bowl notes packages is that you can pretty much get folks saying the opposite of each other ... over and over. Welcome to the draft process, which is really little more than a beauty contest.

More positive reviews for UCLA WR Shaquelle Evans:
Shaquelle Evans/WR/UCLA: Evans, 6-foot-1, 210, built a lot of momentum throughout the week and by Wednesday was one of the better receivers at the Senior Bowl. He's a physical wideout with a strong build and soft hands. Evans consistently separated from opponents by running good routes and fought hard to come away with the reception. He's a terrific possession receiver with the ability to help any NFL team as a rookie.
Here's a take on Washington State S Deone Bucannon, Stanford OLB Trent Murphy and UCLA LB Jordan Zumwalt:
Deone Buccanon, SAF, Washington State – Finally showed up a bit today with some very strong coverage on the TE. Stayed tight to the hip on a jerk route, out-muscled the TE and made a play on the ball. Is going to have trouble turning and running in coverage, because he’s not real fluid. In the box, covering the TE, and bringing the edge type of Safety.

Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford – While he can beat OL with his effort, motor, and power, his concerns have been reinforced this week. Lack of explosion and speed are major concerns. Can bend some, but it looks like it takes some effort. Tall, linear frame for defenders to target.

Jordan Zumwalt, LB, UCLA – Once again set the physical tone. Was embarrassing RB in blitz pick up drills. Displayed excellent coverage on David Fluellen in downfield coverage, completely blanketing him and forcing the QB to pull down and run.

And, again, here are the Pac-12 players in Mobile:

North
South


Pac-12 Senior Bowl: Day 2

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
1:00
PM PT
Lots of interesting stuff about former Pac-12 players trying to impress NFL coaches and scouts at Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala.

[+] EnlargeJordan Zumwalt, Devon Cajuste
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesFormer UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt has been impressive -- and intense -- during Senior Bowl practices.
It appears that former UCLA LB Jordan Zumwalt is turning heads, and this little tidbit made me smile.
Throughout, Zumwalt, 6-foot-4, 231, played with nonstop intensity, so much so that coaches politely asked him to dial it down a bit. Zumwalt presented himself as second-round material, something which could come to fruition if the competitive linebacker turns in good workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine.

I'm shocked to hear Zumwalt's dial goes up to 11. And he wasn't the only UCLA player noted for his physical play.
Another receiver that has caught my eye is Shaq Evans of UCLA. A corner came up to press Evans, and Evans just put him on the ground. Very physical play. He also showed good long speed on a deep ball, and he has decent size at 6'1, 210.

Jim Mora has talked about changing UCLA's culture. Winning 19 games over the past two seasons is proof enough, but reading about former players getting edgy at a college all-star game has to warm the cockles of Bruins fans' hearts.

Here's a pretty thorough look atInsider Utah DB Keith McGill:
He needs to improve his press technique, but he has the tools to do it. McGill's size will be tempting for teams. He’s 6-3, 214 pounds, which is slightly bigger than Richard Sherman when he was coming out of school (6-2, 205) and roughly the same size as [Brandon] Browner when he was coming out (6-3, 221). For teams in the middle rounds looking to add size at cornerback, particularly one who can hold his own in press coverage, McGill could be an intriguing option.

And another on McGill:
The corner with the highest ceiling looks like Utah’s Keith McGill. At 6-3, 214 pounds, he moves with tremendous fluidly through transitions and impressed during T-step redirect drills. He’s not a natural hands guy and continued to drop interception opportunities. Nevertheless, the length to affect the catch point is still overwhelming for some of the South receivers he faced. When lined up in press man, he flashed the ability to mirror and wall receivers to the sideline, but will require further development with his hand usage through the release.

Former California defensive tackle Deandre Coleman is also playing wellInsider:
DT Deandre Coleman, California: Coleman isn’t a big-name D-lineman like Ford or Arizona State’s Will Sutton, but he has played really well both days here. He looked very strong against the double-team on Tuesday, using his hands effectively and playing really hard. He plowed through Oklahoma’s Gabe Ikard during one session.

And, yes, Cal fans, there were some folks who wondered where this beastly version of Coleman was this season:
Powerful and surprisingly athletic, the 6-foot-5, 315 pounder is position and scheme versatile, though scouts are left to question where this passionate play was throughout a disappointing senior season in the Pac-12.

There seem to be some questions about where Stanford OLB Trent Murphy will fit in with an NFL defense. At present, he's playing defensive end and having mixed results.
Murphy, a playmaking outside linebacker for a highly physical Stanford squad, is also having a tough time adjusting as the Falcons are asking him to play defensive end. While known for his toughness and physicality with the Cardinal, Murphy looked surprisingly lean during Monday's weigh-ins, showing little upper body development on his 6-foot-5, 253-pound frame. He has strong, active hands to knock away blockers' attempts to latch on and accelerates around the edge in a controlled, efficient manner. He isn't an explosive athlete in any way, however, leading to questions about where he'll fit at the next level as he does not possess great burst nor the strength teams are looking for in an end capable of setting the edge.

Former Oregon WR Josh Huff continues to play well.
On Monday, while most observers were buzzing about Oregon receiver Josh Huff, I wrote about Wyoming receiver Robert Herron and even slapped a TY Hilton comparison on him. Tuesday’s practice did not reaffirm my observation. Huff continued to stand out in his position group and Herron struggled with a few drops and at times looked uncomfortable settling under the ball.

Arizona State DT Will Sutton's weight is still a big question, and it appears he plans to drop some pounds after the Senior Bowl.
Will Sutton of Arizona State is still working to lower his weight during this draft season after playing the year at 325 pounds because his coaches asked him to. His goal is to get back down to 300 pounds by the NFL Combine, which could further help his quickness after his first rush. He uses his hands well, attacking guards and centers with quick, decisive movements and generating pressure initially with high frequency. However, when he didn’t win initially, he struggled to recover.

Finally, I thought this was interesting: an inside look at a team interviewing a player at the Senior Bowl.

And, again, here are the Pac-12 players in Mobile:

North
Shaquelle Evans, WR, UCLA
Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
Ryan Hewitt, FB, Stanford
Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
Jordan Zumwalt, LB, UCLA

South
Deandre Coleman, DT, California
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
Keith McGill, S, Utah

Pac-12 players in Senior Bowl

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
10:00
AM PT
The Reese's Senior Bowl, which is scheduled for Jan. 25th in Mobile, Ala., is the most prestigious postseason college All-Star game, mostly because it picks the players NFL GMs and scouts want to see up close in advance of the NFL draft.

So far 11 Pac-12 players have been offered and accepted invitations.

Here's the list, which you can review here.

Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State

Deandre Coleman, DT, California

Shaquelle Evans, WR, UCLA

Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State

Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon

Ryan Hewitt, FB, Stanford

Josh Huff, WR, Oregon

Keith McGill, DB, Utah

Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford

Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford

Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State

Hyundai Sun Bowl preview

December, 31, 2013
12/31/13
10:00
AM PT
No. 17 UCLA (9-3) and Virginia Tech (8-4) meet on Tuesday in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. Here are a few keys:

Who to watch: Start with UCLA’s dynamic duo at linebacker, senior Anthony Barr and freshman Myles Jack. Barr benefited from turning down a chance at the NFL a year ago, developing into one of the nation’s best at his position. Jack needed no such time. He also played running back for the final four games of the year, rushing for four touchdowns as he earned the Pac-12’s offensive and defensive rookie of the year honors. For Virginia Tech, the best chance to move the football comes through the air, but talented quarterback Logan Thomas must avoid interceptions. He threw 13 this season in 12 games.

What to watch: Virginia Tech is shorthanded without its leading rusher, Trey Edmunds, who suffered a broken leg in the season finale, a 16-6 win over Virginia. The Hokies struggled to run the ball with Edmunds, so what happens without him? On defense, top cornerback Kyle Fuller is likely out with a groin injury for Tech. Fellow corner Antone Exum will sit with an ankle injury. Against a pair of freshmen in coverage, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley could have a big day throwing to Shaquelle Evans and Devin Fuller.

Why to watch: It’s two name-brand programs in El Paso, but in what direction are these programs headed? The Bruins, under second-year coach Jim Mora, are trending up regardless of the outcome on Tuesday as they seek a 10-win season for the first time since 2005. The Hokies lost three of their final five games this season after struggling to a 7-6 finish a year ago under 27th-year coach Frank Beamer.

Prediction: UCLA 28, Virginia Tech 14. The Hokies don’t have enough firepower to get into a scoring duel with UCLA, so look for the bowl-savvy Beamer to search for a few nontraditional ways to even this matchup. But expect the Bruins and Hundley to shake free in the second half.

Bruins take a quick peek at road ahead

October, 24, 2012
10/24/12
8:52
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Jim MoraGary A. Vasquez/US PresswireUCLA coach Jim Mora said this week's game at ASU "has a lot of ramifications down the road."

LOS ANGELES -- Just in case any of the UCLA Bruins didn't realize the importance of Saturday's game against Arizona State, coach Jim Mora issued a little reminder.

He told his team this week that the Bruins still control their own destiny in the Pac-12 South race and that there are some good things in store for UCLA should the Bruins win out.

He didn't mention them specifically, but ending a five-game losing streak against crosstown rival USC, a Pac-12 title and an appearance in the Rose Bowl are all still within UCLA's grasp as the Bruins come off their bye week and head into the final five games of the season.

Of course, most of that will quickly fall out of their grasp should the Bruins (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) lose at Arizona State (5-2, 3-1) on Saturday in Tempe, Ariz., and that was reason enough for Mora to break one of the tenets of coachspeak and remind his players what is at stake.

"This is a big one for us and it's a big one for Arizona State," Mora said. "I think it has a lot of ramifications down the road and it's a game we've got to go win. ... These guys have taken advantage and put themselves in a position where they can do some good things if they finish strong and we can do some good things if we finish strong."

The Bruins are a game behind Arizona State and 1 1/2 games behind USC in the Pac-12 South Division race. They still have games against both teams remaining and would be Pac-12 South champs if they win out.

Mora broke out a quote from Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" in talking about how the stakes will continue to get bigger each week should the Bruins keep winning.

"Opportunities multiply as they are seized," Mora said.

Last year, the Bruins were in a similar situation after a victory over Arizona State. Then, they controlled their own destiny in the Pac-12 South but didn’t exactly seize the next opportunity when they fell flat in a 31-6 loss at Utah.

They got some help via quirky results late in the season and benefited from USC being ineligible for postseason play, going on to represent the South Division in the inaugural Pac-12 title game despite a 50-0 loss to USC the week before.

Many of the players who experienced last season, losing control and needing a lot of chips to fall the right way, say it was a learning experience they hope to put to use this year.

"I've seen what happens if you look too far ahead," receiver Shaquelle Evans said. "We still have a long way to go. I know we see the future of what we can do, but we have to just focus on one game at a time or that isn't going to happen."

(Read full post)

Bruins trying to regain focus after bye

October, 23, 2012
10/23/12
11:40
AM PT
LOS ANGELES -- The bye week is over, which means it's time for UCLA to get serious again.

That's sometimes easier said than done.

After a week in which most key players took it easy in practice while the younger and less experienced players dominated the reps, the big boys are back in action trying to shake off the rust as they get ready for Saturday's game at Arizona State.

"We might have been a little sluggish today coming off a bye week, but I feel like we got our legs back and a lot of people got healthy so the bye week did us well," receiver Shaquelle Evans said. "Tomorrow we'll pick it back up and be the normal team that we are."

Coach Jim Mora said that the biggest issue this week is to get the team to refocus mentally and re-enter the mode of preparing for an opponent instead of just working on fundamentals.

"There's challenges, there's no doubt," Mora said. "When you're not preparing for a game, you don't have the same emotional preparation. So what has to happen is you have to get that back quickly. There's always going to be a little transition period."

That transition was supposed to happen on Monday when the Bruins got in a brief bonus practice. UCLA normally doesn't practice on Mondays during regular weeks but Mora wanted to reacclimate his players with a light workout because he said it's more difficult to get college players to switch back into game mode after a non-competitive week.

"You have to flip the switch quickly and I don't think that's always easy with college kids, Mora said. "In the NFL it was easy. Those guys are pros, they're getting paid, they'd done it for years and years. At this level it’s a little bit more of a challenge and that’s why I think Monday was important for us to come out here in the afternoon and just turn it back on and get going again."

Grades: UCLA 21, Utah 14

October, 13, 2012
10/13/12
4:40
PM PT
PASADENA, Calif. -- UCLA won a slugfest against Utah, defeating the Utes, 21-14, Saturday at the Rose Bowl. The Bruins (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) pulled to .500 in conference play heading in to their bye week. Here's how we have them grading out:

GradePASSING OFFENSE
It was a season-low 183 yards passing for quarterback Brett Hundley and much of that came on a 64-yard touchdown to Shaquelle Evans. Still, Hundley has a touchdown pass in every game this season and did not have an interception after having four last week. A depleted receiver corps didn't help as only Evans and Steven Manfro had more than two catches.

GradeRUSHING OFFENSE
The Bruins had 171 yards rushing marking the third time in four games that they have failed to crack 200 yards. That follows a string of three straight 300-yard games to open the season. Johnathan Franklin had 79 and touchdown and Hundley made some nice plays with his legs and had 68 yards and a touchdown rushing.

GradePASS DEFENSE
Utah quarterback Travis Wilson, a freshman making his first career start, was 23 of 33 for 220 yards for the first 200-yard game for Utah since opening week against Northern Colorado. The Bruins struggled against the bubble screen but also got two sacks and Andrew Abbott had an interception for the second consecutive game.

GradeRUN DEFENSE
UCLA's front seven used sound tackling and good containment to dominate the Utes ground attack. Utah had only 75 yards rushing, the lowest rushing total against UCLA this season. Only five of Utah's 16 first downs came on the ground and the Utes had no runs longer than nine yards. Utah had only five yards rushing in the second half.

GradeSPECIAL TEAMS
Manfro's muffed punt -- his second in two weeks -- was an error in judgment as he tried to field a 65-yard punt that sailed over his head into the end zone. Utah recovered for a touchdown. Logan Sweet inexplicably downed a punt with one second left in the game, giving the Utes a desperation shot at tying the score.

GradeCOACHING
This was probably UCLA's best game of the year on defense and the move of Jordan Zumwalt to middle linebacker probably had a lot to do with that. Limiting a surprise starter at quarterback without much preparation also deserves kudos. The team was focused for the most part and had a season-low 43 yards in penalties.

Grades: Oregon State 27, UCLA 20

September, 22, 2012
9/22/12
4:15
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PASADENA, Calif. -- The No. 19 UCLA Bruins had their three-game win streak come to an end with a 27-20 loss to the Oregon State Beavers in a Pac-12 Conference opener Saturday at the Rose Bowl. Here is how we have them grading out:

GradePASSING OFFENSE
Quarterback Brett Hundley looked shaky at times but very good at others and finished with a career-high 372 yards on 26-of-41 passing. Shaquelle Evans established himself as the big-play, go-to guy with six catches for 148 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown. But the receivers dropped too many catchable balls.

GradeRUSHING OFFENSE
The Bruins entered the game No. 5 in the nation in rushing, averaging 311 yards per game on the ground, but couldn't get anything going against the Beavers. Johnathan Franklin, leading the nation with a 180-yard average through three weeks, had only 45 yards in 12 carries and UCLA ended up with a season-low 72 yards on the ground.

GradePASS DEFENSE
UCLA started in zone, but quarterback Sean Mannion easily picked it apart. When the Bruins switched to man, they had difficulties with the speed of Oregon State receivers Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks. The second half was better, but Mannion finished with 379 yards passing, and Wheaton and Cooks combined for 325 yards receiving.

GradeRUN DEFENSE
UCLA's front seven did a solid job of controlling the gaps and the line of scrimmage and limited the Beavers to 122 yards rushing. A few missed tackles led to long gains and Oregon State did some damage with receiver sweeps, but it was a season low in rushing yards against the Bruins.

GradeSPECIAL TEAMS
Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn made field goals of 22 and 35 yards, but his miss from 42 yards with 7:37 to play effectively ended UCLA's hopes of a comeback. Punter Jeff Locke had another excellent game with four punts inside the 15-yard line. But the Bruins were unable to muster anything in the return game and used a timeout after lining up in a fake field goal formation.

GradeCOACHING
Maybe it was coachspeak, but Jim Mora expressed concern all week about Oregon State's run game, only to see his team get burned by the pass. The Bruins looked like a team that had bought into the recent buzz it had created and it was on the coaching staff to keep the team grounded. Still, this type of performance in the past would have resulted in a blowout and, to their credit, this Bruins team never gave up.

Five things to watch: UCLA at Rice

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
9:45
AM PT
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:

1. MEET THE NEW BOSS
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.

2. FRESH FACE AT QB
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.

3. SPREAD IT OUT
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.

4. DON'T GET SURPRISED
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.

5. BACK OF THE LINE
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.

UCLA hopes new offense adds excitement

August, 28, 2012
8/28/12
10:30
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Pistol haters rejoice; UCLA now has a machine-gun offense.

After two years of a Pistol-based offensive scheme that delivered mostly duds, UCLA will unveil a high-paced spread attack in its season opener Thursday night at Rice.

Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone used the scheme to produce a bonanza of passing yards and points during the last two seasons at Arizona State while UCLA struggled to throw or score with any measure of consistency.

It's an offense that relies on getting to the ball and running a play as quickly as possible. It will look far different than the last two years, when the UCLA offense moved at a snail's pace, was designed to chew up chunks of clock and keep the opposing offense off the field for as long as possible.

This offense is designed only to chew up yards with dynamic playmakers and it has the team excited as the season draws near.

"It’s a more exciting, big-play offense," quarterback Brett Hundley said. "The Pistol was a great offense, too, but this spread is probably going to be more entertaining to watch. It's fast tempo, fast action, big plays and you’re just making things happen."

Mazzone used it quite effectively at Arizona State. In his first year in Tempe, the Sun Devils ranked No. 15 in the nation in passing offense at 286.42 yards per game and were No. 28 in scoring at 32.25 points per game.

Last year, Arizona State was No. 10 in passing (316.69 ypg) and No. 29 in scoring (33.15 ppg) and perhaps most important to UCLA fans, the Sun Devils racked up 392 yards in offense in a 43-22 victory over USC.

Meanwhile, UCLA frustrated their fans with a deliberate offense that produced a mediocre passing attack, ranking No. 116 in the nation in 2010 and No. 81 last season. The offense offered little scoring punch with 20.2 points per game in 2010 (No. 104 in the nation) and 23.07 in 2011. (No. 88). Because of that, the Bruins had few options when it came time to dig out of holes.

"It definitely makes sense, especially with our personnel," quarterback Kevin Prince said of the new offensive philosophy. "We have tons of guys who we just need to get them in open space and get the ball in their hands. Not having that in the past was frustrating, especially for those guys. They obviously knew what they could do and what they were capable of, so it will be a lot more fun."

(Read full post)

Angry Mora tosses entire team from practice

August, 16, 2012
8/16/12
12:22
AM PT
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Mere hours after making his team start practice over, UCLA coach Jim Mora threw in the towel early.

The second session of a double day came to an abrupt end when an irate Mora sent the entire team back to the locker rooms at Cal State San Bernardino. He did not allow players to stay after for additional work or meet with their position coaches. No players spoke with reporters.

Afterward, Mora would not address specifics of what made him so upset, but acknowledged some of the general things that make him upset as a coach.

"Lack of effort, lack of focus, lack of discipline," Mora said.

The morning session got off to a rocky start when the Bruins showed a lack of focus during a walkthrough. Mora restarted practice, making the players re-do warm-ups and stretching. He then went back to the walkthrough.

"The start of practice we had to kick it in a little bit," Mora said Wednesday morning. "These are young men and they are still developing, still learning and still maturing. Sometimes they just need a little push to get going."

He pushed the team right off the field as the evening session was winding down. The practice had become physical with several shoving matches and lots of trash talking. The coaches tried to control it; they even sent one player off the field after a skirmish.

But the lack of discipline continued and Mora launched into a explicative-filled tirade and halted practice in the middle of the 11th period. The team normally goes 12. Mora huddled the team together for more scolding before sending the players to the showers.

It was the penultimate practice at Cal State San Bernardino for the Bruins, who have been in the Inland Empire for 12 days and were at the end of their 15th practice. It's been unusually hot, with temperatures routinely reaching 105 or higher, so the players may be starting to wear down. Wednesday, however, was the first day in the last 10 when temperatures did not hit triple digits.

"It’s been great to be out here, but I think it’s time to get back to Westwood," Mora said. "The players are excited to get home, sleep in their own bed, get in familiar surroundings. It’s been a great two weeks out here, but I think it’s time to go back. We’re two weeks away from Rice and it’s time to go home."

Other practice notes:

(Read full post)

Five things to watch: UCLA spring scrimmage

May, 4, 2012
5/04/12
2:55
PM PT
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)

Video: Jim Mora, UCLA spring practice No. 11

April, 26, 2012
4/26/12
7:41
PM PT
Jim Mora had a brief chat with the media following practice Thursday. He discussed injuries to Shaquelle Evans, Isaiah Bowens and Damien Thigpen, the progress of receiver Jerry Johnson and a brawl that broke out in the middle of practice:

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2013 TEAM LEADERS

PASSINGATTCOMPYDSTD
B. Hundley369248307124
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
B. Hundley1607484.711
P. Perkins1345734.36
RECEIVINGRECYDSAVGTD
S. Evans4770915.19
D. Fuller4347111.04
TEAMRUSHPASSTOTAL
Offense196.6251.6448.2
TEAMPFPAMARGIN
Scoring36.524.112.4