NCF Nation: Jordan Zumwalt


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UCLA enters spring with few holes

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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.
No. 17 UCLA beat Virginia Tech 42-12 on Tuesday in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. A few quick hits:

It was over when: Sensational true freshman linebacker Myles Jack of UCLA intercepted a Mark Leal pass and pranced 24 yards for a pick-six with 13:22 to play in the fourth quarter to give the Bruins a 28-10 lead. It came on the heels of 12-play, 85-yard drive that provided breathing room for UCLA and turned up the heat on Leal, the Virginia Tech backup who replaced Logan Thomas after the senior took a big hit from linebacker Jordan Zumwalt in the second quarter.

Game ball goes to: Sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley of UCLA, who rushed for touchdowns of 7 and 86 yards in the first half. Hundley then completed 6 of 6 throws for 80 yards on the Bruins’ 85-yard drive that ended early in the fourth quarter after the Hokies cut the lead to 14-10. Hundley rushed for 161 yards and two scores on 10 carries and completed 16 of 27 passes for 226 and a pair of touchdowns.

Stat of the game: 28. That’s the Bruins’ point total in a span of less than nine minutes in the fourth quarter to bust open a close contest.

Unsung hero: Zumwalt, the senior man in the middle of the UCLA defense. The rookie Jack, who also plays running back, and senior Anthony Barr get most of the publicity among a stellar group of UCLA linebackers. But Zumwalt on Tuesday made an impact as significant as any defender with 10 tackles, an interception in the fourth quarter and the big hit on Thomas.

What UCLA learned: The Bruins continue to progress under second-year coach Jim Mora, reaching 10 wins for the first time since 2005. If Hundley returns for a third season at the helm, UCLA has a potential Heisman candidate next year.

What Virginia Tech learned: The athleticism needs to improve. The Hokies, even if Thomas had remained upright, likely would have succumbed to UCLA’s speed and playmaking ability in the second half.

The 2011 Pac-12 All-Bowl team

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Our All-Pac-12 bowl team has two quarterbacks and a position we made up. And it wasn't easy to pick the defense, because many of the conference defenses underwhelmed during a 2-5 bowl run.

[+] EnlargeKeith Price
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireEven Andrew Luck would admire Washington QB Keith Price's seven-touchdown effort in the Alamo Bowl.
Offense
QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
: Luck completed 27 of 31 passes for 347 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State.
QB II Keith Price, Washington: It's impossible to leave Price or Luck out. Price completed 23 of 37 passes for 438 yards with four TDs and zero interceptions in the Alamo Bowl loss to Baylor. He also rushed for 39 yards and three scores. Those numbers typically would eclipse what Luck did, but Baylor might have the worst defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
RB LaMichael James, Oregon: James rushed for 159 yards on 25 carries with a TD in the Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin.
RB Stepfan Taylor, Stanford: Taylor rushed for 177 yards on 37 carries with two touchdowns in the Fiesta Bowl.
WR Gerell Robinson, Arizona State: Robinson caught 13 passes for 241 yards with a TD in the Las Vegas Bowl loss to Boise State.
WR Lavasier Tuinei, Oregon: Tuinei caught eight passes for 158 yards and two scores in the Rose Bowl victory.
TE Zach Ertz, Stanford: Ertz caught four passes for 38 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinal's Rose Bowl loss.
OL David DeCastro, Stanford: The unanimous All-American dominated Oklahoma State's D-linemen in the Fiesta Bowl. The Cardinal rushed for 243 yards.
OL Mark Asper, Oregon: Asper is the senior cornerstone of a line that led the way for 345 yards rushing in the Ducks' Rose Bowl victory.
OL Tony Bergstrom, Utah: The senior tackle helped RB John White gain 115 tough yards against Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
OL Hroniss Grasu, Oregon: The Ducks freshman center made all the right line calls against Wisconsin.
OL Senio Kelemete, Washington: The Huskies gained 620 yards and didn't allow a sack in the loss to Baylor.
Freak: Our special position for De'Anthony Thomas, who scored TDs on runs of 91 and 64 yards in the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin. The Black Mamba also caught four passes for 34 yards and returned five kickoffs for 125 yards.

K: Giorgio Tavecchio, California: Tavecchio capped a strong senior season with a 47-yard field goal in the Holiday Bowl loss to Texas.
RET: Rashad Ross, Arizona State: Ross returned the third-quarter kickoff 98 yards for a TD against Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Defense
DL Josh Shirley, Washington
: While it's difficult to recognize anyone from the Huskies defense against Baylor, Shirley did sack Robert Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner, three times.
DL Trevor Guyton, California: Guyton had five tackles, with two coming for losses, and a sack in the Bears' loss to Texas in the Holiday Bowl.
DL Star Lotulelei, Utah: The Utes DT had six tackles and a fumble recovery and generally blew up the middle of the Georgia Tech line in the Utes' Sun Bowl victory. He was named Most Valuable Lineman.
LB Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA: Zumwalt had 10 tackles, including two for a loss, and an interception in the Bruins' loss to Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
LB Kiko Alonso, Oregon: The Ducks LB had five tackles, including 2.5 for a loss, with a sack and a key interception in the Ducks' Rose Bowl win. He was named Defensive MVP.
LB Michael Clay, Oregon: The Ducks LB had 13 tackles, including two for a loss, and a critical fumble recovery in the Rose Bowl victory.
LB Mychal Kendricks, California: Kendricks had 10 tackles, including 1.5 for losses, in the Bears' loss to Texas in the Holiday Bowl.
DB Terrance Mitchell, Oregon: Mitchell had five tackles in the Rose Bowl, but his most important contribution was forcing a Wisconsin fumble on the Ducks 27-yard line with four minutes left in the game. Perhaps even more important than that, he inspired coach Chip Kelly to jump up and down in a wonderful -- and slightly goofy -- show of spontaneous emotion (search YouTube for "Chip Kelly jumping").
DB Clint Floyd, Arizona State: Floyd had seven tackles -- two for a loss -- and an interception in the Sun Devils' loss to Boise State.
DB John Boyett, Oregon: Boyett had a bowl-high 17 tackles and half a sack in the Ducks' win over Wisconsin.
DB Marc Anthony, California: Anthony had four tackles, one coming for a loss, and two pass breakups against Texas.

P Sean Sellwood, Utah: Sellwood averaged 49.5 yards on eight punts against Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.

UCLA suspends two more

October, 25, 2010
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The hits keep coming for UCLA.

After losing 60-13 at Oregon on Thursday, UCLA announced the suspensions of receiver Ricky Marvray and offensive tackle Sean Sheller for the Arizona game on Saturday due to violations of team rules.

Both are starters. Micah Kia likely will replace Sheller at left tackle, while junior Josh Smith -- a Colorado transfer -- figures to replace Marvray.

Smith was one of two players suspended from the Oregon game. The other was F-back Morrell Presley.

The LA Times and Orange County Register both reported that all four failed a drug test.

Losing a starting tackle isn't a good thing before playing Arizona, which has the best defensive end tandem in the Pac-10. Also, the Bruins anemic passing game might struggle to get better without it's leading receiver. On the plus side, the Bruins might get receiver Nelson Rosario back. Rosario, the team's best receiver, has missed the past two games with a sprained ankle.

Another issue: Middle linebacker Patrick Larimore, the UCLA Bruins middle linebacker, is going to miss three weeks with a dislocated left shoulder. His replacement, Steve Sloan, will be playing with loose bone fragments in his right new. After Sloan, there's freshman Jordan Zumwalt, who's moved over from strong side linebacker.

Pac-10 recruiting wrap: USC

February, 4, 2010
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USC's class of 19 -- and one HUGE oral commitment -- ranks seventh in the nation and features 11 players (including said commitment) on the ESPNU 150 list.

That commitment is Seantrel Henderson, the nation's No. 1 offensive lineman, who will wait to sign until after USC meets with the NCAA later this month.

Lane Kiffin's first class after the departure of Pete Carroll was stronger than just about everybody thought it would be.

The Trojans had three top needs. They hit a grand slam at receiver and tight end. They did fairly well at defensive back. They fell short at linebacker.

Top prospects: Robert Woods is the nation's No. 1 receiver. Markeith Ambles was No. 4. Kyle Prater was No. 9. Xavier Grimble leads a list of three top-10 tight ends. Help is coming for quarterback Matt Barkley. Speaking of quarterbacks, the Trojans signed the No. 2 guy, Jesse Scroggins.

Under the radar: Not really a USC category. Fullback Soma Vainuku, recruited as a linebacker by a number of schools, signed as a fullback, perhaps positioning himself as the next Stanley Havili.

Issues? It's hard to quibble with the nation's No. 7 recruiting class, particularly when the school was dealing with a coaching transition to Kiffin from Carroll, but there are two things. First, linebacker was a need area that wasn't sufficiently addressed. Second, the Trojans lost out on a number of prospects to rival UCLA, most notably safety Dietrich Riley and linebacker Jordan Zumwalt

Notes: Kiffin said he expects linebacker Glen Stanley, the lone JC transfer, to play immediately... USC signed players from five states... Kiffin took a shot at the players who picked UCLA over USC in his signing day press conference: "I think, I've been gone three years but much hasn't changed. As you meet the kids there is a sense and I was reminded of the kids that go to UCLA and the kids that come to USC, and to be back here, I watched it over the weekend just to see if it's the same, and it's really still the same. I guess we waste time continuing to recruit them, we know within the first 10 minutes whether they're the type of guys that want to play here or there."

Pac-10 recruiting wrap: Stanford

February, 4, 2010
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Stanford signed a class of 22 that ranked 18th in the nation and featured three players ranked among the ESPNU 150.

Coach Jim Harbaugh was pleased, to say the least.

"The afterburners have ignited, and we are excited for the talented and ambitious newcomers who have made the decision to come to Stanford," he said. "Across all positions, this signing class is full of playmakers that possess athleticism and explosiveness that will help us reach multiple Pac-10 championships and a national championship."

Golly.

Top prospects: Defensive end Blake Lueders, a former Notre Dame commit, leads a class that should bolster the Cardinal defense. Harbaugh compared him to Brian Urlacher. Safety Devon Carrington should immediately compete for playing time. Harbaugh was able to lure quarterback Brett Nottingham away from a UCLA commitment.

Under the radar: Offensive lineman Dillon Bonnell is expected to be ready this fall after missing the 2009 season due to a knee injury.

Issues? The class took a hit when committed linebacker Jordan Zumwalt opted to sign with UCLA. Linebacker was a need area and the class didn't include one who was highly rated. Two other committed players signed elsewhere: cornerback Louis Young (Maryland) and running back Brandon Bourbon (Kansas). It will be interesting to see who ends up at cornerback, a position in which the Cardinal need an athletic upgrade.

Notes: Quarterback Dallas Lloyd is expected to go on a Mormon mission and won't enroll until 2012 ... Harbaugh said his father, Jack, won't stay on staff as running backs coach, a position the elder Harbaugh served in during the Sun Bowl ... The class features athletes from 12 states.

UCLA makes biggest signing day move

February, 3, 2010
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UCLA and Rick Neuheisel will get their coffee tonight -- as you know, coffee is for closers.

UCLA signed 22 Wednesday, and a number of marquee late additions pushed the class to No. 11 in the latest ESPNU rankings.

While the Bruins lost a couple early -- linebacker Hayes Pullard and defensive tackle Ricky Heimuli -- it landed defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, safety Dietrich Riley, linebacker Dietrich Riley and linebacker Jordan Zumwalt.

The class includes five members of the ESPNU 150.
Stanford signed 22 on Wednesday in a nationally ranked class that features athletes from 12 states: California (4), Texas (4), Alabama (2), Arizona (2), Colorado (2), Georgia (2) along with Indiana, Utah, New Jersey, Minnesota, Nevada and Virginia -- lending to Stanford's national appeal.

Stanford did take a hit when linebacker Jordan Zumwalt signed with UCLA, but the Cardinal did previously steal the Bruins only committed quarterback, Brett Nottingham, so call things even.

ESPNU ranks the class at 15th in the nation.

UCLA beats USC for LB Shirley

February, 3, 2010
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In a surprise move, linebacker Josh Shirley picked UCLA over USC, Arizona, Washington and Miami.

Linebacker is a big need position for USC, so this is a big hit for the Trojans, who earlier lost out on linebacker Jordan Zumwalt to the Bruins.

The big remaining USC-UCLA battle is for safety Dietrich Riley, who is scheduled to make his decision at 3:30 EST.

UCLA snags LB Zumwalt away from Stanford

February, 3, 2010
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Linebacker Jordan Zumwalt has picked UCLA over Stanford, where he had previously committed, and USC, according to Greg Biggins.

This should make up a bit for losing linebacker Hayes Pullard (Los Angeles/Crenshaw) to USC earlier in the day.

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