When UCLA football opens up spring practice today, it will be without a key defensive player from last season.

Rising redshirt junior safety Tevin McDonald has been released from the UCLA football team following a violation of team rules.

McDonald was a starter at safety in both his freshman and sophomore seasons with the Bruins, but was suspended from play for the Holiday Bowl versus Baylor in December after a third failed drug test.

Rising sophomore Randall Goforth and rising junior Dietrich Riley, who missed all of last season recovering from a neck injury he sustained two seasons ago, have been named the team’s starters at safety to open spring practice.

In his sophomore campaign, McDonald finished with 79 tackles, good for the team’s third-highest total behind then-redshirt sophomore linebacker Eric Kendricks and then-junior linebacker Anthony Barr.

The Bruins will be without three additional former players when spring practice opens today.

Wide receivers Jerry Rice Jr. and Ricky Marvray, as well as linebacker Todd Golper, all of whom still had one year of eligibility remaining, are not on the team’s spring roster and will graduate this spring.

Rice and Marvray both intend to use their final year of eligibility elsewhere.

Rice caught seven passes for 52 yards last season and Marvray, who underwent back surgery in 2012, had three catches for 18 yards.

In Franklin’s shoes

During the 2012-2013 season, redshirt senior running back Johnathan Franklin had a prolific season on the ground, rushing for 1,734 yards and 13 touchdowns. With Franklin graduating this spring, coach Jim Mora is now tasked with finding a productive replacement to pick up where UCLA’s all-time leading rusher left off.

In a press conference last week, coach Jim Mora indicated that rising redshirt junior Jordon James will be at the top of the depth chart at tailback heading into spring, but mentioned that the position would be given a “by committee” approach unless a clear-cut starter emerges. Rising redshirt freshman Paul Perkins, rising senior Malcolm Jones, now a walk-on after leaving and later rejoining the UCLA team, and rising redshirt sophomore Steven Manfro all should see time at the position this spring alongside James.

Rising redshirt senior running back Damien Thigpen, who totaled four touchdowns and nearly 500 combined rushing and receiving yards last season, remains out for spring ball with a torn ACL.