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Report Card: UCLA football fall training camp

Rising senior Jordan Payton was the Bruins’ top receiver last season, and he looked to be just that – and more – in fall training camp this year.
(Owen Emerson/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Matt Joye

Aug. 24, 2015 8:46 a.m.

The UCLA football team wrapped up its annual fall training camp in San Bernardino on Saturday. Here’s a breakdown of how each position group performed during the two-week-long training camp.

Quarterbacks: B-

This less-than-stellar grade is largely a result of one player – freshman Josh Rosen. The five-star recruit from St. John Bosco High School entered training camp as the prohibitive favorite to win UCLA’s starting quarterback job but didn’t perform well enough to seize the position.

“I’m waiting to see someone win the job and no one has won it yet,” coach Jim Mora said on Aug. 18.

Rosen’s average performance in San Bernardino opened the door for redshirt junior Jerry Neuheisel to make a strong case for the starting job. He did just that during the scrimmage on Friday night, completing 10 of 13 passes with a 30-yard touchdown and no interceptions. Rosen finished 11-for-21 in the scrimmage, with a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown, but also had an interception and two fumbles – both of which were on plays with low snaps from the center.

Mora said he hopes to have his starting quarterback named by this coming weekend.

SPECTRUM GALLERY: Football Training Camp 2015

Running backs: A

The running backs were the top-performing offensive position group in fall camp. From redshirt junior Paul Perkins – the Pac-12’s reigning rush leader – to redshirt senior walk-on Roosevelt Davis, this group frequently turned in highlight plays.

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Freshman running back Soso Jamabo saved his best performance of fall camp for the last scrimmage on Friday afternoon. In that scrimmage Jamabo had two runs of 20-plus yards. (Max Himmelrich/Daily Bruin staff)

The strength of the running backs’ performance comes with an asterisk because they rarely faced full contact from the defense – only four of the Bruins’ 12 practices in San Bernardino were in full pads. That being said, the running backs performed very well in those instances. Freshmen Soso Jamabo and Bolu Olorunfunmi each had two runs of at least 20 yards in Friday’s scrimmage.

Wide receivers: B

This group definitely showed flashes throughout camp – a one-handed catch by redshirt freshman Jordan Lasley here, an ankle-breaking juke by sophomore Mossi Johnson there – but consistency was lacking at times. Mora had to call out his receivers during Thursday’s practice because they were not going hard enough during drills, and there were at least four wide-open drops by UCLA receivers in Friday’s scrimmage.

This group has a lot of depth and potential, it’s just a matter of being more consistent. Fortunately, the man atop this group – senior Jordan Payton – is about as sure-handed as they come.

“I’m excited about the crew that we have – we’re very, very deep,” said wide receiver coach Eric Yarber.

Offensive line: B+

The main reason why this position group wasn’t given a higher grade is because of the snapping problems that manifested in the final week of camp, when UCLA’s starting center – redshirt senior Jake Brendel – went down with a calf injury.

Freshman Fred Ulu-Perry showed promise and poise stepping in after Brendel’s injury, but struggled with snapping the ball. Ulu-Perry was subsequently moved from center to right guard, trading places with junior Alex Redmond. That move didn’t turn out much better, as Redmond had two very low snaps in Friday’s scrimmage that led to 10 points for the opposing team.

UCLA’s snapping issues shouldn’t be too concerning, as the veteran Brendel is supposed to be back in practice on Monday, per Mora’s injury report from Thursday.

Defensive line: A-

The UCLA defensive line looked very strong in San Bernardino. Junior Eddie Vanderdoes trimmed down his body fat, junior Takkarist McKinley increased his muscle mass and junior Kenny Clark improved his pass rush.

This group showed depth as well, as sophomore Matt Dickerson played solidly after McKinley went out with a head injury in week two of camp.

Linebackers: B+

UCLA’s linebackers appeared to really get a hang of defensive coordinator Tom Bradley’s system during fall camp. They blossomed in Bradley’s new blitzing scheme, with several linebackers showing improved pass rush skills.

“We’ve got some guys that can come downhill and hit it with aggressiveness,” Mora said on Aug. 18.

But the linebackers’ aggressiveness in blitz packages came back to hurt them at times, particularly on running plays. In Friday’s scrimmage, the first-team defense gave up at least four runs of 10-plus yards to second-team running backs, and Olorunfunmi had a field day.

Defensive backs: A

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Redshirt junior defensive back Marcus Rios (right) lunges in for a tackle on freshman running back Bolu Olorunfunmi during Friday’s scrimmage. Rios had one of the stronger training camp performances this fall. (Max Himmelrich/Daily Bruin)

Four interceptions in 10 minutes is all that needs to be said here. That’s what the UCLA secondary did during the padded practice on Wednesday morning.

The Bruin secondary was dominant in 11-on-11s throughout camp, and showed a penchant for big hits and strong deflections when necessary. Perhaps the biggest standout in the group was redshirt junior Marcus Rios, who really seized the starting cornerback position opposite senior Fabian Moerau. Rios made several pass breakups throughout camp, and was very effective in press-coverage situations.

“He’s at a good place right now,” said defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin on Aug. 19.

Special teams: C

Fall training camp doesn’t really give the kickers much of a chance to showcase their abilities, but they finally had a dress rehearsal in Friday’s scrimmage. It wasn’t pretty – there were two missed field goals from short range, and one extra point attempt was blocked.

 

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Matt Joye | Alumnus
Joye joined the Bruin as a sophomore transfer in 2013 and contributed until after he graduated in 2016. He was an assistant Sports editor for the 2014-2015 academic year and spent time on the football, men's basketball, baseball, softball, men's soccer, women's tennis, track and field and cross country beats.
Joye joined the Bruin as a sophomore transfer in 2013 and contributed until after he graduated in 2016. He was an assistant Sports editor for the 2014-2015 academic year and spent time on the football, men's basketball, baseball, softball, men's soccer, women's tennis, track and field and cross country beats.
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