UCLA Football: 6 Top Performers from the Bruins' Spring Game
UCLA's spring game Saturday at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, was about ending the practice season strong.
"Got a lot of work done. Good crowd, [and] we stayed healthy," head coach Jim Mora said in his postgame interview, per UCLABruins.com.
The spring showcase was a small step toward a large goal of competing for the Pac-12 championship.
"I see some guys really stepping up," Mora said. "I think we can be good. ... I'm not going to put any limitations on us."
Statistics via UCLABruins.com. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
CB Ishmael Adams
UCLA's cornerback tandem of Ishmael Adams and Fabian Moreau might be the most dangerous in the Pac-12 next season.
"We're working to get to that level," Adams said in his postgame interview per UCLABruins.com. "We're just looking out here to make plays every time. ... If we can make a play on the ball, we do."
Adams certainly made some plays on the ball in the spring game. He finished with an interception, continuing the momentum he had in 2013 as the Bruins' top turnover-creator with four picks.
He was also dynamic in the return game Saturday. Keeping with last season's special teams duties, Adams split returns with running back Steven Manfro. Adams boasted the team's highest yard-per-return average a season ago at 35. His spring game effort promised more of the same.
LB Myles Jack
Reigning Pac-12 Defensive and Offensive Freshman of the Year Myles Jack was in midseason form Saturday. A breakout star for his two-way play in 2013, Jack was limited to linebacker in the spring game—although the sophomore played with enough energy for two positions.
He was free to roam the field, getting involved in plays both against the run and in passing situations. Jack even mixed it up with some of his offensive counterparts.
"It's all love, but we're all competitive guys," Jack said on Monday at the Pac-12 Network's launch party for Season 2 of The Drive. "You kind of know those guys [on offense from playing with them], so you give them a little extra [contact]."
Jack will get exert some of that energy again on the offensive end come fall, as Mora said at Monday's event that Jack will see carries again in the right situations.
WR Devin Lucien
The passing game was collectively inconsistent with starting quarterback Brett Hundley spending much of the spring game on the sidelines, but junior Devin Lucien was a constant.
Lucien officially hauled in five passes for 79 yards, joining Jordan Payton as the only Bruins with more than two catches on the day. Following in line with his 2013 performance, Lucien's 15.8-yard per reception led the team.
Lucien averaged 17.8 yards a catch a season ago. His big-play ability worked well in tandem with Payton's possession-receiving presence.
DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa
Defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa made up for lost time Saturday. The redshirt senior missed the 2013 season but was back without missing a beat in the spring game, recording a pair of sacks, tied for most on the team.
"I wanted to make sure that when I finally stepped on the field that I was going to have an impact," Odighizuwa told Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register.
Even when Odighizuwa didn't get to the quarterback for a sack, he was disruptive when blitzing off the edge. He'll be an integral part of the Bruins' pressure come fall.
"I told [Odighizuwa] he was getting stronger as the game was going on," Mora said, per UCLABruins.com.
Mora said the spring game provided Odighizuwa with a setting more akin to live action, which the defensive end has not seen since the December 2012 Holiday Bowl. Odighizuwa finished the 2012 season with six tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
WR Jordan Payton
The UCLA wide receiving corps is deep and talented. At the top of the list just may be junior Jordan Payton.
"Every receiver wants to be the guy," Payton told Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times. "That's how we prepare."
Payton certainly made his case to "be the guy" Saturday when he caught eight passes—38 percent of the total Bruins receptions on the day.
His ability to haul in passes in traffic and evade initial contact are two traits that served Payton well on Saturday, as they should throughout the 2014 season. The 6'1", 215-pound Payton is well-equipped to be the Bruins' reliable, possession receiver.
Paired with Lucien and Devin Fuller, who missed the spring game, Payton continued to establish himself as one of the three leaders of the group.
RB Paul Perkins
Running back Paul Perkins was limited in the run game Saturday, but the sophomore made good on his one carry with a rush to the end zone.
Perkins scored the first of four rushing touchdowns for the Bruins, with Steven Manfro accounting for one and the Bruins' top-producing running back of a year ago, Jordon James, notching two.
But Perkins also shined in the passing game with two catches for 26 yards. Perkins was a weapon out of the backfield last season and should continue in that same dual-threat role in 2014.
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