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UCLA Football: Final Camp Stock Report for Bruins

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UCLA Football: Final Camp Stock Report for Bruins
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
Mora at camp for the Bruins

With a week until the season opener versus Virginia, Jim Mora and the Bruins returned to Westwood this past week in order to put the final touches on their fall camp. 

This week was a quiet one from a media perspective. Access to practice wasn't nearly as open as it was in San Bernardino. It makes sense considering the period of preparation for Virginia has begun. 

This piece will take a look at the injury situation for the Bruins. It will also address roster musings, as well as other miscellaneous items. 

 

Redshirting Freshmen

The staff has a willingness to play true freshmen. 18 true freshmen played last year in 2013. As Mora put it in a recent press conference, "I look at football players, not ages."

As reported by Ryan Kartje of The Orange County Register, Mora expects all three of the incoming defensive linemen (Matt Dickerson, Ainuu Taua, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner) to play. This decision could have been made partly due to the unexpected transfer of Kylie Fitts. 

Assistant coach Mike Tuiasosopo has been complementary of Tuioti-Mariner's development as a player. Tuiasosopo commented on how Tuioti-Mariner "is very coachable, listens and tries to do everything right. He's doing some nice things, has gotten better every day and is a guy we're counting on."

Mora also praised Dickerson, calling him "a specimen." 

It appears as if Kenny Young will likely start at middle linebacker next to Eric Kendricks.

As Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times reports, Young is making a huge impact early in his career. 

Guard NaJee Toran also looks primed for time this year. He has been running with the first team at times during camp in San Bernardino.

In my opinion, the other true freshmen slated to potentially play this year in addition to the aforementioned five include Jaleel Wadood, Jordan Lasley, Mossi Johnson, Zach Whitley, Alex Van Dyke and Adarius Pickett. 

 

Health of the Football Team

UCLA did suffer various bumps and bruises throughout fall camp. The offensive line in particular dealt with various ailments: heat exhaustion, muscle pulls, concussions and also ligament sprains. 

In Mora's most recent press conference, the head man said he "hasn't been concerned with the health [of the team] since day one. Any dings we had were minor. We're coming out of camp in great health and did work the past couple weeks."

The most serious injuries were suffered by reserve wide receiver Sam Handler and freshman linebacker Cameron Griffin. Both are expected to be out for the foreseeable future. 

 

Miscellaneous Items

The team voted on captains for this upcoming season, according to Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News: 

Mora also spoke about the trip across the country to Virginia and what potential challenges it could pose for his team. The team practices at 8:00 a.m., which would be an hour before the kickoff time in Charlottesville. 

Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone commented on the potential concerns over the offensive line.

They've hit that time that where now, starting [Wednesday], we worked on getting their legs back. We're getting guys back [from injury] and that's been good for depth. I feel good about the depth, and [the unit] is starting to gel. 

It will be fascinating as to whom starts on the offensive line next Saturday. Starting center Jake Brendel has been battling an MCL injury, and projected starter Caleb Benenoch might not be fully healthy, either (per comments by Benenoch in a press conference posted by Wang). 

According to Mora on Tuesday,  "Jake [Brendel] is going to be ready [for Virginia]. 

Assuming Brendel can go, Alex Redmond will move back to his natural position at guard. If Benenoch isn't quite mobile enough to play at right tackle, one could envision a scenario in which he starts at right guard. The right tackle spot would be a battle between a number of guys, including Conor McDermott, Kenny Lacy and Poasi Moala. 

A big concern going forward is solidifying the group. UCLA has a week to do so. 

Lastly, a very special guest spoke to UCLA at practice this week. I wonder if he perhaps retold a speech he gave during his time as a high school football coach? 

 

Unless otherwise noted, all comments from coaches and players were obtained via press conferences posted on the Bruin Sports Report channel on YouTube.

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