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UCLA's running game can shift gears now

UCLASportsFootballUCLA Bruins
UCLA football looks to Jordon James as its 'most explosive' back in running game's growing versatility
UCLA's contrite Myles Jack calls his inflammatory verbal taunt a 'lesson in growing up'

UCLA has options at running back.

"We're developing depth there," offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said.

Still, while linebacker Myles Jack will have a role and the development of freshman Adarius Pickett is being watched closely, the Bruins' run game will probably boil down to a trio: Jordon James, Steven Manfro and Paul Perkins.

"They all have strengths," Mazzone said.

James, Mazzone said, "is probably our most explosive guy. He can change direction, get that burst and separate from people."

Manfro "is probably our most versatile, running and receiving."

Perkins "is that down-after-down guy, who will grind out the yards."

What that can do for the Bruins is create more prep work for opposing defenses.

"They all bring something different to the table," Mazzone said. "It gives the defense a different look, which is kind of cool."

Sharing the job would not be a problem, James said.

"In this offense, you need a lot backs, with the stuff we're running," James said. "It's all about stamina. We're building it now. We're going to get to that point where no one can stop us."

Jack and Pickett are intriguing wild cards, while the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Nate Iese can provide "big back" power.

Jack, who had 267 yards in three games at running back last season, will be used in packages. Pickett, who moved from cornerback to running back, has impressed coaches.

"He finds the crease," Coach Jim Mora said. "He's a heavy runner. He bends his knees and hips and gets his weight behind his pads. He doesn't run like a feather. Some guys look really pretty and run really fast, but they can't bring it up in there."

Keep the day job

Mazzone was asked to project how well James would have done if not for an ankle injury in the fourth game.

"I never project," Mazzone said. "Every time I project, I end up paying alimony."

Kids are all right

Last season, the Bruins tossed two freshman defensive linemen into the mix — Eddie Vanderdoes and Kenny Clark — and it worked out well. This season, it could be three.

Defensive ends Matt Dickerson and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and nose tackle Ainuu Taua are expected to get their share of playing time.

"One of the things with young guys is how they develop in training camp, when they're in competitive situations," defensive line coach Angus McClure said. "You can judge if they're ready to play or not."

The judging so far:

Dickerson "is really physical and uses his hands really well," McClure said.

Tuioti-Mariner "has great lateral movement. He can read if the quarterback keeps the ball outside."

Taua "is a great force inside."

McClure has seen the summer work with strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi paying off.

"Now they are picking up all the techniques and schemes," McClure said.

Jack learns

A contrite Jack faced the media music Wednesday, his first interview since being tossed out of practice Monday.

Jack was thrown out for an inflammatory verbal taunt hurled at tackle Caleb Benenoch. He called it a "lesson in growing up."

"That was embarrassing," Jack said. "My mom called me. She wasn't too happy about that. I just got to control my temper. We're hot out here and we're all going hard and everything. I just have to be better in that situation."

As to who was harder on him, his mother or Mora, Jack said, "My mom … by a lot."

Quick hits

Receiver Devin Lucien was a spectator at practice a day after being taken to the hospital. Tests showed that he did not have a concussion but was suffering from the effects of the heat during practice Tuesday. . . . Safety Randall Goforth (shoulder) underwent an MRI on his left shoulder and sat out Wednesday evening's practice. The results were negative. . . . Center Scott Quessenberry is out because of a concussion. . . . Cornerback Marcus Rios sat out practice because of a migraine and is expected to see a specialist today.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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