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UCLA receiver Mossi Johnson is eagerly awaiting season opener

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Mossi Johnson looks forward to playing for UCLA after sitting out last season
UCLA's big defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy feels quicker and lighter
UCLA selects football captains

UCLA receiver Mossi Johnson was quickly becoming one of quarterback Brett Hundley's favorite targets when yet another injury struck.

After sitting out last season because of a knee injury, Johnson suffered a sprain in his left shoulder during the first week of training camp. It looked as if he was going to sit out a lot of practice.

So imagine Coach Jim Mora's surprise when Johnson was back on the field the next day.

"That's why I think it's important that you never put a timetable on injuries," Mora said Tuesday. "You have to be careful what you tell a young man. If you say, 'Hey, this is a six-week injury,' some guys might say, 'Oh, well now I have six weeks to get healthy.' You don't know how the body is going to react."

Johnson reacted by pushing himself.

"I didn't want to waste any time," he said. "We don't have time to waste. We have a game next week."

Johnson was concerned at first because "when you can't get up by yourself, you get nervous." But after visiting a physician, he started to push his limits. He said he spent at least an hour in a shower, rotating and testing his injury.

Since he hasn't played in a game since the 2012 season, Johnson said he dreams every night about getting back on the field.

"He hated being hurt," Mora said. "You saw how fast he got back. ... He's got that mindset that he's not going to let anything hold him back. ... I just like his toughness, man. I like his focus and mindset. I think he's going to be special."

Extra big man on campus

When you are as big as Ellis McCarthy, weighing 330 pounds is considered slimming down.

The junior defensive lineman has struggled with weight issues during his UCLA career, to the point where Ellis didn't practice for a week during training camp in San Bernardino this month while he focused on getting in better shape. But now McCarthy is right where the coaching staff wants him to be, Mora said.

"I think a lot of people thought he was hurt; he wasn't hurt," Mora said. "We just wanted to help him get into a little bit better shape and get his weight down."

Along with ramping up his conditioning, McCarthy also changed his diet to include more lean protein. He has cut out his favorite food, pizza, and is cooking more at home, hoping to drop another 10 pounds before the season starts.

McCarthy, 6 feet 5, might not look much different, but he can feel the difference.

"From freshman year to today, I feel a lot lighter, quicker on my feet," he said. "Just got to get down more to feel even lighter."

Follow the leaders

UCLA has announced its team captains, as voted on by the players: Hundley and center Jake Brendel on offense, linebacker Eric Kendricks and end Owamagbe Odighizuwa on defense, and linebacker Ryan Hofmeister and fullback Taylor Lagace on special teams.

Quick hits

Cornerback Marcus Rios saw a specialist Tuesday after experiencing migraine headaches. … Brendel has been recovering from a strained knee ligament but is expected to play in UCLA's opener at Virginia on Aug. 30.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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