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USC earns Rose Bowl berth, capping dramatic turnaround

UCLA receiver Kenneth Walker III takes the hard-work route

UCLA receiver Kenneth Walker III is trying to run sharper routes

Kenneth Walker III certainly takes his work home with him.

The UCLA receiver has been fanatical about improving as he heads into his junior season. So much so that his apartment is no different than the turf at Spaulding Field.

"Whenever I get time alone, I'm working on my route running," Walker said. "I'll be in the living room and will work on cutting and stopping, trying to improve the end of my routes."

This is a big season, Walker said, one where he intends to take a big step forward. That has been apparent through the first two weeks of spring practice. Walker came in with over-the-top speed, but has run crisper routes and has become much more consistent this spring.

"I've seen a tremendous improvement in his route running," receiver coach Eric Yarber said. "And he has obviously improved a bunch in catching the ball."

Walker's performance this spring has him on a path to being in receiver rotation.

Jordan Payton, Thomas Duarte, Mossi Johnson, Eldridge Massington and Devin Fuller have locked down spots. There is an abundance of talent to pick from to cover the remaining playing time.

Besides Walker, Jordan Lasley and Alex Van Dyke have performed well this spring. Coming this summer are freshman Chris Clark, considered the nation's top high school tight end last fall, and Sotonye Jamabo, who may be used as a running back-receiver hybrid.

"If I was going to show out, it had to be right now," Walker said.

This rededication came out of the ashes of disappointment.

Walker was ruled academically ineligible before the Bruins played Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl. Instead of giving up, he buckled down and was able to restore his eligibility before spring practice began. He had sat out the 2013 season after back surgery and was not going to risk losing another year.

"It was learning experience," Walker said. "A lot of players go through it and I happened to be one of them. The only thing to do was to fight back. I realized I only have a couple years left."

Walker has always had the speed. He had three receptions last season, one a 62-yard touchdown and another a 57-yard touchdown. He also had a number of drops in his two seasons.

What has changed this spring is, "he is taking pride in being a complete receiver," Yarber said.

That meant work. Walker spent the off-season perfecting routes, wherever he found himself.

"That didn't always mean running the full route," Walker said. "I'd run just then end of it, where I came out of my break."

The result has been tighter and crisper routes this spring, which Yarber has noticed.

"He's made a conscious effort to get better at being a complete route runner and not just a post route runner," Yarber said. "He has done to ton of ball drills to get his hands natural."

Quarterback watch

Quarterback Asiantii Woulard had his best performance of the spring Saturday, and Josh Rosen matched him almost throw for throw.

The Bruins went live in 11-on-11, with all four quarterbacks competing for the starting job getting several looks. Woulard threw two touchdown passes, one a 40-yard completion to Aaron Sharp. Rosen engineered two touchdown drives, one ending on his 10-yard pass to Duarte.

Jerry Neuheisel and Mike Fafual struggled more, but each threw one touchdown pass.

Room for suspicion

Nothing like a little Bruins paranoia.

More than a few UCLA football fans have expressed concerns about the hotel that is being constructed next to Spaulding Field. Mostly, they fret about opposing coaches taking rooms and watching practice.

Never fear. A plan is being considered to have a screen installed that can be raised to block the view.

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