UCLA football duo is in no rush to be labeled

UCLA football duo is in no rush to be labeled
UCLA linebacker Deon Hollins warms up on Aug. 30 before the team's 2014 season opener against Virginia. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Takkarist McKinley and Deon Hollins prefer not to be categorized.

They were viewed as UCLA's pass-rush specialists last season, guys whose sole purpose is to get to the quarterback. McKinley brushes that aside.

"I want to be known as an every-down player," McKinley said. "I got to put the work in, show on the field and film room that I can defend the run and get to the quarterback. If I can't defend the run, I'm just telling everyone that I'm a pass-rush specialist."

The Bruins have little need for "specialists." They do need to attack the quarterback.

UCLA had 29 sacks in 2014, and that was boosted by a big finish. The Bruins picked up 19 sacks in the last five games. Only Colorado (22) and California (16) had fewer sacks among Pac-12 Conference teams.

But the key centers less on effective pass rushing and more on overall performance. It's why defensive coordinator Tom Bradley would prefer that McKinley and Hollins go beyond pass-rusher image.

"The way these offenses are built now, with speed and what they can do, the personnel groupings mean nothing," Bradley said. "It's hard to get specialists into the game. You have to build your guys to handle all situations because the other team's personnel is able to do anything."

Hollins led the Bruins with nine sacks last season, three coming in UCLA's 40-35 victory over Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl. Of the team's 29 sacks, three players who had 13 — Eric Kendricks, Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Ellis McCarthy — are awaiting the NFL draft.

The Bruins appear to have the necessary defensive personnel in the middle, with linemen Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes, and linebackers Myles Jack and Kenny Young. What they need are McKinley and Hollins to attack from the edge.

That, though, will require improving their overall skills.

"The teams we play in conference don't necessarily sub in on pass downs where you can sub in specialist," Coach Jim Mora said.

McKinley's goal is to improve against the run. At 243 pounds, he is 18 pounds heavier than last season and he hopes to push it to 255 pounds.


"He has great strength for his size," defensive line coach Angus McClure said. "He needs to learn how to control it and use it to his advantage."

McKinley sees how it would give him an edge.

"The offense knew if I was in, it was for pass rush situations," McKinley said. "If I'm in all the time, they won't know what I'm doing. It will give me a better chance to catch them off guard."

Hollins' mandate is a bit different. His quickness when attacking is hard to counter. But he needed to become better in pass coverage, something he has worked hard on through the off-season.

"What we've seen from Deon so far is a guy who is much more versatile," Mora said. "He's hold up better on run. What really stood out to me is how he is working in space, dropping and coming up and making open field tackles. He looks like a really good outside linebacker now."

Quarterback watch

Quarterbacks Asiantii Woulard and Jerry Neuheisel labored Monday in 11-on-11 drills mostly dominated by the defense.

Woulard completed 15 of 23 passes running the first team, but had two passes intercepted. Neuheisel was 10 of 11, but his passing opportunities were limited because of protection breakdowns.

Josh Rosen was not at practice as he was attending a funeral.

Quick hits

Cornerback Priest Willis was limited to individual work because of a shoulder injury. … Receiver Mossi Johnson suffered a left leg injury during practice, but it was not considered serious, Mora said. … Cornerback Ishmael Adams intercepted a Woulard pass for the second time in as many practices.