UCLA football: Cornerback Marcus Rios continues to grow into job

UCLA football: Cornerback Marcus Rios continues to grow into job
UCLA defensive back Marcus Rios warms up before a win over Virginia on Aug. 30, 2014. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

It’s hard to miss UCLA’s Marcus Rios. He is the bulked-up cornerback who has ended up with the ball on more than a few occasions this spring.

Rios had an interception during 11-on-11 drills for the second time in three practices Monday. It was another reminder why the Bruins recruited him.

"He looks healthy, he looks confident, he looks physical," Coach Jim Mora said. "It's great to see, especially where he's coming from."

Rios suffered a near-fatal illness that forced him to spend a month in the hospital in 2013. He has had to work himself back to find the path he was on when he came out of Elk Grove's  Cosumnes Oaks High in 2012.


He returned last season and worked himself into a key role in UCLA's nickel package. His contributions included a game-saving interception near the goal line in a 36-34 victory over California. The following week he intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter to preserve a three-point lead against Colorado. The Bruins won in overtime, 40-37.

"From last year to now, there has been a lot of improvement," Rios said. "I feel great. There are no problems. I come out here every day to work my butt off."

Rios weighs 185 pounds, up 10 pounds from his listed weight last season.

"I think it's been slow gradual gain since he came back," Mora said. "He loves his arms. You can tell he loves his arms. Guys tease him, they say he amputated his legs and attached them to his shoulders."

Rios rolls with the teasing.

"My teammates push me every day," Rios said.

Rios has work ahead of him. The Bruins have loaded up on defense backs to the point where Mora said, "There is more depth now at the corner position than we have ever had since I've been here."

That's fine with Rios.

"I don't focus on who's starting or where I am on the depth chart," he said. "I'm focused on putting in  the time to get better. That's what was expected of me when I came here."