UCLA’s Paul Perkins puts season as Pac-12’s leading rusher behind him

UCLA running back Paul Perkins works out during the Bruins' spring practice opener.

UCLA running back Paul Perkins works out during the Bruins’ spring practice opener.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA Coach Jim Mora, with his team’s quarterback competition in full swing, stated the obvious.

“It’s nice to have a veteran offensive line and the Pac-12’s leading rusher back,” Mora said.

But Paul Perkins, who was the conference’s top rusher last season, would prefer another title.

“That’s already out of my head,” Perkins said. “As soon as I spent some time at home, caught up with my family, I put the ‘leading rusher’ thing out of my mind quick. We have bigger and better things to do. So I have to get out there and work.”

Anything bigger and better than the Bruins’ 10-3 season last fall will probably require work from Perkins, who will be a junior this fall.


Last season, Perkins had six games of at least 100 yards, including a career-high 194 in a 40-35 victory over Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl. He finished the season with 1,575 yards, second in UCLA’s history behind Johnathan Franklin’s 1,734 in 2012.

With two seasons left, and 2,148 career rushing yards on the books, Perkins is within reach of Franklin’s UCLA career record of 4,403.

Still, respect seemed elusive this winter. When national letter of intent signing day rolled around in February, an ESPN commentator said, “UCLA needs running backs.”

Perkins heard and shrugged it off.

“My mom told me about it,” Perkins aid. “You can’t pay attention to that stuff. It’s all talk. Hey, you know, whatever gets the crowd going. I can’t control what people say.”

Perkins focuses on things that he can control.

“I have to look at all the mistakes by the running backs in order to grow, especially mine” Perkins said. “I can help teach them, tell them their mistakes and what they need to work on as I work on myself.”

The advice, running back Nate Starks said, is appreciated.

“It’s great to have a guy like Paul in front me,” Starks said. “He always tells me, ‘Don’t let me step in and take your reps.’ He’s a competitor, but he wants everyone to do what they can to get on the field and contribute.”


Rosen rising

Freshman quarterback Josh Rosen handled the first-team offense during 11-on-11 drills for the first time Monday. He completed 15 of 20 passes, including a 20-yard touchdown throw to Jordan Payton.

“I saw [quarterback coach] Taylor Mazzone step in and help him a little bit a couple times, more with the communication with the line, the backs and the receivers,” Coach Jim Mora said. “Once the ball was snapped, he looked comfortable.”

Rosen had two impressive throws, a deep slant to Tyler Scott and a long fade to Thomas Duarte.

“He’s a big-picture guy,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “He does a good job of seeing the whole field. He understands that all the parts have to fit together.”

Quick hits

Quarterback Aaron Sharp worked at receiver Monday. He made two quality catches in individual drills. Mora said the move may be permanent. … Defensive end Takkarist McKinley was taken to the emergency room because one of his eyes was so swollen he couldn’t open it. Mora said that it was not considered serious. … Receiver Eldridge Massington injured his hamstring and will miss at least a day. … Receiver Darren Andrews was limited to individual work because of a slightly sprained ankle.

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