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UCLA receivers wary of competition — from teammates

UCLA receivers wary of competition — from teammates
UCLA wide receiver Eldridge Massington catches a pass for a touchdown againstUtah defensive back Eric Rowe during a game on Oct. 4, 2014. (Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

It's basic economics, the law of supply and demand.

The demand for playing time far exceeds the supply of that time for UCLA receivers. This, though, is not a bad thing, for those who are jockeying for position.

"You're always being pushed," sophomore Eldridge Massington said. "You've got so many dudes trying to come after that starting position and be the guy that you can't have a bad day."

That's fine for a guy like Massington, whose spot is more or less secure. He had 25 receptions for 367 yards and three touchdowns last season.

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Four of the Bruins' top five wideouts last season are back — Massington, Jordan Payton, Devin Fuller and Mossi Johnson. Those yet to build a resume are trying to stand out in the crowd.

"It is way more than just showing talents on the field," freshman Jordan Lasley said. "You have to show it in the weight room, the meeting rooms, with the work that you do. You have to excel in a lot of areas."

Showing on the field never hurts, and Lasley made a brilliant one-handed catch in the end zone Thursday.

Lasley has something the Bruins dearly need, that blistering over-the-top speed. He averaged 24.5 yards per catch at Gardena Serra High, a hotbed for talented receivers who usually went to USC — Marquis Lee, Robert Woods, George Farmer.

Lasley, along with junior Kenneth Walker and freshman Stephen Johnson, have the type of speed the other receivers lack. Walker made three catches last season, but two went for touchdowns covering more than 50 yards. Johnson has opened eyes with his bursts during training camp.

"I'm always looking for ways to throw the ball down the field," offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said.

Being fast isn't enough.

"You've got to consistently make plays," receiver coach Eric Yarber said. "You can't just be a flash in the pan."

The Bruins will probably rotate eight receivers, not counting the bigger targets — juniors Thomas Duarte and Nate Iese and freshman Chris Clark.

The spots can fill up quickly.

"You've got to make good plays, spontaneous plays, but you have to have effort," Aaron Sharp said. "We have a lot of talented receivers. They can replace you easily."

Formidable front

Defensive line coach Angus McClure has the luxury of experience this season.

The Bruins broke in freshmen along the defensive line the past two seasons. Now they are benefiting from that learn-as-you go program.

Juniors Eddie Vanderdoes and Kenny Clark anchor what could be one of the best units in the Pac-12. Also back are sophomores Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Matt Dickerson, Takkarist McKinley and Najee Toran, among others.

"Our guys know how to practice, they know how to practice against each other and they know how competitive it is," McClure said. "Having the experience of the techniques we teach and the schematics we run is huge."

It also allows McClure to work with the lone incoming freshman: defensive end Rick Wade.

"He's my square-one guy," McClure said. "That's kind of nice because I can focus extra time on him and not spread it over three or four freshmen."

Wade, who played at Santa Margarita High, has impressed coaches. The plan is for Wade to redshirt and build upper-body strength.

Quick hits

Defensive end McKinley missed practice because of a concussion, but Mora expects him to be back at practice Monday. … Offensive linemen Conor McDermott (knee) and Jake Brendel (calf), both starters, are also expected back Monday, Mora said.

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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