Bruins say they're focused on this football season, not the NFL

Bruins say they're focused on this football season, not the NFL
Linebacker Myles Jack is a two-year starter for the Bruins. (Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)

Myles Jack, UCLA's multi-skilled linebacker, waxed poetic last week about Cal State San Bernardino, where the Bruins trained for two weeks this summer.

It sounded like a farewell moment, even though Jack is a junior.


When it was pointed out that he had one more San Bernardino training camp remaining, Jack smiled and said, "Yes, one more year. I like how you did that."

The 2016 NFL draft is more than six months away, but it could severely affect UCLA's roster.

When asked three weeks ago whether he was coming back for the 2016 season, Jack said, "I'm focused on this season. That's something I'll think about when it is over."

It's a common answer from players. But there might be a lot of thinking going on again this winter.

The Bruins will lose center Jake Brendel, who is a senior, but three other starters on the offensive line —guard Alex Redmond, tackle Conor McDermott and tackle Caleb Benenoch — will all be eligible to declare early for the draft. On the defensive front, Jack, nose guard Kenny Clark and defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes are all juniors who could go.

Coach Jim Mora said that under the current rule, which allows players to jump to the pros after their third season out of high school, NFL officials "do a good job of it," when it comes to helping players assess their draft prospects.

Still, he said, "I wouldn't disagree with what other coaches have expressed, in terms of the timing that we get information to these guys. We always seem to be in such a hurry to get them information so they can make a decision."

The Bruins have had only three early departures through three seasons under Mora. Tackle Xavier Su'a-Filo left early for the draft after the 2012 season. Quarterback Brett Hundley had a year of eligibility remaining when he left after last season. Both were drafted.

UCLA also lost defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy after the 2014 season. He went undrafted.

The Bruins were able to keep linebacker Anthony Barr after the 2012 season. He came back for his senior year and was a first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings.

That trickle to the NFL could start gushing if the Bruins continue to improve.

"We're a talented group," Benenoch said when asked about the offensive line. "It'll be fun to watch as the season progresses. We'll see what happens."

Mora would prefer that draft information come after a teams finishes its regular season or bowl game.

"I think to get it before the season is over is unfair to programs, unfair to players on the team and unfair to the players who are getting the information," Mora said. "They don't need the distraction. They have worked so hard for so many years to get to this point. Right when it becomes the most important, that last bowl game, there's a distraction that is introduced."

But even if information was delayed by the NFL, the numerous draft websites would continue to give players something to ponder. One already predicts Jack will be taken as the 12th overall pick by the Houston Texans in the 2016 draft.

Other avenues of information come from "advisors" who can have the ear of a family. McCarthy was nudged toward declaring, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Benenoch said: "You work your butt off for a lot of years to get to that point. It's an opportunity for guys to reach their dreams."

But, he added, "Right now, we're just focused on the season."

Ticket to ride

The Count On Me Family Foundation, run by Mora and his wife, Shannon, will again provide bus rides to UCLA's games at the Rose Bowl, including a pregame meal and snacks for the ride home.

"Bus 2 the Bowl" is provided to youth-affiliated organizations, charities, athletic leagues and schools across the Greater Los Angeles area that "service children in need — especially in low socioeconomic situations."

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