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Ishmael Adams back to return kicks for UCLA

Ishmael Adams back to return kicks for UCLA
UCLA receiver Ishmael Adams carries the ball past Washington State punter Erik Powell during a game on Oct. 15. (William Mancebo / Getty Images)

Ishmael Adams wore a red noncontact jersey in practice this week, meaning it was hands off for his UCLA teammates whenever Adams returned kicks or went out for a pass.

There was no such protection for Adams on Saturday, which was fine with him. It meant he was playing again.

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Adams sat out the Bruins’ game against Arizona State last week after partially dislocating a shoulder on Oct. 1 against Arizona. He entered UCLA’s game against Washington State on Saturday night at Martin Stadium still seeking to make the kind of all-around impact his coaches envisioned when they moved him from defensive back to receiver before the season.

The hope was that the speedy Adams could become a dynamic presence as a big-play receiver, occasional running back and primary return specialist.

Midway through the season, it hadn't happened. Not even close.

Adams came into Saturday having caught 11 passes for 108 yards without a touchdown. He had carried the ball six times for 30 yards, for a solid average of 5.0 yards per carry, but he had largely been a disappointment in the return game.

Adams had averaged only 3.1 yards on his 11 punt returns and 23.5 yards on his 10 kickoff returns. He fumbled a couple of punt returns early in the season and the Bruins switched to Adarius Pickett against Arizona even before Adams was injured, though UCLA Coach Jim Mora said the change was prompted by the unorthodox way the Wildcats defended punt returns.

The Bruins entered the game against Washington State ranked a middling No. 60 among major-college teams in kickoff returns (22.1 yards per return) and a woeful No. 97 in punt returns (4.5 yards per return). Adams did return one kickoff 52 yards, a season high for the Bruins, while Pickett's 33-yard punt return against Arizona ranked as UCLA's best of the season.

Adams ranked sixth on the all-time school kickoff return list with 53 entering Saturday, needing one to tie Jim McElroy for fifth. Adams also entered Saturday ranked fifth on the school career list in return yardage with 1,316 yards.

Student body right?

Washington State Coach Mike Leach spent the days leading up to the Cougars' game against UCLA talking about his team coming together and the possibility that his political leanings would push recruits away.

Of course, Leach has never worried about the way others perceive what he says or believes. The same holds true for his support of polarizing presidential candidate Donald Trump and whether it might be a turn-off for the high school players Leach woos.

"Not at all," Leach told reporters. "They walk right by a picture of him hanging in my office. Everybody recruited here has seen the picture. I'm sure not all of them will be voting for Mr. Trump, but they all walk by the picture. And I think they also appreciate the fact that I know somebody who's trying to make a difference regardless of whether they're voting for someone else."

Quick hits

UCLA defensive tackle Eli Ankou, who hyperextended an elbow against Stanford on Sept. 24, did not start for a third consecutive game. Jacob Tuioti-Mariner took his place, but Ankou entered the game later in the first quarter. … Cornerback Nate Meadors, who was hurt in pregame warmups against Arizona State last week, did not start against the Cougars.

Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch

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