UCLA football: Paul Perkins wants to be the best, but shies from record talk

UCLA football: Paul Perkins wants to be the best, but shies from record talk
UCLA running back Paul Perkins (24) gains yardage before being touched by defender DeChaun Holiday (17) during the first day of training camp Monday at Cal State San Bernardino. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

There are things UCLA junior running back Paul Perkins cares about.

"I just want to be the best running back in the nation and win the national championship," he said.


And there are things that he pushes from his mind.

Perkins' breakout season in 2014, where he gained 1,575 yards and led the Pac-12 in rushing, has him more than halfway to Jonathan Franklin's UCLA record.

Franklin gained 4,620 yards from 2009-12, punctuated by a school record of 1,734 in 2012. Perkins, with two seasons remaining, has 2,445 career yards rushing.

"I can't think about that, I'd get lost in the sauce," Perkins said. "You can't get lost in the sauces."

"Obviously," Perkins added, "if I do get it, that would be awesome."

What could hamper Perkins' ascent is the crowded UCLA backfield. Nate Starks, Steven Manfro and Craig Lee all return. Starks showed flashes of his ability last season. Manfro is returning from knee surgery. Lee had a solid spring practice, though he is absent from training camp while getting his academics in order.

Add to the mix two freshmen, Soso Jamabo and Bolu Olorunfunmi.

Olorunfunmi is a solid 5 feet 10, 220 pounds. Jamabo, at 6 feet 3 and 210 pounds, has an unusual look for running back.

"The rest of us are under 6 feet, so he is definitely has a different kind of game," Perkins said. "He's much smoother, kind of like Eric Dickerson. As long as he gets the job done, he can run however he wants."

Perkins said that 2014 season, where he had the second most single-season yards rushing in UCLA history, will help him as a mentor.

"It boosted my confidence and let me know that I have spot in offense," Perkins said. "I can help the young guys, who can look up to me and have some respect for me."

Follow Chris Foster on Twitter @cfosterlatimes