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Spaulding Roundup: Illinois Preparation, Injury Notes & Mora Recruiting Momentum Continues for UCLA

Let's start the day with some quick notes from Spaulding. Bruins have now started practicing their Illinois specific game plans. Interim Coach Mike Johnson talked about getting ready for Illinois in his post practice presser along with other team related notes on injuries and possible attrition due to academic issues.

A big part of Bruins' game plan will entail figuring out how to contain Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus, a consensus All-American and the winner of the Bill Willis Trophy as the nation's top defensive lineman. Peter Yoon of ESPNLA caught up with offensive tackles Mike Harris and Jeff Baca to get their thoughts on dealing with Mercilus.

Meanwhile, on the defensive side Bruins are currently missing few players. Yoon has the rundown on the injury list with speculation on who may be back for the bowl game:

  • Linebacker Patrick Larimore was at practice for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament and bone chips in his right thumb. Larimore did not practice but said he was hopeful to be back by Friday and was probable for the bowl game.
  • Alex Mascarenas needed eight stitches after getting run over on the sidelines when Jordon Jamesand Randall Carroll crashed in to him during a practice drill. Mascarenas, sidelined because of a concussion, was observing from out of bounds when the play came his way. He ended up with two major gashes, one below his eye and one above it. He is not going to play in the bowl game.
  • Linebacker Sean Westgate was not dressed as he continues to recover from a concussion. Johnson said his status for the bowl game was "still up in the air."
  • Safety Tony Dye did not attend practice as he tries to recover from an ankle injury suffered against USC. Johnson said Dye "has a good chance to come back" for the bowl game. Defensive linemanDamien Holmes also missed practice as he attended a personal matter.

In addition to those guys apparently Coach Johnson is bracing for couple of players missing the bowl game due to academic issues. He talked about that issue during post practice presser. He will know more in next day or so as grades from Fall Quarter roll in. It will be a shame if the Bruins have the same issues they had, heading into the Eaglebank Bowl game couple of years ago when guys like Kai Maiava had to miss the game due to grade issues. Gold has a quick post on this topic as well. Now let's get to some recruiting goodies after the jump.

On the recruiting front UCLA football continued its recent momentum under new head coach Jim Mora by picking up multiple commitments last night. First, we got an intriguing commit from out of state: LB Kenny Orjioke from Marietta, Ga./Lassister (from Biggins):

"I just called Coach Mora and committed to UCLA," Orjioke said. "I know I said I wanted to wait until Wednesday, but I didn't see any need to wait any longer when I knew I wanted to be a Bruin. This is my dream school and where I always wanted to go. When they offered Sunday night, I couldn't believe it. I was stunned.

"Even right now, it hasn't really hit me yet that I'm a Bruin. It's amazing how fast everything came together for me. I just started to hear from them a week ago, coach Mora offered me last night, and now I'm committing the next day. It doesn't feel rushed though, because this is what I always wanted, and I'm blown away at the chance to get out there."

As mentioned in a fanshot last night Orijoke is a pretty highly recruited athlete, who had offers from number of schools including ASU, Cal, Georgia Tech, and UNC. You can check out some quick YouTube highlights of Orjioke here.

Bruins also picked up another defensive back by flipping Taylor LaGace (Arcadia, Calif.) from Washington to UCLA (HT Nick2002). Again from tWWL's Greg Biggins:

LaGace, a three-star recruit and rated the No. 69 player in the state, took an unofficial visit to UCLA on Saturday and was offered a scholarship by the Bruins a day later.

"I really wanted to play for Coach Meat [Demetrice Martin]," LaGace said. "He was a big reason why I committed to UW, but the truth is, I always liked UCLA. They didn't recruit me early on, really until Coach Meat got the job there, and then I went down there on Saturday and met coach Mora and really had a good time.

Per his profile Legace is "a good tackler from his safety spot and is physical at the point of attack." Here is a cool YT highlight package of Legace showing of his multiple skillets as WR/FS.

With Legace's commit Bruins now have at least 7 defensive backs shorn up as "solid verbals" with one more (Raymond Ford) listed a "soft verbal." It is good to see Mora and the coaches putting so much emphasis in this position since we are going to need depth at this position next year.

Moreover, a number of these athletes could also be switched over to safeties and if needed to LB spots, if they spend couple of years in the program with a solid S&C regimen places (hoping for a great hire to take the spot of Mike Linn).

Bruins now have a total of 21 "commits" listed on the board with 6 of them listed as "soft verbals". I think we have about 18 to 19 scholies to hand out in this class. I am not so worried about how many recruits we ultimately take because as always programs go through attrition for myriad of reasons during the off-season.

What is good to see though is that the recruiting momentum has the ranking of this class trending upwards. Prior to firing of Rick Neuheisel UCLA's 2012 class was ranked in the 40s. Our class is now up to number 22. Let's keep moving on up.