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July 26, 2013CULVER CITY, Calif. -- UCLA could know within the next week or so if it will have its incoming five-star DT available this season.
Eddie Vanderdoes is set to appeal his Notre Dame National Letter of Intent to an NLI Committee next Monday, and head coach Jim Mora is hopeful a ruling will come down soon after.
"I don't think they'll rule on Monday, but hopefully they'll rule soon to be fair to him," Mora said. "That's all I know."
Vanderdoes signed a letter of intent with Notre Dame last February, but tried to get out of it shortly after, citing his grandmother's deteriorating health as the reason for staying closer to California. Brian Kelly and the Irish denied his request to be released from his NLI, however, which means Vanderdoes would have to forfeit a year of eligibility if his appeals to the NLI Committee are denied.
Mora said after the appeal hearing on Monday, "we will have more information" on his eligibility then.
If Vanderdoes is available to play this year, it could be massive for Mora's Bruins.
"They say that his work ethic is off the charts," Mora said of Vanderdoes. "I guess they throw those medicine balls, and he's trying to knock the wall down every time he throws it. I haven't seen it, but that's what they said."
Barr so hard
A few weeks ago, BruinSportsReport.com heard Anthony Barr had run a 4.46 40-yard dash in his post-spring workouts. But the news still didn't feel real until the 6-foot-5, 255-pound linebacker confirmed it himself.
On Friday afternoon, the big linebacker said it was true, with Mora even saying it was on an electronically-timed clock to boot.
"He's just gigantic," Mora said. "I don't think he needs to get any bigger. But the thing about him is he's gotten bigger and faster too. It's scary if you're an offensive tackle."
He's become so big and so fast, in fact, that there are rumblings UCLA could begin a Heisman campaign for Barr this season.
While Barr said that's cool and all, he's going to let his play do the talking for him - not YouTube advertisements.
"I don't even know how that works, how a campaign works," Barr said. "I'm not much into politics. I'm just going to try to sell myself by playing."
Willis set to enroll
Four-star DB Priest Willis is very close to making his way onto UCLA's football field this year, Mora confirmed Friday.
The head coach said Willis has been admitted to UCLA, but needs to jump just a few more small hurdles with the NCAA Clearinghouse before he can start playing with the Bruins this season.
"Hopefully in the next day or two he's cleared," Mora said.
When he gets to UCLA, Mora said Willis will begin his career at cornerback.
-Mora said defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa's status for this season is still uncertain. He'll be with the team in San Bernardino, but the Bruins have to see him play before anything is determined with his status this year: "He's making really good progress. I think he wants to get back and play, but the thing we have to remember is he has not really done much at all since the Holiday Bowl game We'll see where he is."
-Running back Damien Thigpen (knee) likely won't be available until at least October, Mora said.
-Mora confirmed safety Dietrich Riley (neck, shoulder) has medically retired: "That's going to hurt us. We were counting on him."
UCLA has more than two dozen highly-recruited athletes heading to campus this year, but one name kept standing out ahead of them all on Friday:
Barr said he's been a freak in the offseason. And so did Mora.
"His athleticism is ridiculous," Mora said. "It's off the charts."
"He's ridiculously athletic," Barr added. "His change of direction is unreal."
Barr also said Jayon Brown has been great this offseason, hanging with running backs Jordon James and Steven Manfro in one-on-ones.
Taubler switches to DE
In an attempt to keep his best players on the field as often as possible, Mora said he's moved sophomore tight end Ian Taubler to defensive end.
"Ian is a big, physical, good looking athlete," Mora said. "In our style of offense, he wasn't getting the play time that a guy with his skillset I think deserves or commands."
So Taubler will move to 3-4 DE, which is apparently a position he played and looked good at during his high school career in Fresno. Mora said he'll still get looks as a goalline tight end too.
"It's all about getting the best players on the field as often as you can," Mora said. "He's a good player."
Offensive line shuffle
While it's much deeper than last year's crop of OL, there's still nearly just as much uncertainty along the offensive line this year.
Mora said he wasn't sure of where Xavier Su'a-Filo would play - although he'd ideally like to see him at guard. He said he wasn't sure of which sides of the line Torian White and Simon Goines would play either.
The only things he was certain of were Ben Wysocki has really improved, and he has a good idea of where he wants his freshmen to play this season: Scott Quessenberry at center; Caleb Benenoch, Alex Redmond and John Lopez at guard; and Christian Morris, Poasi Moala and Kenny Lacy at tackle.
Other than that, Mora is hoping the starting lineup somehow plays itself out next month in San Bernardino.
-While there's uncertainty along the offensive line, there's even more uncertainty at DB this year for Mora: "I have no clue who's going to play where in the secondary. No clue. But that's OK, because someone is going to present themselves."
-Mora said with the loss of Riley, UCLA will move Stan McKay back to safety, and could move Jayon Brown back there as well from linebacker.
-Arizona State defensive lineman Will Sutton said he received a fifth-round grade on his NFL Draft prediction, which is a huge reason he returned to ASU.
-Both Barr and Su'a-Filo said the Nebraska game last year was really when the team started buying in to what Mora was selling: "I think the first victory, we were like, OK, we can do this, and when we beat Nebraska, we were like, OK, we can really do that and we're actually a good football team," Barr said.
-Mora said sophomore defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy is down from around 350 pounds to 325. He said if Kenneth Clark can come in and play nose guard well, McCarthy could slide down to DE.
-The best quote of Media Day came from Barr in response to a question about his now-infamous hit on Matt Barkley in UCLA's win over USC last year: "It's funny you asked. I want to know why the tackle just let me go. He should be standing up here and talking to you guys, because he's the reason why I was able to make that play."
-Mora said UCLA voted Brett Hundley as a captain for its team last year before he had even taken a rep as the starting quarterback. But the head coach nixed the deal, saying, "I just didn't want to put it on him. I overruled the vote."
-Mora said OLB Jeremy Castro is a "candidate" to slide from linebacker to defensive end this year.