Darius Bell, who scored the first touchdown of his UCLA career in the second… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
UCLA receiver Darius Bell is expected to out two to four weeks because of a broken rib he suffered during the Bruins' game against California.
Bell, a junior, was injured after making an 18-yard reception in the third quarter. He also suffered a shoulder injury on the play from a hit by California's Kameron Jackson.
UCLA has good depth at receiver, but Bell's loss does hurt the team's psyche.
"He's got a mature personality," UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. "When everything is breaking loose, he keeps it calm."
Bell came to UCLA as a quarterback but made a successful transition to receiver this season. He has seven receptions for 143 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown catch against Colorado. He averages a team-high 20.4 yards per catch.
He's also a good blocker. "I love good blockers," Mora said. "It's just amazing how well he has adapted to that position after being a quarterback."
Joseph Fauria, Jordon James and Steven Manfro have been rotating with Bell at a position UCLA calls the F-back. Ricky Marvray and Damien Thigpen can also play the position.
The Bruins are lucky to have strength in numbers because they have a couple of dinged-up receivers. Devin Lucien suffered a broken collarbone against Colorado and Jerry Johnson has sore ribs.
Some secondary concerns
The Bruins start three seniors in the secondary — cornerbacks Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price and safety Andrew Abbott — along with sophomore safety Tevin McDonald.
"We would like to see a higher level of consistency in their play," Mora said. "That's a group with three seniors. They should be able to play with a level of consistency that's higher than has been shown at this point. That's what we're asking them to do."
UCLA has given up nine passes of 31 or more yards — including touchdown plays of 75, 42, 34 and 31 yards — in the last three games. If that continues, the defensive backfield could get younger in a hurry. The Bruins have several freshmen who are backups. Randall Goforth is already seeing considerable time at safety. Marcus Rios and Fabian Moreau have played at cornerback.
"Every week, they are seeing more," Mora said of the freshmen. "Every week, they are creating a backlog of information that they can draw upon in a game."
But, he added, "Every week they're seeing new things they haven't seen before."
On Tuesday it was said that Abbott would speak for the entire secondary when it came to answering questions from the media. That policy ended after one day, at Mora's insistence.