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UCLA football team has 1,700 yards to make up

With career rushing leader Johnathan Franklin off to the NFL, the Bruins need to find a running game to take pressure off quarterback Brett Hundley

April 27, 2013|By Chris Foster
  • Bruins running back Paul Perkins turns the corner on a run during the spring game Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
Bruins running back Paul Perkins turns the corner on a run during the spring… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)

UCLA needs 1,700 from a running back.

Not on the SATs. On the ground.

It doesn't take a Stanford degree to work this equation. Johnathan Franklin is gone. So too are his cuts, jukes and flat-out sprints that made quarterback Brett Hundley's life so much safer.

Franklin gained a UCLA record 1,700 yards last season. The first phase of finding his replacement ended Saturday with the Bruins' scaled-back spring game in the Rose Bowl.

"There was a calmness on the field that we had," Hundley said. "We knew each other. We knew what each other was thinking."

Where Hundley will get that same sense in the fall was the biggest question through spring practice. The auditions will continue in August, under a brutal San Bernardino sun.

That's when people might start to sweat finding Franklin's replacement. It probably will be done by committee.

Jordon James and Paul Perkins spent spring practice trying to carve out larger roles, while Steven Manfro nursed a sore shoulder through spring. The unknowns are Damien Thigpen, who is recovering from a knee injury, and Malcolm Jones, who left the program last fall and returned as a walk-on in the spring.

None got to stretch their legs much during the a curtailed spring game Saturday.

James was the Bruins' leading rusher with 20 yards in five carries. Perkins did not get a rushing attempt. He did catch two passes, including a 25-yard touchdown reception. James had one reception for 39 yards.

"That's fine," Perkins said. "It's good to be out here perfecting the craft. I looking for the next competition."

That will be when training camp opens in August.

Franklin's 1,700 needs to come from one or more in that group.

"I never go into a season saying, 'I need to get this many yards out his kid,'" offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. "I look at we got to get production out of this position."

Mazzone smiled and said, "That's a great answer."

Sure, in a debate.

The subject here is math.

"I think all are capable of being 1,000-yard-plus rushers," Mazzone said. "I'm not saying all will get 1,000. We don't play that many games. I'm saying ability-wise."

Rios sidelined with infection

UCLA defensive back Marcus Rios will miss six months, and possibly the entire 2013 season, because of a fungus infection in his sinus area.

Rios, a freshman last year, has undergone six surgeries to remove the infection since October. He will undergo another surgery within two weeks.

"It started as a sinus infection last October," Rios said. "Then they found the fungus infection behind my eye and beneath my brain."

Rios said that "it's very rare. Only 12 people have ever had it and eight of them have died. Two others recovered and then died later."

Rios spent much of the off-season in and out of hospitals. He is currently taking antibiotics through a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) in his arm.

Rios, who played at Elk Grove Oaks High, entered spring practice on top of the depth chart at one cornerback spot.

Coach Jim Mora said Rios "will be out six months." Rios said, "I'm probably out for the season."

chris.foster@latimes.com

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