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Bruins long snapper Christopher Longo a work in progress

UCLA sophomore, who has never snapped in a game, follows Kevin McDermott and Christian Yount at the position. Coach Jim Mora calls Longo 'pretty darn good.'

August 22, 2013|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA Coach Jim Mora says long snapper Christopher Longo is "pretty darn good," though the sophomore hasn't snapped in a game yet.
UCLA Coach Jim Mora says long snapper Christopher Longo is "pretty… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

People never noticed UCLA's long snappers the last six years.

That was a good thing.

So Coach Jim Mora's uneasiness with the spot this week was easy to understand. Sophomore Christopher Longo was noticed Tuesday night.

Longo is trying to fill the void left by Kevin McDermott, who is in the San Francisco 49ers' training camp. McDermott replaced Christian Yount, who spent six seasons as the Bruins' long snapper and recently signed a five-year contract extension with the Cleveland Browns.

Longo is still working to live up to their standards.

"Here's the deal: Longo has never snapped in a game," Mora said. "I guess I need to see him snap in a game and put it on target a few times."

Problems with snaps, and Ka'imi Fairbairn kicks, on Tuesday led Mora to gather the specialists — kickers, snappers and holder — for a post-practice session in which he did all the talking.

"Longo has been pretty darn good," Mora said. "He had a tough night the other night; so did Ka'imi. I just want him to be consistent."

Longo spent the last two seasons learning from McDermott.

"He was one of the best snappers in college football," Longo said. "I learned the proper form from him."

Longo is trying to grow into the job. His 6-foot-3, 204-pound frame hardly looks ideal to be the keystone on the line for kicks. His development was slowed by a knee injury that had him on the shelf during spring practice, but he worked out with holder Jerry Neuheisel and kicker Fairbairn during the summer.

"We went through some struggles at the start of summer, but we're feeling pretty good about things now," Longo said.

Jeff Ulbrich, who coaches the special teams, said. "He just lacked some strength. I think the strength is finally coming along and his velocity is coming with it."

Ulbrich believes Longo will get there, saying, "He has all the accuracy and technique you need."

UCLA's backup is Y-back Darius Bell, who is still recovering from a fractured wrist. It was hoped that Reed Bruce, a freshman walk-on, also would be in the mix, but he has not been cleared by the NCAA.

Barr update

The Bruins are still awaiting the return of All-American linebacker Anthony Barr, who is out because of an undisclosed injury.

Asked when Barr would be back in practice, Mora said, "He was here today."

He was.

Barr walked into practice without a helmet, shoulder pads or cleats Thursday. UCLA has not said what injury Barr has, but he left practice after taking a hit to the head Tuesday.

Asked when Barr might return and practice, Mora said, "He was here today."

Barr is expected to be able to go through the Bruins' walk-through at the Rose Bowl on Saturday and will probably be back practicing Monday.

Bruins toe line

This is going to be easy for UCLA, according to Nevada — the gambling Nevada, not the football-playingNevada.

The 21st-ranked Bruins opened as a 14 1/2-point favorite against Nevada in their Aug. 31 season opener. That has swelled to 19 1/2 to 20 points, depending on the casino, according to Las Vegas Sports Consultants. (Las Vegas Sports Consultants sets the line for the majority of the Nevada casinos.)

This is a tap-in putt for UCLA.

The Bruins have been favored by 16 or more points eight times, and 20 or more points three times, since 2007. They won all eight.

Of course, gamblers won't consider that a perfect record. UCLA has a 5-3 record against the spread.

So how good the Bruins are as a heavy favorite depends on one's definition of "winning."

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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