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UCLA FOOTBALL

Running backs in short supply; will Myles Jack fill in?

Linebacker Myles Jack, who played at running back last week, may be needed there again this week, with three RBs battling injuries.

November 12, 2013|By Chris Foster

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UCLA Coach Jim Mora insists that freshman Myles Jack will remain a linebacker. The offense, though, is running out of running backs.

Damien Thigpen had a walking boot on his right leg as he hobbled into practice Tuesday. Steven Manfro was not in pads, still nursing an ankle injury. Jordon James is trying to return from an ankle injury but his availability is unknown.

That leaves Paul Perkins and Malcolm Jones as the only healthy backs who have been in the Bruins' rotation. So Jack could be given the ball again when UCLA plays Washington on Friday night at the Rose Bowl.

"Wherever they ask me to play, I'll play," Jack said.

The Bruins used Jack in a special package that had limited plays against Arizona last Saturday. He had 120 yards rushing in six carries, including a 66-yard touchdown run.

Jack said it was similar to what he did as a running back at Bellevue (Wash.) High. "It was just following the lead blocker on sweeps," he said.

At 6 feet 1, 225 pounds, Jack has the size to carry a bigger load and the speed to be effective. But the Bruins will also need his skills on defense against a potent Washington offense.

Mora did not meet with the media Tuesday, so he could not address the issue. However, it is clear that the Bruins' running game has stalled. Quarterback Brett Hundley is the team's leading rusher with 487 yards. The last UCLA quarterback to lead the team in rushing was Larry Zeno in 1964.

Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said the quarterback needs to be a runner but that Hundley's mandate is not to carry the running attack.

"You want your running back to gain yards," Mazzone said. "That's why they are called running backs."

Mazzone was confident James would be able to play.

James was fifth in the nation in yards rushing per game when he suffered an ankle injury against Utah on Oct. 3. He missed three games, then tried to play against Colorado on Nov. 2. He had eight yards in six carries, but appeared to reinjure his ankle in the fourth quarter. He did not suit up for the Arizona game.

Dual threat

The Bruins, who saw Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey last weekend, will face another of the nation's top running backs Friday.

Washington's Bishop Sankey averages 145.0 yards rushing per game, third nationally. Carey is second, averaging 152.6 yards per game. He had 149 yards against UCLA.

The problem for the Bruins is that Washington quarterback Keith Price is far more dangerous as a passer than Arizona's B.J. Denker.

Price averages 275.7 yards passing per game, ranking 18th nationally. His passing efficiency rating of 154.4 ranks 20th.

"He's their offense," UCLA defensive coordinator Lou Spanos said of Price. "He is a vertical threat and he is very accurate with that."

Spanos added that Price could "run if he wants, and be very successful. But his arm is so strong that he can hold the ball a second or two longer so the receiver can get separation."

That presents a challenge for UCLA's safeties, who have to give run support.

"This is a game where we really have to protect the pass first," UCLA safety Anthony Jefferson said. "We have to have great eyes and see the right things."

chris.foster@latimes.com

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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