Monday, June 24, 2024

Keegan Jones provides UCLA football with versatility

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LOS ANGELES ― Keegan Jones has been working double duty with the intention of having a breakout season in his fifth year at UCLA.

Jones has seen limited action in his first four years with the Bruins but has displayed the ability to be a versatile player, allowing Coach Chip Kelly to believe the senior is poised to take on a bigger role or two this season.

Jones was listed as a running back in recent years, working with running backs coach DeShaun Foster, but was officially listed as a wide receiver for the upcoming season. He spent time throughout the spring working with wide receivers coach Jerry Neuheisel during individual drills.

“DeShaun and Jerry do a really good job of managing that for him, but I really believe he can play both positions,” Kelly said. “The thing for Keegan is to be as versatile as he can be, similar to (Kazmeir Allen).”

Allen spent the past two seasons in UCLA’s do-it-all role before signing with the Washington Commanders as an undrafted free agent in April.

Jones started two games at running back last season, when Zach Charbonnet was unavailable to play, and finished the year with 320 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 73 carries. He also had 21 receptions for 237 yards and three touchdowns.

“I think it’s going really well,” running back Colson Yankoff said of Jones’ split duties. “Keegan is an incredible athlete and he can really do whatever we need him to do, so I think they are just finding ways to get the ball in his hands, which has been awesome.”

The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Jones is also expected to contend as a returner on special teams, another void left by Allen, but Kelly has said the position will take some time to figure out because of the lack of real-time reps available during practice.

“We’ve got some guys that have done it before, but we lost Kaz,” Kelly said. “Kaz was a really good weapon back there and trying to fill that in is critical.

“It’s a tough position to evaluate in preseason camp because you’re never really going live on kickoff and punt return ”

Allen had 1,054 return yards, including a 100-yard touchdown return, in his last two seasons with the Bruins.

SENIOR WATCH

Linebackers Darius Muasau, JonJon Vaughns, edge rusher Laiatu Latu and center Duke Clemens were named to the 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl watchlist.

The Senior Bowl, an annual all-star college football exhibition game played in Mobile, Alabama, is Feb. 3, 2024.

Muasau started all 13 games last season and led the Bruins with 91 tackles.

Vaughns saw his role increase last season, starting 11 of 13 games. He finished his junior season with 53 total tackles and two interceptions.

Latu made an immediate impact in his first year with the Bruins. He recorded 36 tackles, including 12.5 for a loss and 10.5 sacks. He also forced three fumbles and recovered one.

Clemens started all 13 games at center, anchoring an offense that averaged more than 237 yards per game last season.

GIVING BACK

UCLA announced a fundraiser for the Maui community following the recent wildfires.

The university will offer two complimentary tickets for the UCLA football team’s season opener against Coastal Carolina on Sept. 2 and the Sept. 16 home matchup with North Carolina Central, to fans who donate at least $10 toward one of the selected charitable organizations, such as the Salvation Army Hawaiian and Pacific Islands Division, American Red Cross, in support of Hawaii wildfires relief and the Maui Food Bank.

Fans will receive the tickets by showing a donation receipt at the university’s customer service booth located outside of the Rose Bowl on the day of the game.

The football program has several players and staff members with ties to the state, including Muasau and Clemens.

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