LOS ANGELES – UCLA head coach Jim Mora and his staff aggressively went after revamping their secondary in his most recent recruiting class.
Now, it appears there was even more incentive to do so. Safety Tevin McDonald has been released from the team for a violation of team rules, Mora announced during a Tuesday press conference.
McDonald did not make the trip to San Diego last December for the Holiday Bowl against Baylor because of a violation of team rules. Mora would not confirm if it was that same violation that resulted in McDonald’s dismissal.
In 2012, as a redshirt sophomore, McDonald started all 13 games he appeared in and was third on the team with 79 tackles.
He also led the team in pass breakups and passes defended with nine and 10, respectively.
The 2013 recruiting class includes safeties Tahaan Goodman and Tyler Foreman along with cornerbacks Priest Willis, Johnny Johnson, and Mossi Johnson, however he’s expected to grayshirt.
The Bruins now need to replace their entire starting secondary from last season with the graduation of Aaron Hester, Sheldon Price, Andrew Abbott and the recent dismissal of McDonald.
“I’m disappointed for Tevin,” Mora said. “I’ve known Tevin since he was a young boy. I probably met him when he was five (years old), so just on a personal level it’s disappointing. I care about him and I hope that everything turns out well for him.
“He’s a good kid.”
McDonald’s father, Tim, is a former NFL All-Pro.
With all of the departures, Mora is hoping his members of his 2013 recruiting class will be key contributors.
“I want every freshman coming in here with the mindset that I’m going to push to earn a starting job, but when you look at that position (group) in particular, we need guys that can come in and contribute and play,” Mora said. “We recruited four athletes that we think are capable of coming in and contributing at some level right away – maybe as a starter, maybe as a backup – but I wouldn’t be surprised if four of those guys have an impact this year.”
The recruits won’t be in Westwood until the summer, so in the meantime, Mora will be looking for bodies in the secondary this spring. Cornerback Marcus Rios will be out with a severe sinus problem. Ishmael Adams, another cornerback, will be a spring participant but will be limited to non-contact drills coming off of shoulder surgery.
At safety, sophomore Randall Goforth will be with the first team to start spring along with Dietrich Riley, who’s been cleared to return after missing all of last season. Riley suffered a neck injury in 2011 and underwent surgery. He was cleared to return to practice for non-contact drills last October as a member of the scout team.
“He’s been cleared for everything,” Mora said. “He’s really excited about getting back and getting involved.
“I know that he’s a really good player. I hope that he’s able to play at his ability because he can really help us.”