UCLA’s Adams becomes instant threat as return man

PASADENA, Calif. — It took several injuries to finally find UCLA a return man but Ishmael Adams made a case to become the Bruins’ full-time kick returner.

In his first game returning since his senior season at Oaks Christian, Adams netted 234 all-purpose yards returning five kickoffs for 185 yards and one punt for 49 yards. He had big runs of 49, 58 and 69 yards setting up key drives for UCLA.

It was his finest performance as a Bruin and the speedy corner is ready for more.

“I hope so, I hope this made my debut,” Adams said. “Whatever I can do to help the team. As long as I’m helping the team so if they need me back there, I’m back there.”

It’s an area the Bruins have struggled with this season. Steven Manfro has been down with an injury and Shaq Evans has been inconsistent. Devin Fuller has taken returns in recent games but he was held out of Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury.

After Arizona State scored on the first drive of the game, Adams ran 58 yards to set up a touchdown. On his next return, it looked as though he had been tackled before emerging from the pile and running for 49 yards.

He looked as though he would go all the way on the 49-yard return and it looked like a sure thing on his longest run.

“I could feel it, definitely,” Adams said. “I had a cutback lane on a punt return that I should have took but I had a blocker right in front of me so I thought I had it. And on that last return for sure. I had a wall of blockers, Stan McKay was in front of me. He did his best to get someone on the ground without any penalties so it was my job for me to take the cutback or just outrun him.”

The decision was made at the beginning of the week when the coaches chose Adams over Myles Jack. After just one game, he’s excited and has fully embraced the role.

“I can keep on working at it and look at some film and go from there,” Adams said.

The injury-riddled Bruins might have one position locked up, but the running game woes continue. Jordon James and Damien Thigpen were both promised back this week. James’ return has been promised for the last three weeks but he has yet to get on the field.

Jack was moved only to running back and while he did well running the ball, his pass blocking was less than stellar and he was limited to just 16 carries. Jack said he is still admittedly a little uncomfortable with the nuances of the position.

“I felt like I struggled,” Jack said. “It’s definitely hard to learn pass-pro and five days, that’s definitely tough… My experience with pass-pro, I had to get pulled out because I’m not reliable in that type of situation.”

Both Jack and the UCLA coaching staff maintain that the move was temporary and Jack will be back at linebacker.

“Based on the injuries with J.J. and Manfro and all them, we’re banking on them being there next week,” Jack said. “The way everything unfolds, if they need me to do it for a second for the team then I’m with it.”