UCLA’s keys to success: No. 5, Eddie Vanderdoes

Another high-profile recruit in Jim Mora’s second recruiting class, defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes, came to UCLA amid controversy when Notre Dame refused to release him.

Finally eligible after a long, drawn out process and a final appeal to the National Letter of Intent Steering Committee, Vanderdoes arrived at UCLA’s training camp in San Bernardino ready to put the ordeal behind him and get on the field.

Except his back prevented him from that happening.

Vanderdoes missed nine days with a sore back, setting him back behind the learning curve.

But the Auburn, Calif., product that was ranked as one of the Top-20 recruits in the nation when originally signed with the Fighting Irish, is more determined than ever to make up for missed time before UCLA takes the field in the season-opener against Nevada Aug. 31 at the Rose Bowl.

“It was almost a blessing in disguise that I got hurt. (It showed me) not to take anything for granted football-wise,” Vanderdoes said. “It was that much more precious for me to able to get in and get some reps.”

Vanderdoes was so excited to put even some pads on last Friday that he went a little too hard. With only soft pads and practice shorts, Vanderdoes bull-rushed an opposing teammate and had to be reprimanded and removed for the next series.

“He didn’t quite understand the tempo there and got a little aggressive,” said coach Jim Mora. “I think we really have to work him in at a pace, not quite a snail’s pace, but a pace where we don’t overload him too early but you can certainly see the level of ability.”

UCLA was probably the most unlikely home for the five-star talent. While the Sacramento-area has seen its share of four-and five-star recruits, it’s not quite a recruiting hotbed.

Vanderdoes immediately became a big story and rumors swirled for months over his choices. Rumored to have been favoring Oregon, he considered Penn State and gave USC a verbal before finally signing with Notre Dame.

But when the grandmother that helped raise him was diagnosed with breast cancer, it changed the game for the Vanderdoes family.

Vanderdoes tweeted that he had “4 reasons” for wanting to get out of his letter of intent. He still declines to state all four, except to say that staying close to his grandmother is one of them.

Whatever the reasons, he finally has a home in Westwood.

Importance of Vanderdoes

The defensive front has a hole at left defensive end where Datone Jones played last season. Jones, a first-round pick by the Packers, proved to be a game-changer in his senior season, so Vanderoes will have some big shoes to fill, but the 6-foot-3, 310-pound Vanderdoes projects as a strong replacement.

Known for his burst off the line, raw power and overall athleticism, Vanderdoes is an absolute beast in the weight room, and he has already impressed the always-stoic strength coach Sal Alosi.
 
The Bruins’ already solid defensive front should see almost no drop off.

Number of note: 9

Vanderdoes led Auburn’s Placer High with nine sacks for a loss of 27 yards. The total is only one less than another notable stat from his baseball career — that’s right — the 300-pound tackle stole 10 bases.

Quotables

Mora: “I’ve been talking to Coach Alosi and he said, ‘Eddie’s the kind of guy that if you’re doing a med ball throw against the wall, every time he throws it he tries to knock the wall down.’ I don’t even think that he’s trying to show us anything, I think it’s just him instinctively.”

2013 outlook

It might take Vanderdoes a game or two to fully adjust to the pace of the college game after missing most of training camp, but the learning curve is not steep, and Vanderdoes should be yet another formidable force for the Bruins up front.