LOS ANGELES--Running back Malcolm Jones, who left the UCLA football team after one game last season, is back on the team as a walk-on, coach Jim Mora said Tuesday.
Jones, the Gatorade national high school player of the year in 2009, played sparingly as a freshman and sophomore and, after getting only three carries in UCLA's season opener at Rice last season, announced he would transfer. After the season and after UCLA's Holiday Bowl game, Jones approached Mora and asked if he could return this season.
"He came in and said 'I think I made a mistake and I was hasty in my judgment and I’d like to return to the team,'" Mora said. "Our focus was on recruiting and I told him we didn’t have a scholarship but we’d welcome him back as a walk-on"
Jones rushed for 255 yards in 55 carries as a freshman and had 103 yards rushing in 25 carries as a sophomore. He had high hopes for more playing time going into last season after the graduation of Derrick Coleman, but felt that his power running game didn't fit very well with UCLA's new spread offense. He made it through training camp, but left after the first game.
"He’s a good kid," Mora said. "He’s a good football player. Sometimes you get derailed when you’re a kid and I don’t think any of us wanted to hold the fact that he left the team against him. We all wanted to give him that second chance because of the type of kid he is and because we believe in someone earning a second chance."
Jones will participate in spring practice beginning next week and will be in the mix at running back. The Bruins have big shoes to fill with the graduation of all-time leading rusher Johnathan Franklin and the competition for those carries will be among the most closely watched during spring and fall camps. Jordon James, Steven Manfro and Paul Perkins are also among the group competing.
"I have not made him any promises," Mora said about Jones. "I kind of feel like Malcolm is going to have a renewed sense of intensity and urgency in the things that I was talking about and I’d love to see it. I’m excited to see it. I’m excited to see him play."
Mora also said the school would inquire with the NCAA about getting Jones another year of eligibility because he played so sparingly in that one game last season. He played only on the final drive of UCLA's 49-24 season-opening victory over Rice.
"I think there are some special circumstances there and hopefully they’ll take them into account but we haven’t started that process yet," Mora said.
In other roster news, Mora announced that receivers Ricky Marvray and Jerry Rice Jr. have graduated from UCLA and will transfer to other schools as graduate students. They will be allowed to play immediately under the NCAA transfer rules regarding graduate students. Marvray had three catches for 18 yards in an injury-marred season last year. Rice, son of the NFL's all-time leading receiver, caught seven passes for 52 yards last year.