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UCLA Bruins reloading in red zone without Fauria, Franklin


WESTWOOD, Calif. -- How will UCLA replace running back Johnathan Franklin and tight end Joseph Fauria? They won't, if you ask Bruins offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone.

"We're flying Joe in every Saturday morning, then he can go back to Detroit after the game," Mazzone said, referencing Fauria's push to make the Lions' roster as an undrafted free agent.

Mazzone was kidding, of course, one of a handful of jokes the former New York Jets assistant breaks out in a handful of minutes. But concerns over UCLA's red-zone offense are no laughing matter.

Franklin and Fauria scored 18 of the team's 40 touchdowns inside an opponent's 20-yard line last season and their presence on the field led to who knows how many other scores by other players.

UCLA head coach Jim Mora admitted he had "some concerns" about how the offense will look without them near the goal line.

Redshirt junior Jordon James and redshirt sophomore Steven Manfro are expected to split carries in the season-opener against Nevada as they attempt to replace Franklin, the school's all-time leading rusher and fourth-round pick of the Green Bay Packers.

"In the run game, I think it is a big unknown which one of those guys can sniff out the end zone like Jet (Franklin) and find his way in there," Mora said.

"The guy that is really tough to replace is Joe just cause you could chuck it up there high and he'd jump over everyone and get it," Mora said. "We don't really have that body right now."

There are high hopes that redshirt freshman Nate Iese or true freshman Thomas Duarte could eventually fill the role the 6-foot-7, 255-pound Fauria held, but for the moment the pressure falls on quarterback Brett Hundley to distribute the ball correctly to receivers Shaquille Evans, Devin Fuller and Devin Lucien, a redshirt freshman known for making spectacular catches. Lucien attended the same high school as Fauria.

"Brett is a big key to our success in the red zone, especially in the passing game," Mora said, "pulling the trigger in those tight windows and having the confidence to throw it in there."

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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