Hometown Report

Hometown Report: Alex Van Dyke catching on quickly at UCLA

He can race past complex cover schemes and jump over defenders. He can do chin-ups on the crossbar with a running start.

What really catches the attention of Alex Van Dyke’s fellow receivers and position coaches at UCLA is his long stride, rangy 6-foot-4 frame, soft hands and quest to improve. The freshman from Cosumnes Oaks High School in Elk Grove has been called “freak” during the Bruins training camp in San Bernardino, or “a young Randy Moss.”

“Alex is going to be great,” UCLA receiver Devin Fuller said this week.

Van Dyke was seemingly groomed for this position. His father, Alex Van Dyke Sr., set still-standing receiving records at Burbank, Sacramento City College and Nevada, and played five years in the NFL. Now a strength and conditioning coach in Sacramento, Van Dyke Sr. never hesitates in saying his son “will be better than I ever was.”

Van Dyke isn’t above good-natured ribbing, either. During drills Thursday, UCLA receivers coach Eric Yarber called Van Dyke “Bambi” for his gallop.

Said Van Dyke later: “I always feel that I can get better. I have a long way to go, always a lot to learn.”

Big Eddie Eddie Vanderdoes (Placer) earned multiple Freshman All-America honors last season as a defensive end at UCLA, starting seven games. The 6-4, 310-pounder will now line up as a defensive tackle, and he’s thrilled. Vanderdoes is also healthy, his broken foot from March healed. Vanderdoes was sidelined during the Bruins’ spring sessions.

Vanderdoes said he feels “at home” wreaking havoc in the middle of the line, telling Los Angeles media this week, “It’s my natural position. I’m used to exploding, attacking.”

Remarkably light on his feet, Vanderdoes rushed for a touchdown last season. He grins at the idea of a repeat run.

Local hope in Reno – Nevada limped to a 4-8 record last season, bringing to a halt an eight-game bowl streak. A Mountain West Conference-best 18 starters return for the Wolf Pack, including three from the Sacramento region: tailback Don Jackson (Laguna Creek), who was limited to 332 yards and four touchdowns last season amid injuries; linebacker Bryan Lane (Christian Brothers), who started 12 games at safety in 2013; and defensive back Evan Favors (Monterey Trail), who started 10 games.

Leadership role – From quiet, speak-by-example freshman to leading playmaker, Tyler Winston (Antelope) continues to evolve. The San Jose State sophomore receiver was named the Mountain West Freshman of the Year after catching 58 passes for 858 yards and five touchdowns but preferred an otherwise anonymous role. He didn’t do any postgame interviews.

Now on the Fred Biletnikoff Award Watch List that recognizes the game’s top receiver, Winston represented the Spartans at the Mountain West media day, where he said his club will improve from its 6-6 showing last season.

Sperbeck time – Sophomore Thomas Sperbeck (Jesuit) is competing for the No. 3 receiver spot in Boise State’s wide-open attack after showing glimpses of promise as a freshman. Said Broncos receiver Matt Miller to the Idaho Statesman: “You’ve got to watch out for Thomas Sperbeck. He’s had a great offseason.”

Coop scoop – Area native Rob Cooper was presented last month with the Rod Dedeaux USA Baseball Coach of the Year honor in Los Angeles. The Penn State coach led the USA 18-under National Team to an 8-1 showing and a gold medal in the 2013 World Cup.

Cooper played baseball at El Camino and played and coached at Sacramento City College. He led Wright State in Ohio to seven successive 30-win seasons as head coach.

X in Spain – Shooting guard Xavier Thames (Pleasant Grove) has signed with Baloncesto Sevilla of Spain, the club announced this week. The 6-3 Thames, a four-year starter at San Diego State, was a second-round pick by the Brooklyn Nets in the June draft.

Rich get richer – Point guard Kenny Smith Jr., son of former Kings first-round pick and longtime TNT NBA analyst Kenny Smith, has transferred from Oaks Christian of Westlake Village to Mater Dei in Santa Ana, which went 35-0 last season and No. 1 in the country after storming to another state CIF championship at Sleep Train Arena.

Mater Dei already includes national recruit big man M.J. Cage, the son of retired NBA power forward Michael Cage.