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UCLA Practice News & Notes: California Week

News and notes from UCLA practices as the Bruins get ready for a tough road trip to Berkeley. While the Bears are hurting with a 1-4 record, Bruins seem to be well aware of California's explosive defensive talent. Bruins are so worried that Coach Mora and Mrs. Mora are currently sleepless in LA.

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Last thoughts before getting on the buses

The Bruins had some extended meetings and a walkthrough this morning, and will be departing for Bezerkeley about 12:30 Westwood time. Again, if anyone is around, get down to the Acosta Center and give the Bruins a big sendoff.

There is still some question about whether the Bruins are taking the buses to LAX to get on a flight, or whether those buses are humping over Mullholland and the Grapevine and up the Central Valley to No Cal. Cal, in a somewhat famous money saving effort, rode buses down to Pasadena a few years back, so there is precedent. The Bears happened to win that game, too. Anyway, for the answers, just check Twitter in a couple hours. If you see more pics of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, you'll know they are flying. If you see flat nothingness (i.e. Fresno), it's a real old-fashioned road trip.

For those of you remaining behind in So Cal, Jon Wilner has an update on the standoff between the Pac-12 Network and DirectTV. Guess what? There is nothing new on the negotiation front. Sadly, there is more coverage of the television standoff than there is over the NHL standoff (was anyone aware the first month of hockey has been cancelled?), but that's why football is king and hockey is cold.

But Wilner does go into hero mode with an exhaustive list of bars and restaraunts along the West Coast that have the Pac-12 Network, so this should help for planning viewing parties. The list was complied by the Pac-12 Conference office. Note to self: don't poke Larry Scott. Those of you in No Cal need no such list. The game is on top of a fault in the East Bay. Get over there, wear Bruin Blue, and cheer on our team.

Over at ESPN-LA, Peter Yoon lists several keys to the game tomorrow evening. While the list of attitude, pash rush, pass coverage, running game, and slowing their skill players isn't terribly insightful, he does hit on a one major area. Cal is currently last in the country in sacks given up (25). Considering that Cal's premiere offensive players are WR Keenan Allen and QB Zac Maynard (OSU's basketball coach wants to know how they are related) and that Cal Coach Jeff Tedford, a noted QB guru, is looking to get his team turned around, and knowing that pass coverage is an area of weakness for the Bruins, I expect the Bears will really try to get this tandem going. That should give the Bruin defense ample opportunity to get upfield and pile on that sack total, literally. Jordan Zumwalt will be hungry after missing last week, Damien Holmes was a beast on the outside last week, and Anthony Barr is Anthony Barr. The D line has also done a nice job tying up the OL to open lanes to get to the QB. That front 7 will need to stay disciplined to keep Maynard from tucking and running, and Cal does have a good ground game.

But I like this matchup, especially if our offense can build a lead and make Cal play from behind, so I will look for the Bruins' pass pressure to convert some more sacks and force some bad throws, something Maynard has been susceptible to before. Safety Tevin McDonald picked Maynard 3 times last season. He knows they will need some more this year, but per Earl Bloom in the OC Register, McDonald isn't taking anything for granted.

We know this is going to be a tough game," McDonald said. "They're probably a little upset about last year."

It wasn't always like this. McDonald was told about the 1978 game, when a Bruins team went to Cal and won, 45-0. UCLA made 10 interceptions that day, returning three for touchdowns.

"Ten? That's unreal," said McDonald, thinking about the just-discussed, current Bruins goal of three takeaways.

He seemed visibly impressed by that number. And, as the interview ended, it seemed obvious that McDonald was recalculating his defense's standards, if only just a little.


Mora on Tempo and Playing Cal

Coach Mora's post practice presser: Zumwalt back, Holmes to start, and thoughts on tempo and playing Cal


Fuller to WR? LAT Breaks Mora's Practice Rules?

First things first: Apparently Devin Fuller is working out at wide receiver at practice. I don't know why or how he's been moved over from quarterback, but one guess is the season ending injury to Devin Lucien.

How do we know this. The L.A. Times' Chris Foster tweeted out the news:

Wait, Achilles, Foster might just be wearing that jersey for the Scout team. Ahhh ... Foster explains:

So, that's one interesting bit of information to chew on, one that raises some practical questions: Are Jim Mora and his staff planning to interrupt Devin Fuller's redshirt season to play him at wide receiver? If so, does that mean he will no longer compete at quarterback, is he now a full time receiver or is this just a temporary move perhaps due to Lucien's injury?

The other issue that's raised is how Foster got the story. Pretty sure he's on the record about not attending practice and if he did attend practice and report this, he's violated Mora's "no reporting what you see in practice" rule.

Personally, I'm ambivalent. The no reporting from practice rule seems a bit restrictive, but whatever, that's the rule. I get it and understand its purpose. But Foster seems to be violating the rule, perhaps not technically, but in spirit. I also believe that this is another example of "incompetence" by Dan Guerrero and his staff, because if Foster is breaking this rule and still has access to practice, games and press conferences then they simply aren't doing their jobs.

Finally -- while the fan in me would prefer that Foster not tweet inside information that might help our opponents prepare for us (which is the reason for Mora's rule, no doubt), the blogger in me sort of admires his tenacity. Foster may not be a kind to the program -- or even fair -- but I've got to give him credit for breaking the story.


Jerry Rice Jr. Making Some Moves for UCLA

Jerry Rice Jr. has been getting some PT and he has been taking advantage of it. From Peter Yoon at ESPNLA:

Rice Jr., the son of the NFL's all-time leading receiver, is getting a shot to earn some playing time and is again impressing. He set career highs last week against Colorado with three catches for 30 yards as the coaches called upon the walk-on junior to help fill the void left by injured freshman Devin Lucien. He also made some nice downfield blocks and is expected to again be a factor when the Bruins face California on Saturday.

It is worth mentioning that Rice Jr. had couple of penalties that really cost UCLA. One of them was a holding penalty that wiped out a 20-25 yard run by Jordon James, and he had another illegal block which erased a long punt return by Manfro.

I imagine Rice is probably more upset about those mistakes than any of us. The kid seems to a chip off the old block. Those of us who were fortunate to follow the Niners closely during their halcyon decade of 80s and early 90s remember well how "Flash 80" paid close attention to every detail of the game. Rice Jr. is hoping to do the same. More from Yoon:

"When guys go down, I just try to make the most of my opportunity whether it's blocking or catching," Rice said. I'm progressing pretty well. I'm learning a lot of things every day and there are things every day I can work on. I'm just trying to do the little things to become more polished."

This season, he has played in four of UCLA's five games and has four catches for 38 yards. Three of his six career catches have resulted in first downs, including his career-long 20-yard reception in the fourth quarter last week that set up a UCLA touchdown.

If he can "clean up" (that phrase again) his mistakes, he could emerge as a formidable option in this Mazzone offense. And boy, it will be something if we get to see a "Rice" catching a Hundley slant and then streaking down the sidelines. Good times.



Mora: Zumwalt is "going to play"

Here is the latest on Zumwalt (and Jerry Johnson) from Coach Mora:

He did. We had him in the red jersey. He wore his helmet. We're trying to keep his head out of there. Tomorrow he should be full speed. Yeah, he's going to play. I don't know how much or if he'll start. You know we're always trying to find the best use for our personnel. The fact he didn't practice and was limited today, in my mind, knowing he'll be a little limited on Saturday, but he can spell Damien, he can spell Anthony Barr. Jerry Johnson should be OK. He's still a little bit sore, but he'll be OK.

He also said the following about the importance of getting some tough yards up the middle:

I think it's important that we have success running the football even though we're a team that spreads it around and throw it. My general philosophy is you have to be able to run the football regardless. Johnathan and Damien (Thigpen) and Jordon (James) and those guys have to be able to make some tough yards. And we have to be able to block it up front because it's a good defensive front we're going up against.

I am not going to push on the point about the need to build our offense outside-in - which is to get the defense loosened up by leveraging the speed and quickness of our skatbacks outsides, before looking for some opportune holes up the middle. I just hope we don't see the shades of Donahue football we saw during the first half against Oregon State - a team with a decent OL. That trick will probably not work too well against an angry Bear program with a solid DL.

Here is Mora's post game video (thanks MM):

Wednesday Report: UCLA Coach Jim Mora (via melendezsports)



Cal's Keenan Allen Has a "Sore" Ankle?

From the Oakland Tribune yesterday (HT Inside UCLA):

Wide receiver Keenan Allen walked off the practice field Tuesday with a bare right foot. Tedford said Allen had a little soreness in his ankle. "He's fine."

Allen is a difference maker. Health was an issue for Allen in Cal's last game but it didn't really slow him down much:

Keenan Allen became sick during Cal's 27-17 loss to Arizona State on Saturday, but it had nothing to do with the quality of his team's play.

Allen, Cal's premier wide receiver, missed parts of the second and third quarters with a stomach illness before he sought medical aid.

"I've been sick for the last two days," Allen said. "I started throwing up on the sideline. I had to come in for treatment. ... I knew I was going to come back in the game. I had to get that feeling out of my stomach."

Despite his sour stomach, Allen had four receptions for 79 yards, including a toe-dragging touchdown catch of 10 yards in the fourth quarter that cut the deficit to 20-17 with 9:33 to go.

Doubt a little injury like this is going to impact Allen much, but it's something worth keeping an eye on. Given the extremely shaky performance of our two senior CBs to date, Allen can make all of us feel sick by himself by the end of Saturday night.

Let us know if you hear anything more on this and we will update our stream accordingly.



Jordan Zumwalt likely to play on Saturday

During his Monday press conference, Coach Mora talked a little bit about Jordan Zumwalt's condition after missing the Colorado trip while recovering from his Scooter crash, sharing his hope that he would soon be cleared to. Tuesday saw progress on that front, as Jordan returned to practice, in full pads but without his helmet.

The gash on his forehead and a few scrapes were the only damage Zumwalt suffered. There was no bone or structural damage and the only thing that has kept him from getting cleared to play is the inability to wear a football helmet without aggravating the wound. He said he tried on a helmet Tuesday and "felt fine" but did not practice with a helmet on Tuesday.

"He had his pads on but didn’t have his helmet on," coach Jim Mora said. "He’s feeling good he was running around. He looked good running around and we’re hopeful that he’ll be able to play."

Good to hear that there were no significant injuries caused by the accident; it is just a matter of his wound - which required 150 stitches! - healing enough for him to wear his football helmet for him to return to action. It sounds like both Jordan and Coach Mora are optimistic that this Saturday will be that day.

On the Cal side of the ledger, the Oakland Tribune reminds its readers that Cal's offense has allowed 25 sacks over their first 5 games, worst in NCAA football. Anthony Barr and Damien Holmes can hardly wait. And the SF Chronicle's Cal writer asks how close we are to Basketball season.


Sleepless at UCLA: The Moras Worry About Cal's "D"

Quick update from UCLA's Tuesday morning practice as Coach Mora reveals he and Mrs. Mora are losing sleep over Cal's explosive defense.

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