Jet leads a deep and talented group of running backs for the U.C.L.A. Bruins (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
U.C.L.A. had a single practice on Sunday afternoon, and it was a hot one. The Bruins took the field at 4 pm with the thermometer reading 109F. The good news is that it was a nice balmy 98 when practice ended 3 hours later. Mora called Sunday afternoon a "good lengthy practice" and the Bruins "got good work in" and "concentrated well". Nestor already posted Mora's Sunday post practice interview here.
Another encouraging sign is that despite the August Inland Empire heat, there were no notes about players being taken off for heat exhaustion or dehydration. It sounds like the players are warming up (yes, pun intended) to the conditioning required to play Mora's tempo in the San Bernadino summer. Another encouraging item is that the comments coming from Mora following practices have a more positive tone overall, with fewer mentions of mental lapses or bad decisions. Coach Mora hasn't been a guy to mince words, and these consistent little positives seem to be signs that he is pleased with how the team is adapting to his style.
As we mentioned in yesterday's roundup, Brett Hundley was the one player who didn't have a great practice on Saturday. It sounds like he was looking better Sunday, and Mora wasn't surprised.
[ I ] talked to Noel, and he said, "It never fails that when you name a guy a starter after a hard battle they come out that first practice and they go, 'Ok, I'm the starter, I got to make every throw, I got to jam everything in there.' " And looking at the film, it looked like Brett forced it a little bit last night.
I think he settled down a little bit today.
Hundley is a youngster, a redshirt freshman who is stepping into the biggest role of his life. I said yesterday we should expect some nerves early on. Hopefully the novelty of winning the job will wear off quickly and he can get forget about becoming the QB and can focus on being the QB. A quote in Peter Yoon's writeup today suggests Hundley is on that path.
"Now I've got the job, but I've still got to keep getting better every day," Hundley said. "I can't lose sight of that."
If Hundley can develop the way we hope and expect, then the backup QB spot starts to look pretty good too when you consider Richard Brehaut and Kevin Prince as the guys coming off the bench. Suddenly, we have the appearance of some depth at quarterback.
One recurring theme I have noticed in Mora's comments the last few days has to do with his encouraging comments on depth across many of the positions on the field. He continued on that theme yesterday, noting that the depth is making it hard for him to name starters and number twos. He spoke about the running backs first, where he noted that Johnathan Franklin is the #1 RB, (and I love that Mora simply calls him "Jet"), then named Damien Thigpen (there's his name popping up early again), Jordon James, Malcolm Jones, and Paul Perkins as guys who he expects to contribute. Considering the offensive tempo he expects, Mora said he thinks they will get up to "85-90 plays" a game and there will be not just room but a need for 3 or 4 backs to get involved.
Mora turned to the safety positions
I would say safety, between Tevin and Andrew and Dalton, you know. We still have to settle on the two. Although they'll all three play in the nickel situations.
Mora then talked about defensive line and that Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Cassius Marsh, Datone Jones, and even Ellis McCarthy were all running for the starting spots at defensive end. Adding in Brandon Willis at nose tackle with a couple others behind him, Mora thought that there could be 7-8 players rotating pretty equally through the D line.
Mora then went on to single out Marsh.
I'll tell you what, Cassius Marsh is an outstanding football player. I know his history here has been kinda up and down, but that guy is a really really really good defensive end. A big time defensive end.
Lol at the interaction between Mora and LAT hack Chris Foster following that comment (5:30 of the video here) where Mora turned to Foster in an aside and seemed to bait Foster with the "heaviness" of his statement on Marsh, then to see Foster clumsily return to the topic a minute later and try the concern troll card, only to have Mora not only back up his statement but raise it with a comparison to NFL HoF'er Chris Doleman. Point...Mora.
Alas, right tackle was also discussed, but not from a position of depth or strength, but rather a a position of major concern where Mora wanted to see someone establish himself. Miguel Melendez wrote that Torian White and Conor McDermott were rotating at right tackle yesterday, and Yoon added that Ben Wysocki and Brett Downey were also working at the spot. My guess is that if Torian White can't win that spot, and it seems the coaching staff is giving him every opportunity to do so, that Jeff Baca will end up there - if he can get back on the field from a recent concussion.
I did write yesterday about the one benefit to having several OL on the shelf right now is the opportunity for some guys deeper on the charts to get some meaningful practice time. Case in point...
OL Tre Hale, a walk-on, is doing his best to get back on the field and grow a better comfort level. He practiced his snaps as a center during his downtime. Some snaps weren't the best, and QB Jerry Neuheisel, who was helping him, gave him some tips. They practiced some snaps from the shotgun and eventually got a nice ball going after Neuheisel instructed him to aim for a higher angle for better placement.
Mora finished his interview by saying his main concern is to get some of the OL back. Looking around the rest of the roster, and judging from the coaching staff's recent comments, most of the other units look to be in pretty promising shape.