There was some good news and some bad news out of practice this morning.
As always, the bad news first.
Coach Mora confirmed that Brandon Tuliaupupu suffered a torn ACL yesterday at practice. We feel awful for the young man and we wish him the best and now look forward to a smooth and speedy recovery for him. Brandon was a redshirt his freshman season and played last season as a RS Freshman. This is for down the road, but because this injury will almost certainly cause him to miss the upcoming season, he should be able to apply for a medical waiver to get an extra season of eligibility back. In the meantime, let's all wish Brandon a quick and complete recovery and for him to hit those books between rehab sessions.
Tuliaupupu was competing with Seali'i Epenesa for the starting defensive tackle spot in the center of the line. With Brandon out for now, he DT spot looks like this: Epenesa; Ellis McCarthy - when he's fully healthy, and Kenny Clark- when he gets to campus this fall. And that's it. Mora noted that Eli Ankou moved over from defensive end and saw some time at DT today. Thin is not the word that often comes to mind when you think of defensive linemen, but it's appropriate in this context and it is a bit concerning. However, there is a lot of time between now and fall camp and actual games, so we'll see what the coaching staff has in mind to bolster the position
Mora noted that in addition to Tuliaupupu's absence leaving the D line a bit thin, the lack of depth there and at other spots contributed to a decision today to take the pads off and go non-contact today.
We're down a whole lot of guys. We had more guys over there with Coach Alosi riding the bike than out on the field so we took the pads off. That wasn't the initial plan but we wanted to get some work done.
It's tough when you're down offensive linemen and you're down defensive linemen and you're down defensive backs, but I commend them for working hard.
The Bruins made the best of the circumstances though by focusing on situational play. More on that later down.
Speaking of ACLs, Mora was asked about a tweet last night from Eldridge Massington, a true freshman receiver who just entered U.C.L.A. this quarter and who is recovering from his own ACL tear.
He is so anxious to play. I think he did some things on his own where he pushed himself a little too hard. He just wants to play, he wants to be great. He has to trust Coach Alosi and he has to trust our athletic trainers. They've got experience with this stuff. I talked to Coach Alosi a lot about it before practice and he thinks he had a little bit of a setback because he pushed it, but nothing serious. We just need to get him running correctly and being able to have strength in his knee where he can cut. I'm not worried about it. He's still getting all the meeting time. He's still getting the mental reps.
And, oh what the hell, since we're on the subject, the media asked about Isaiah Bowens and his recovery from his ACL tear last fall.
It's been tough but he's worked through it. He doesn't have full extension yet, but he's out there working. we keep him out of the team stuff for the most part. Each day gets a little bit better. His movement gets better. You see his quickness come back. The thing you like about Isaiah is his toughness. He's a tough sucker, man. He's got a nasty streak when he's on the football field. So we need him to come back. I think we're doing the right thing the way we're progressing him back and he can be full speed at camp and having gotten all the individual stuff the noncontact stuff through spring I think that will be really good for us.
Thankfully, that was all the ACL talk this morning. What, Librado Barocio didn't want any of that? Stay healthy, Bruins!
Position coach Adrian Klemm said today was the worst offensive line practice he's seen yet at UCLA. Lots of penalties, false starts.— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) April 18, 2013
Mora addressed the intensity issue, and he felt some of it was a natural letdown once the players took the pads off.
The thing that we have to get better at and is what I told the players is that the mindset when the pads come off is that the intensity can't drop and the concenttration level can't drop. And I think that's just part of becoming a more mature football team and more mature football player. When you get to the next level, you never, or hardly ever practice in pads. And I'm used to the mentality we can take the pads off and still go, go, go. These kids haven't learned that yet so part of the process is just teaching them how to do that. So we're working through that but we got good work in today.
Pads are the go sign to football players, but Mora is right that the palyers have to be locked in full time, whether the pads are on for the Oklahoma drill or whether they are in shorts in the film room. Mora capped the review of today's practice by saying he wanted to see an outstanding practice on Saturday to come back from yesterday and today. No doubt that message was made in private to the players, and probably in a somewhat different tone. Saturday's practice will be at 10:30. Look for the BN gang at Headlines for breakfast before practice, and at the Wooden Statue about 10:15-10:30 just before going in to practice.
Now for the good news. Already already!
With the shorter roster and working out of pads, the Bruins stepped away from the contact drills and were able to work on a broader broader variety of situational play.
We did some more situational work. We did two minute, we did move the ball at the end which we got coming out, we got short yardage, we got third and long, we got goal line we got red zone. Kind of a different type of practice, still productive
Spring football often focuses on skills and drills and conditioning and techniques, and less on specific game play, so this might have been a refreshing change for the players to work more specifically on certain game situations.
And when you really need some good news, there is Brett Hundley. Mora was asked about Hundley's role in pass protection, and the rest of the media session covered Brett's improved decision making, his poise and decisiveness in the pocket, and his refusal to come out of a play.
Look for a sharper, more focused unit come Saturday morning at Spaulding when the Bruins next practice takes place. We'll have an open thread for Saturday's practice so for anyone who is going, please share your eyewitness reaction and ideas with those of us in exile.