Bruins had their regular Thursday practice today. In terms of actual practice news and notes there is not really a lot to pass on because as usual Coach Mora doesn't offer much and practices are closed. But I guess when the team is winning the coach is always interesting to listen (compared to the train-wreck that is Dan Guerrero's sorry basketball program). Anyway, here is Mora after practice today:
Mora discusses the greatness of Jeff Locke (comparing him to Morten Anderson, one of the greatest NFL kickers of all time), the job Angus McClure has done as our DL coach this year (he has been great) and some general comments of having a 'typical Thursday" practice (on a Wednesday).
He also talked about replacing Jet Ski. Nothing earth shattering. Obviously replacing him is going to be difficult but as expected Mora talked about "rotating" the current guys in (and we got at least one great recruit - Craig Lee coming) and finding out who can emerge. We will have more to discuss on this topic on another day. I want to keep enjoying last few days of the Jet at UCLA.
The comment that stood out most to me was his comment about Devin Fuller (rough transcript):
He's our starting slot right now. So we are very pleased with him. Very pleased. I think he had 7 catches in our last game, and every day he comes out and gets a little bit better. He's got all the physical tools that you need to play that position.
And I think because he played quarterback, he has somewhat of a unique perspective in understanding coverage concepts, and I think that helps him as a receiver.
I am guessing Ryan Kartje from the OC Register asked him about Fuller because he keyed on Fuller in his report today. Kartje talked to Fuller as well, who is still holding out to try out for the QB spot at UCLA:
"I'm always going to want to go back to quarterback," Fuller said. "I came in as a quarterback. I know Brett is a wonderful quarterback; there's no denying that. ... At the end of the day, I'm just going to help the team any way that I can."
Fuller has just begun to get his bearings as a wideout, having collected a team-leading seven catches in the Bruins' Pac-12 championship matchup with Stanford. And with that kind of development and Fuller's athleticism, offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said he's now a key cog in UCLA's offense at slot receiver.
"Right now, he's very important to us going into this bowl game playing slot receiver," Mazzone said. "The guy is obviously a multi-talented kid, and I think he's got a chance to be a premier player playing slot for us. We'll address all that (about position changes) after the season."
With Hundley in Westwood for at least one more year, Fuller's chances at making a splash at quarterback next season are especially unlikely - even if he was, at one point, one of the nation's top recruits at the position.
I am glad Ryan added the phrase "at least" in the first sentence of the last excerpted paragraph. I am really glad that Fuller is thriving as a slot receiver. But right now I am nervous about UCLA's quarterback depth. From what we have read and heard so far, right now it appears Mora and Mazzone are not bringing in this year's recruiting class. While the class itself is shaping up to be an outstanding one, the lack of any QB raises a big concern.
Give UCLA's track record since departure of Troy Aikman, it is not prudent to just assume a QB like Hundley will be automatically around for two more years. Given Fuller's situation there also appears to be not much depth behind Hundley with Jerry Neuheisel and T.J. Millweard. It is kind of scary to think that either of those two guys or someone like Fuller is a freak injury away from being UCLA's starting QB.
One of the big reasons previous UCLA head coaches' program completely imploded was due to poor QB recruiting and inability to develop depth at this position. It would make sense for UCLA to bring in at least one QB recruit who'd be a viable Pac-12 level QB. We don't have to necessarily get an elite QB but we need at least one guy who can give us solid depth at the position and then the Bruins can look to bring in one or two elite recruits next to compete as Hundley's successor in Westwood.
Speaking of developing depth, Chris Foster has a look at UCLA's offensive line recruiting this season:
Coaches are not allowed to talk about recruits until they sign letters of intent. But the linemen who have announced their intentions to come to UCLA are impressive.
The list includes La Costa Country Canyon center Scott Quessenberry, who is ranked seventh at his position by Scout.com, and Katy (Texas) Seven Lakes guard Caleb Brenenoch, who is ranked ninth.
"It just means that I have to work harder," said freshman Simon Goines, who starts at right tackle. "I love it. I mean, I helped recruit these guys as much as the coaches."
The Bruins survived with minimal health issues on the offensive line this season.
Senior guard Jeff Baca sat out two games while undergoing medical tests. Goines has started every game, but he has a right knee injury that forced him out of three games.
"As we stand right now, we are one deep," Klemm said. "If we have a guy go down, it can get a little tough. That's what separates the top-10 teams from the bunches, depth."
That Klemm guy. He is good. Chianti better make sure Mora gets everything he needs to hold on to him.
I will end with a macro note. We are really missing the coverage of both Jon Gold and Miguel Melendez on Daily News Inside UCLA. Gold was unpolished and was developing as a reporter. We didn't always agree with him but we always appreciated the spirit, enthusiasm and sense of sincerity in his coverage.
Melendez was just outstanding and perhaps one of the hardest working beat reporter covering UCLA who beautifully integrated new media components in his coverage. I wish we could someway have Melendez back covering UCLA because the void that has been left by the departure of those two have not been filled. Not even close.