UCLA Practice Notes: Bruins “Off and Running” in San Diego

Excited to be back in action. - Andrew Fielding-US PRESSWIRE

News and notes from UCLA's first practice in San Diego as the Bruins continue preparation for the Holiday Bowl matchup against the Baylor Bears.

The big news yesterday was the suspension of starting strong safety Tevin McDonald. Understandably we all took in the news with a "collective UGH" here on BruinsNation. I am assuming Coach Jim Mora and his staff weren't too pleased either. Yet Coach Mora looked anything but concerned when he met the media after the Bruins' held their first practice in San Diego. WATCH:

Per Mora's words Bruins had a "great practice" and were "off and running" in San Diego. He said the Bruins were "fire up" and practiced with "high energy and lot of enthusiasm," and added that he "didn't feel there is boredom" in San Diego.

Freesia already mentioned that Mora mentioned that the coaches are considering using a combination of Andrew Abbott (current starter at FS), Randal Goforth (true freshman who has had a sensational debut in Westwood, Brandon Sermons, Dalton Hilliard and Marcus Rios at McDonald's spot. In a way that could work out well because I think Hilliard is a much better and physical strong safety than McDonald. I especially liked when Mora mentioned how he doesn't worry too much about who can't play, but concentrates on who can play.

Going back to Hilliard he is excited to get back in action after leaving the first Stanford game with an injury:

"Any time someone comes up to me and tells me we're going to have to sit you out, that scares you," Hilliard said. "You never know when your last play is and you never know when you're going to have a serious injury. Thankfully I was blessed that this wasn't too serious and I'm able to come back out and play with these guys."

As is Manfro, who is feeling "100 percent":

Manfro, a starter for most games this season, sprained his ankle on his first carry Nov. 10 at Washington State and missed the USC game and the two Stanford games. He said he wanted badly to play each game, but that every time he tested his ankle it was clear he wasn't ready. That's no longer the case, he said.

"I feel like it's 100 percent now," he said.

And Lucien:

"I'm just thankful that I have one game to play rather than no games to play," Lucien said.

Lucien had 10 catches for 188 yards before his injury -- an 18.8 average that is second on the team. He was establishing himself as a go-to type of player and had made several spectacular catches before the injury.

"I felt like when I got hurt I was just really starting to prove that I could be a starter," he said. "It felt like a real setback as it would for any player but more so for me because I felt like I had a lot to prove."

Dalton's return is especially crucial as Bruins are going to need to go deep and need as much personnel available as possible, given the unreal explosiveness of the Bears' offense. From Chris Foster in the LA Times:

"Sometimes it will depend on what offensive group Baylor is in," Mora said. "Sometimes they go with five wide receivers and really spread the field. So you'll see a plethora of defensive backs out there."

You should watch the video above to listen to Mora talk about the Baylor offense and how they can a defense both horizontally and vertically.

Elsewhere, ICYMI Ryan Kartje from the OC Register has solid piece on the Bruin offensive line developing under Coach Adrian Klemm and "living up to its potential." Kartje also has the comments from Baylor Lache Seastrunk (the guy who may end up being the "Reggie Bush" of Oregon football program without yielding Bushian results) about using the Holiday Bowl as a launch point for a "Heisman" campaign.

While Seastrunk's comments may not be bulletin board material in traditional sense, I am sure they may come across as amusing to our defensive line. Plus, you know we actually have a pretty decent running back on our team.

GO BRUINS.

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