I really have no interest in thinking about our Ben Howland's dumpster fire pulling out an ugly win against an awful Texas Longhorns team in Houston. Thankfully, there is some football news and notes to pass on as UCLA held an open practice this afternoon at Spaulding.
Per NCAA rules Bruins can have 15 practices to prepare for their bowl game against the Baylor Bears. According to Coach Mora (video below) Bruins already had couple of practices last Tuesday and Thursday when they held skill practices like holding 7 on 7 (without pads). Today and next Saturday Mora is holding a "generic" practice (calling it "UCLA v. UCLA" practice) giving our young guys opportunity get in some action.
Bruins are taking this upcoming week of so that the players can fully focus on finals weeks before coming back to practice next Saturday. They are going have serious practices for Baylor the following week (from December 17 to 20) before heading out to San Diego on December 22. In San Diego they will be focusing on "polishing" their Baylor preparations. Coach Mora mentioned he is setting up the schedule the way NFL teams get ready during Super Bowl practices. Here were his comments after practice today. WATCH:
Besides talking about practice schedule, the dominant topic of conversation of players like Anthony Barr's upcoming decision on whether or not to enter the NFL draft. Barr mentioned to reporters today that if he had to choose today he'd "probably stay" [also mentioned in our fanshots here and here]. But you have to take his comments with grain of salt given that he is probably nowhere close to gathering information on to get an accurate sense of his status in the upcoming draft.
Mora's comments though were pretty interesting. It reaffirmed what I had mentioned earlier. It certainly helps to have a former NFL head coach and staff with 25+ years of NFL experience at your disposal, because they will provide Barr the kind of objective and professional recommendations that we are not going to find behind "ESPN Insider's" subscription firewall or the BS coming out of the mouth of a blowhard like Mel Kiper.
As Coach Mora mentioned himself (emphasis mine.):
"(ESPN analyst) Mel Kiper, he doesn't make a draft pick," Mora said. "He can put out his top 15 and his first two rounds, guys in the NFL, they don't look at Mel Kiper's pick when they're deciding who they want to pick.
"What you have to do is try to help the players divorce themselves from what they read from these draft experts who are not in a draft room. Mel Kiper does a great job, but he doesn't make the pick. ... He's the most famous of them all, I'm not just picking on Mel. It's that process."
Again watch the video above for Mora's full comments on this as he added that that the boards of Mel Kiper and other so called draft experts "are vastly different than the real boards," and that the "real boards haven't even been put together yet." Again, you can bet someone like Barr is going to listen lot more intently to someone like Mora, who has put him in this position to date. Perhaps at the end of the day Barr may decide to go after getting all the information from Mora and his staff, but people are fooling themselves if they think Barr should make a snap decision just because some ESPN idiot has put him in the top-10 of his draft board.
Mora offered the following conclusion towards the end (this is a really rough transcript):
I hope all our guys come back because I think this is a special team that we're building, and I want them all to have an opportunity to experience success at this level at the highest level. And I think we're capable of that as we go forward.
In my experience, college football is so fun. NFL football is fun, but it's a business. And when these guys step out of this arena and go to the next level, it changes dramatically in terms of their approach to the game. And, when a lot of money is staring you in the face, it's hard to sometimes comprehend that, but it is true. And fortunately, guys like myself and coach Ulbrich and Adrian and the rest of us that have been in the NFL, can explain that to them and still let them know that we have their best interest in mind. We're not trying to convince them to go one way or the other. We're just going to present the truth to them.
I don't have to add anything else to that. Do I?
Couple of quick injury notes:
- Per the LA Times report (in which Chris Foster wasted 80 percent of his column space on moot "over the wall" nonsense and taking potshots at UCLA football's tradition) defensive end Ellis McCarthy underwent surgery on his right knee. He will miss the bowl game. Get well soon Ellis.
- On a happier note (also per the LA Times), Devin Lucien (broken collarbone) and Dalton Hilliard (separated shoulder) will be available for the bowl game.It will be awesome to have both of them back in action. We have missed them a lot.
Anything else I have missed? Feel free to share in the comment threads or fire them up in fanposts or fanshots - wherever it makes sense.