UCLA is working on a compressed schedule this game week as we take on Stanford on Saturday night. So the Bruins started their practice today instead of getting started on Tuesday. Coach Mora had the team practicing without pads this am to keep them "fresh" and piped in crowd noise to get them ready to work through distraction. Here is Mora talking about that and other generic game related matters with the reporters this morning:
Here are the highlights from Mora's exchange with reporters this am (video above):
- Injury Updates: Per the exchange at the very end of the video Coach Mora mentioned that Steve Manfro and Simon Goines are doing "fine." He didn't offer anything specific (as usual) but didn't seem all that concerned about it. In fact he cracked a smile when asked about it and perhaps that means both of them will be available for Stanford game. We will.
- "All American" Anthony Barr: No Barr hasn't made any All American list yet. But when a reporter (I think it was Yoon) asked his thoughts about Barr's evolution this year into being a "close" to an All American type of player, Mora flat out said that Barr IS an "All American caliber" player now. He listed three contributing factors for Barr's dramatic junior season, which is all more remarkable given he missed most of spring ball with a hamstring injury. Mora credited Barr's work ethic, his intelligence, and the coaching he got from Coaches Spanos, Ulbrich and mentorship from his team-mates playing the same position for his breakout season this season. Crossing fingers that we will get to see Barr take another step in Bruin uniform next year (and feeling good about it).
- Bruins' Improved rush defense? Mora identified UCLA's rushing defense as one of the most "improved" aspect of this year's defense, which is interesting given UCLA gave up over 200+ yards on the ground against the Trees. However, as Ryan Kartje points out in the OC Register, Stepfan Taylor piled up 142 of those yards and 89 of them came in 2 huge plays. So as Anothony Barr told Kartje the key will be for the Bruins will be "to try and take away the big plays." For the Bruins to have a shot on Friday night they need to bottle up the Stanford rush attack and force the Trees to beat us exclusively through the air. It's easier said than done of course given how efficient Stanford has been under Hogan, who has been making smart decisions since he took over the offense.
- "Loose" locker room: Mora mentioned that our guys have been pretty loose in the locker room this week as they are fired up for getting a chance to fight for a spot in the Rose Bowl. Bruins should be lose as the entire college football world will assume that the Trees will basically waltz into the Rose Bowl. Given that there will not be any expectations from the Bruins in the traditional media, they could play good old nothing to lose mindset on Friday night.
As for couple of other off-field notes that came out today:
- As fanposted by LABruins Pac-12 released their 2012 All Conference Teams and other post-season awards for the 2012 regular seasons. 7 Bruins gained various honors, headlined by Anthony Barr, XSF and Jeff Locke, who made first teams for their respective teams. The big shocker here is that somehow conference's leading tackle Erick Kendricks didn't even make the second team. IE Angel makes the argument (a strong one) that perhaps that selection makes sense, but I'd think this could really fire up Kendricks and his team-mates with something to prove on Friday night.
- The TJ Simers nonsense from Saturday night has blown up into a big story. Our SBN's mothership linked up our post wondering why in the world UCLA's Media Relations department allows Simers "to get in the way of the real reporters just trying to get their jobs done." Similarly Deadspin clowns Simers shtick as just a "stunt" and notes that he is just using his press credential "to create a story instead of furthering it." Similarly, Simers has been mocked on ESPNU's national show this evening and also locally by Petros Papadakis in his talk show this afternoon. The real question continues to be how can UCLA athletic department can be so incompetent that they continue to allow this hack hijack Mora's presser time after time without suffering any consequences.
That's what I have for main football related notes and news from the day. If you have other football related tidbits to share, post them in fanshots or here in this comment thread.