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Spaulding Roundup: The Pads Come Out and the Intensity Turns Up

video from youtube page (HT to Bruins78)

Spring practice number 3 took place at U.C.L.A. yesterday. The Bruins put on the pads for the first time this spring, and both the heat and the intensity were turned up a few notches. From Peter Yoon at ESPN-LA:

Raised voices and four-letter bombs peppered Spaulding Field and Mora even stopped practice at one point for a huddled chew-out session as the team seemed a bit timid and lacking in energy.

The players are definitely noticing the new attitude at Spaulding.

Running back Johnathan Franklin, who also will be a fifth-year senior in the fall, called Saturday's practice "the hardest practice we've had since I've been here," but is happy to try a new way of doing things after going through four years of doing things the same way only to end up with mediocre results on the field.

"At times it's hard, but if you want to change the culture, you have to forget the way things used to be," Franklin said. "Attitude is created. If you want to create a new attitude, you have to create a different way of doing things. Being average is not accepted here anymore."

Senior Brett Downey got the message when he didn't run all the way to the sidelines (HT to 4everBruin)

Two yards from the sideline, amidst a sun-drenched morning at Spaulding Field, RT Brett Downey slowed down his pace as the next offensive line unit hopped in for the subsequent drill. Suddenly, Coach Mora, with veins bursting from his forehead, abruptly stopped the play. Stepping out from behind the defense, Mora belted out at Downey in a hoarse scream:

"Run your ass off the field or run out there!" Mora pointed to the exit of Spaulding.

Responsive, Downey ran everywhere from that point on.

To be sure, this regime has made it clear: There is no acceptance of a complacent mentality. Players are expected to get on board or get out.

This fits with what Mora is trying to instill, and Mora is holding himself and his staff to the same high levels of expectations:

"My job is to set a standard and my job is to never let that standard dip and if it does, it's my job to get it pushed back up again," he said. "If I don't do those things then I'm failing the players, I'm failing the coaching staff, I'm failing UCLA fans, I'm failing this university and I'm not going to fail."

As far as the raised intensity level from the coaches, who were far more animated and vocal Saturday than they had been earlier in the week, Mora said that's just what happens in football when things aren't going the way they should.

"Every day we're trying to push the standard higher," Mora said. "I tell the players every day we have to find a new level -- every day. We're not close yet to what I want us to be in terms of urgency and effort and intensity, but what I see in their eyes is I see a willingness to do what I'm asking them to do and that's exciting."

As for play on the field, certain names seem to keep coming up. Per Jon Gold, Dalton Hilliard continues to impress at running back after making the move from defense. Devin Lucien is showing the talent that led many to call him our best receiver last season even though he was a redshirt and never saw the field. Jerry Rice Jr is showing the same work ethic and precision that made his father legendary. Owamagbe Odighizuwa is shedding blocks better and becoming more of a force on the DL. The quarterbacks generally had a good day in 7 on 7 drills, with Richard Brehaut and Mike Fafaul being singled out for some nice throws, but we are likely still a long way from a clear cut starter emerging.

On the injury front, Joe Fauria and Jordon James were both out with hamstrings, Greg Capella was out for a calf injury, and Ricky Marvray was out with a back strain. These are all considered relatively minor and they are expected back at some point, though no precise timetable was given.

It appears that culture change is alive and well in Westwood. Given the past decade, a change was absolutely needed. Still, we will have to wait and see if the new culture is one that will translate to wins. In the meantime, the players seem to be getting the message. All observers noted that the players responded to the mid-practice lecture from the head coach with increased intensity and effort. We will have to keep a close eye on the next few practices to see if the lessons were learned and become habit, or if the teams slips into old habits and fades from its potential.