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Spaulding Roundup: Hilliard’s Two Jerseys, Mora’s On Point "Rant" & Other UCLA Notes

Let's start with Coach Jim Mora's presser after spring practice number 13 (HT Bruins78):

The topline here is the injury to Devin Lucien, who has had a breakout spring. Apparently Lucien suffered a knee injury yesterday and left practices in crutches (according to the LAT). However, Mora doesn't seem all that worried about it, calling it a "tweaked ankle" for now. Let's hope that turns out to be the case.

Because of injuries - Dalton Hilliard - went back over to the defensive side this week. It's unclear whether he is permanently back on the defensive side of the ball, given he has had a really good spring at the running back spot. He could end up playing both ways. For now though Mora is really appreciative of Hilliard's mindset and DB coach Demetrice Martin is having some fun with it. From ESPNLA:

"You gotta love that attitude, man," Mora said. "That willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team...I love his enthusiasm. The fact that he'd come in the day before a scrimmage and he hasn't taken a snap on defense and says I know we're hurting a little on defense, give me some snaps on defense, how can you not love that?"

Martin joked that is was only a matter of time.

"He's a guy that played high school running back his whole career and then came to college and played safety," Martin said. "He still has those demons inside of him to go play running back. All right, go chase those demons out. You'll be back over."

Given the depth we currently have at RB with JetSki, Jordon James, and Steven Manfro emerging this spring, there will not be lot of offensive touches available for Hilliard. Meanwhile, on the defensive side with our depleted secondary, coaches need him there. Hopefully the Bruins find themselves in a situation in which Hilliard can continue to make plays as a ferocious safety, while getting in some turns at the RB spot at opportune moments.

It's fun to read about Hilliard bringing two jerseys to practices to help out the team any way he can. I like that Mora is letting Hilliard try out both ways. I think it makes it easier to get buy-in from someone who is one of the most talented athletes on the team, and could emerge as a team-leader in the coming years.

Jon Gold has some more notes from yesterday's practice:

* It was a rather uneventful practice today as UCLA continues to have several players out and as spring ball winds down. There was no tackling today, barely thudding, as it was mainly positional drills.

* The team did, however, have some extra conditioning at the end of practice, something that has been needed for a long time. It was actually quite interesting to see most of the coaching staff do the half-gassers as well. Noel Mazzone has some wheels. [...]

* Damien Holmes shifted to inside linebacker today because of the lack of depth. It shouldn't be a permanent move by any means, but pretty impressive that he's changed his body to the point that he can play inside linebacker if needed.

* Joseph Fauria and Darius Bell spent some time in individual work, but their status for the spring game is still unknown.

The reporters in the video above were trying very hard to get Mora to cough up how he was going to split the reps among his QBs. Mora wasn't having any of it. It's kind of amusing to hear how much Chris Foster is sucking up to Mora. It will be interesting whether Mora can remain this jovial with this group through this next season. Not sure if you picked up on how Foster was trying to bait Mora into giving bulletin board material for the Trojans saying how they don't "hit" during spring ball. Mora didn't fall for it.

Speaking of Foster, his write-up from yesterday's practice is actually kind of interesting. Foster writes about all the "talk" from this spring about how Mora is working hard to shed UCLA's "soft" image. Foster provided the following tidbit that I think is noteworthy (emphasis added):

What's different about the talk this season is the insistence.

During one practice, Mora's rant to linebackers and defensive backs left powder burns.

"Let's just be average," Mora barked. "Let's just be 6-6." He followed that up with "run to the ball," demand in a voice that indicated this was a graduation requirement.

"If you're going to avoid a hit when you can light somebody up, then you're not going to play," Larimore said.

Hmm. We sure like the sound of that. Once again it sounds like Mora is in complete agreement with the general parameter of our expectations for this season. Just another 6-8 Dorrellian/Neuheisellian season, peppered with blowout losses and annual beatdown by the Trojans is not going to be good enough.

If things are actually different now in Westwood, we expect to see results. We will know when we see the results. It will mean we won't have to deal with nonsense like this from here on out. Let's hope Mora gets it done.