U.C.L.A. had two more practices yesterday, but all the early focus was on the unfortunate news that 2011 team captain MLB Patrick Larimore has opted for a medical retirement after suffering another concussion early in camp. We covered this yesterday, but to hear the coaches and players talk about Larimore really makes it clear what he meant to the team. He was the emotional leader of the defense, doing everything by example, and showing the commitment, discipline, and desire that turns good players into great leaders. It was those same attributes that enabled him to make a very courageous decision that will benefit him and his family for the rest of his life. His impact will be missed, but his inspiration will never be forgotten. Larimore is going to take some time away from the game, as this was clearly an extremely difficult decision for him, but everyone is already talking about him becoming a fantastic coach for the Bruins.
So with the loss of Larimore, there were naturally some early thoughts in terms of the changes in the LB corps. Damien Holmes looks to be the most likely candidate to fill Larimore's shoes inside. LB Coach Jeff Ulbrich spoke very highly of both Holmes and Ryan Hofmeister, while Mora noted that true freshman Aaron Porter 's learning curve needs to accelerate as he is in the mix, too. Todd Golper was also mentioned as one who could compete, and he followed up on that cue with a pick 6 of Brett Hundley in morning drills (see previous Hundley disclaimer). I'm not clairvoyant, but I think Holmes will get the job. Mora sounded pretty firm that Jordan Zumwalt will stay at his outside LB position, calling him an impact player out there, and not wanting to give that up.
The morning practice saw the players in helmets and pads and doing mostly 7 v 7 and 11 v 11 walk throughs. Coach Mora's morning interview was posted by Nestor last night and can be seen here. People who have been looking for a Steven Manfro sighting got a good one yesterday, with both Manfro and Johnathan Franklin getting loose and running free in the defensive backfield on several occasions. The team worked on a reverse play with Shaquelle Evans running the ball. Also, OL Tre Hale left the morning practice early. He has been a trooper trying to get back on the field to help out the ailing offensive line. Hopefully this latest setback is not serious.
There was a nice interview on Yahoo with OT Torian White after practice today where he discussed his heart condition. He will undergo what sounds like a minor corrective procedure in the near future, and expects to be back at practice shortly afterward. Reading between the lines, the coaching staff wants him to secure the right tackle job, and Torian is saying the right things.
I'm doing what I can to earn, what I to need to earn, to help this team.
I'm doing what I need to do to progress.
[Coach Klemm] wants to work with me on technique more a little bit. Little things like steps, attacking with the hands, just little technique stuff.
I'm 290 right right now. (In the spring) I was 283.
LOL at the reporter (clearly a North Campus type) asking the weight question who cheerfully called that a 12 pound gain. Nevertheless, White sounded very optimistic about his health and his chances along the line. Getting him to take over that right tackle spot would really be a great step for the OL.
The evening practice was relatively uneventful, save for Devin Lucien going off after a hard hit to the head. Coach Mora said he "didn't think it was serious", but we've heard enough about head injuries this camp to last for a long while. I'm sure the staff will be very cautious with Lucien. Other than that, Mora sounded upbeat and positive, calling the session another good practice. The evening session focused on more situational play, and although the Bruins showed no fear of the dark on Saturday, last evening's practice ended before sundown. Some notes from Miguel Melendez at inside ucla, who is owning the coverage of camp so far:
RB Damien Thigpen concluded his already solid performance with another long rip. That hamstring definitely is not on his mind anymore, and that's a good sign. He gives the Bruins depth at running back, and that's a luxury to have especially with Thigpen's bulk, skill and speed.
You can see a video interview of Thigpen here. He may really be the breakout player of camp so far, and I think we'll see some big things from him this season.
UCLA commit Kenny Clark, a three-star defensive tackle out of Rialto's Wilmer Carter High, attended practice with what looked like a group of either friends or high school teammates. Clark is 6-2, 275 pound and ranked 25th at his position by Rivals.
Maybe Clark will become another Ishmael Adams and become one of our best recruiters.
There were two scuffles at practice. Some shoving between WR Tyler Scott and Adams. It was quickly broken up, but the bigger scrum came when WR Logan Sweet was not so sweet at all. He and Marcus Rios went at it by the sideline. Rios' helmet came flying off as the two wrestled on the ground before Sweet took a few swings. The two were broken up and Sweet was "kindly" warned not to make his way back on to the defense's sideline. On the next play, Sweet made a remarkable catch in the secondary in zone coverage against ... you guessed it .... Rios. Brandon Sermons was the other cover corner.
I like to see the young guys battling it out like that. There looks to be a desire out there that we haven't always seen before. Maybe that comes from every player knowing that the best players will get on the field, regardless of seniority status.
Mora was asked about redshirts and he said he and the coaching staff were starting to think about that issue and that while they had nothing set in stone, they hoped things would start to clear up in the next couple weeks. His main concern was that he wants to play players who can contribute, but that he doesn't want any wasted years. Mora then named Kenny Orjioke as an example of a young guy who is changing positions who could really benefit from a redshirt year.
Moira's post-evening practice prefer can be seen below.
The Bruins will be prisoners in San Bernadino for just 3 more days. On Thursday afternoon they will run to the hills of Westwood and the newly resurfaced 80 yard practice fields at Spaulding. It's 2 minutes to midnight in Los Angeles, so I'll wrap-up this roundup for another evening.
The Bruins have team meetings on Tuesday morning at 7 and will be on the practice field at 10:30, and then have a team activity planned for the afternoon.