Tuesday is Jim Mora's day with the media after getting the good news this morning about a new commitment for the 2014 class, he spoke about preparations for Arizona and the nation's leading rusher, his team's injuries and how a freshman is filling a hole, and his feelings on the offense's tempo lately.
Arizona features the nation's top rusher Ka'Deem Carey and the coach's initial remarks were focused on him and what the Bruins need to do on defense to slow him down.
He's a great one. He's an excellent football player. He was second in the country rushing last year [and this year he's number one] so that tells you kind of what you need to know right there.
I think he's a guy that gets better every time you watch him play. He was great last year and he's better this year.
You don't necessarily bottle up Ka'Deem Carey. You try to limit his explosive plays against you...It's gonna be a great test for us
They make you think, you look at them as a casual observer and you see the four wide sets and you think they're just gonna sling it all over the yard but really they just do a great job of spreading you out and running it. They're a great rushing offense.
The Bruins have a great front seven, though I felt the D line didn't have a great game last Saturday. But this week's challenge is evident, and the linebacking corps should be bolstered by the return of Eric Kendricks this Saturday. So the Bruins' defense should have the personnel to be able to stop the Wildcats' run game. Mora says the question will be one of execution.
It plays well to our matchups if we play well and we read our keys and tackle well. But it presents some challenges because they get a great athlete in space and we have to come to balance and stay square and we have to swarm and we gotta get this guy to the ground and that's not easy to do.
On the injury front, Mora said Fabian Moreau was at practice today and he thought he be ready to go on Saturday. That's good news because that shot he took from the Buff OL who dove into his knees looked nasty and could have been really serious. He added that Jordon James (ankle), Simon Goines (knee), and Kendricks (shoulder) will all be ready to go on Saturday. There was no mention on whether Steven Manfro will be available, though with Damien Thigpen looking much better last week in his second game back, the Bruins should have plenty of depth ready at the running back spot. On Goines, Mora said he is not all the way back to 100% so he will be used in a reserve role for Arizona. Jack Wang at Inside UCLA wrote that Goines was still "limping noticeably" and did not practice in pads today. Get well soon, Bruins.
That means true freshman offensive lineman (sorry, that's kind of redundant these days) Scott Quessenberry will get his 3rd consecutive start at left guard and the OL should have the same lineup we saw against Oregon and Colorado. Pass blocking looked really good last Saturday, but while the run game looked pretty good against Oregon 2 weeks ago, it struggled at times against CU. But consistency and continuity are key for the OL as a unit, so I would expect the line to be stronger this week. Part of my thinking for that has been Quessenberry's quick adaptation to the left guard spot and Mora spoke today about his transition.
Having a background at center helps. When you're a center, you're responsible for a lot of calls and a lot of adjustments. You have to identify fronts. You have to identify rotations in the back end that might indicate a blitz or something. So having that background I think helps him. It was kind of funny during the game...I go over to Brett during the game and I said, "Brett, listen, let's pick up the tempo a little bit." And he goes, "Well, if I could get my left guard Peyton Manning to quit making all these calls, we could go a little faster."
Mora went on to speak highly of Quiz's maturity, confidence and unflappability, and then spoke of his family (a brother who once a walkon who is now in the NFL and his father who played football for Navy before a 30 year military career) as assets that have enabled Scott to adapt quickly with the OL. Great kid, great family, and he's looking good for having just two games in. As Kiffy once said, you can tell in the first 15 seconds if they are your kind of guy. Right again, Lane, and thank goodness for us.
The media picked up on the question of whether the tempo wasn't as quick as Mora would have liked. Mora seemed to agree, then tried to wave it off.
It's hard with three freshmen OL. We gotta identify things. You don't move as smoothly. Our tempo's been okay. We're fine. I like where we're at. What I like are good plays when the ball is snapped. I'm happy with where we are.
Okay. Okay? Okay, I've played a lot of sports in my life and I was pretty sure that, especially with football, that the word "okay" was code for "it can be better". So I see this as a bit of an admission from Mora that some of the recent problems on the offense, whether it's the new faces on the OL or Brett's relative slump or Mazzone's play calling (or a combination of them all), are holding things back and that the offense isn't what Mora was wanting to see at this point. So let's hope that the coaches share that concern and are working to get things back up to speed, both figuratively and literally.
Our opponents get progressively more important and tougher over these last four games and the way the Bruins finish will define this season. Next step is Arizona on Saturday.