It's Wednesday, so that means offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone took the stage after practice. But unlike last week's comedy routine, he was all business today. His interview was also much shorter today, too. It could have been that all the questions have been asked and everyone is just ready to play some football, or it could have been because all eyes were on the famous, talented, and "oh so handsome" (my wife assures me of this) AAA-lister who dropped by Spaulding Field today. After the Bruins got an advance screening of the upcoming movie, "The Equalizer" last week during camp, the movie's star Denzel Washington took in the practice at U.C.L.A. today and stayed afterward to speak with some of the Bruins players and coaches.
From Coach Adrian Klemm's twitter:
Remember the Bruins!
The discussion with the offensive coordinator today touched on the usual subjects on offense. Mazzone was asked first about the offensive line, which suffered some bit of attrition in the dog days of San Bernardino. Now many of these guys are working their way back and Mazzone says he is "feels good" about the depth and the cohesiveness of the unit.
One of the big surprises in that OL unit has been the development of NaJee Toran. We've mentioned his name a few times in preseason, and now his teammates are talking him up, too.
#UCLA OL Caleb Benenoch on freshman OL NaJee Toran: "NaJee is a badass. In every sense of the word. He gets after it every single day."— Edward Lewis (@EdwardLewisBSR) August 21, 2014
In case you missed it, here is a great video interview with NaJee near the end of preseason camp in San Bernardino. We are talking about the offensive line after all, so somewhere we have to have a true freshman getting some snaps, right?
Benenoch spoke in greater detail with the media after practice about Toran, Malcolm Bunche, the depth along the line, the rotation amongst the recent injuries, and the magnitude of college football. As you'd expect from a Bruin and a lineman, he is very well spoken and thoughtful with his answers.
Thank you to Ryan Kartje and the OC Register for the video.
After discussing the OL, next up was talk about the running backs. Mazzone praised the unit as being the most consistent all camp and that it will be hard to figure out how to distribute the carries to everyone. In previous interviews, Mazzone indicated he would leave the RB rotation up to Coach Polamalu, and he reiterated today that they wouldn't necessarily just play running back by committee. He spoke specifically about Jordon James and said he's become a much more "decisive" runner at the line of scrimmage and that he is one of their most explosive players.
Mazzone spoke about the tempo on offense and said that Brett Hundley has become the key to determining how fast they play, going as far as saying Brett will call his own plays if the play calls aren't getting in quickly enough from the sideline. We heard how much time Hundley spent in the off season studying not just the playbook but the whole philosophy behind Mazzone's scheme, and it sounds like he is really ready to take control of the offense. The OC said that the tempo right now is as fast as its ever been. He added that he intends to name a number 2 QB at some point but he hasn't reached a decision yet.
Mazzone finished up with talk about the receivers and the return of Mossi Johnson from his shoulder injury. He is catching up right now but it sounds like he is expected to be ready to go by next weekend and the staff is trying to get him as many reps as possible to get him back up to speed. With Thomas Duarte also working his way back from an injury, Jordan Payton has returned to his normal position on the outside.
from BSR TV via YouTube
The defense did get a word in today, too. Safety Randall Goforth spoke with the media about the defensive unit, the new freshmen, and which NFL player he models his game - and hair - after. Once again, it's another great discussion.
Thank you to Jack Wang at InsideUCLA for this video.
I was just watching highlights of last season's Nebraska game earlier today and remembered that big hit Goforth made on a lineman on Nebraksa's fake punt to turn the ball back over to the offense. That was so clutch.
The secondary had their struggles with pass coverage early last season but improved steadily over the year. Despite that, Goforth says they can't be satisfied with their progress and that they need to play with a chip on their shoulder every week in order to keep taking their game to a higher level. Part of that development is coming from studying offenses as much as possible, and that includes talking to and watching film with his roommate — some guy named Hundley.