Man, that headline felt good to type!
The Bruins opened Spring Football this morning bright and early at 7am to give everyone an early look into some of the lineups, possible position changes, and new faces on the roster. Our own uclaluv was out there too so hopefully we can get some first hand observations from her as well.
The four new faces this morning included JuCo transfer Zach Bateman and three early enrollees, QB Josh Rosen, LB Josh Woods, and DB/ATH Nate Meadors.
Former OL Colby Cyburt is moving to tight end. Mora said he played the position in the past and expressed an interest in changing position and slimmed down some to fit the role.
Dwight Williams moved from LB to safety. Mora said he flashed a couple times during the one on one drills and that his physical skills are a good fit for the position. Najee Toran was taking snaps with the defensive line as was anticipated.
Myles Jack worked more at the inside linebacker position today, though Mora said it's pretty similar to things he did in the nickel last year and that he'll still move inside and outside to capitalize on his speed.
Numerous Bruins were back on the field following prior injuries. RB Steven Manfro participated in all drills after his ACL injury last fall. DB Randall Goforth was in a red jersey after bilateral shoulder injuries last season and will get an extra year of eligibility
The best news was Simon Goines starting at right tackle with first team. Mora said he looks trimmed down and on the right path to recovery. Caleb Benenoch worked on the sidelines and should be full speed by next week. That could give the Bruins their seeming ideal starting OL.
Denzel Fisher, Ryan Davis, Cam Griffin, Austin Roberts, Darren Andrews, Kenny Orjioke all participated in limited action. Eli Ankou has a fractured scaphoid bone in his wrist (he claims from "punching a moose") and was in a cast.
The unfortunate news is that the Bruins opened practice without a couple of familiar faces. As JB15 posted very early this morning, WR Devin Lucien will be leaving the program. He intends to graduate and then transfer to another school so he can play this fall. The reasons for his move haven't been made public and Mora indicated that he wasn't sure why Lucien was leaving. Fortunately for the Bruins, they are deep deep deep at receiver. We wish Devin the best and hope we don't see him on an opposing sideline in the fall.
The other missing face was Offensive Line coach Adrian Klemm who remains suspended with pay (tell me how I can get that sort of punishment) while allegations of recruiting violations are investigated. Coach Mora would not discuss the subject noting that he is not allowed to talk about the process. He noted that assistants Blake Bentz and Dave Marsh, along with OC Noel Mazzone and RB coach Kennedy Polamalu will all be working with the unit on the field and in the film room. We've seen position by committee before. This may be the first coach by committee. I always come back to the OL, but especially with a new starting QB, that unit will need to be sharper this year than it has in previous years, so this will be worth watching closely.
And as for those quarterbacks…Mora talked about the plan for practice through the spring, noting that each day was going to feature two QB's getting the majority of reps so they could get "a concentrated group of plays". Today was scheduled for Jerry Neuheisel and Asiantii Woulard
Mora indicated he was in no hurry to try to find a starter.
I just want to see progress. I don't believe, as we stand here day 1, that we'll come out of spring with a clear feeling of who is going to be the guy is or what the pecking order is. I'd just like to see them all improve and compete on a dialuy basis and gain confidence in themselves and watch their teammates and coaches gain confidence with them. Obviously Jerry has the edge right now. He's the guy that's played.
It was hard for me to just focus in on him. I watched kind of the one on one. He didn't seem overwhelmed which is a good thing. Part of that is the fact that he's been here since winter quarter. He's been with these guys. He's been in the weight room. He's been on the practice field throng with them so he's got some familiarity…It doesn't seem too big for him so I think that;s a good sign on his first day.
I don't want to focus, I mean, I know it's interesting because Josh is the new guy out here. He comes in highly acclaimed but all those guys are right in it and they're gonna fight.
On the defensive side, Mora said he is most interested in watching the battle at the safety position and developing depth along the defensive line. The Bruins will be working in some new defensive concepts this spring but that there are not any drastic changes planned. They will operate from their base 3-4 but Mora noted that the 3-4 and 4-3 concepts overlap so much that it really isn't much to the name, and that the Bruins played with a 4 man front plenty of times last season.
One reporter did ask the burning question about new DC Tom Bradley and whether he had any reservations on hiring a coach who was present at Penn State during the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
I think our University and our Athletic Department, in combination, did a tremendous job making sure we went through the process in the correct way and did our research, you can use the word "vet". We were patient. We talked to a lot of people, and we were sure in our decision that he was the right guy for this job at this time. So I'm very comfortable. You know, as long as the Chancellor and the Athletic Director are comfortable and feel that we've done our due diligence then I feel confident that we made the right decision.
Mora did answer very deliberately and carefully, so it's clear that he understands that Bradley's hire is a legitimate concern to many Bruin fans. A DC is his hire and not Block's or Guerrero's, and so the responsibility for Bradley being at U.C.L.A. lies with Mora. I think most of us don't trust the Chancellor or AD to give any reliable approval to the hiring process, so their level of comfort doesn't mean much. It's up to each fan whether they trust that Mora made the right call.
After Mora, four Bruin players spoke with the media. Jake Brendel went first and discussed the difference without Coach Klemm and without Brett Hundley on the field, as well as his goals for spring.
The Bruins big defensive tackle Kenneth Clark talked about Coach Bradley and the effect on his role along the line.
ILB Kenny Young talked about stepping into the void left by Eric Kendricks and his relationship with LB Coach Scott White.
Finally, WR Jordan Payton talked about opening camp without his best friend but spoke highly of the new quarterbacks and the competition at the WR position.
Thanks again to Ed Lewis and BSR for the player interviews above.
The Bruins next practice is Thursday at 7am. Set your alarms.