The U.C.L.A. Bruins were up early for spring practice number six this morning, and Coach Mora and three of the players met with the media afterward.
Coach Mora noted the Bruins went live offense versus defense for the first time this spring when they worked on goal line packages and said he was most impressed with the mindset of his team, commenting on their ability to focus and compete hard every day without players losing their heads and practice turning into a "bloodbath".
Mora said he believes that part of the process of the the team and coaches being in their fourth spring together and that the players understand how practice works, what the coaches expect, and they come out with a drive to fill those responsibilities.
There seems to be, in my opinion, a more professional attitude with the way our team's approaching practice every day and I like that. I think that's what we're after because I think if you can approach if with that attitude then you're going to find a level of consistency which I think we need to find.
I hope that down the road that helps us avoid some of those games we've had where we've been really high then the next week kind of been low. We want to find that level of consistency that great teams have.
The Bruins' focus and attention to detail during Mora's regime has been the subject of plenty of concern and hand wringing, with penalties and flat performances against the top teams in the conference being glaring, and recurring, examples. Seeing a Bruins finally correct some of those long standing woes seems to be the most important step in the evolution of this program from a talented but inconsistent and periodically underperforming squad into a mature and reliable and championship caliber team.
Other notes from the Mora interview:
- Aaron Sharp continues to work with the receivers. Mora said it the move from QB isn't necessarily permanent but that he looks good there and that Sharp suggested the move as a way for him to get on the field. (my translation: it's permanent)
- Mora notes the QB who works with the top unit always has the best day, and that was Mike Fafaul today. The Bruins will continue tho feature two QBs each practice through Monday so that Jerry Neuheisel, Asiantii Woulard, Fafaul, and Josh Rosen all will have equal reps with the ones, and then the coaches will consider adjusting the rotation.
- Jayon Brown and Isaako Savaiinaea are playing well at inside linebacker and are adding good depth at that spot behind Kenny Young and Myles Jack.
- Randall Goforth is playing all over the secondary this spring with work at corner, both safety spots, and nickel. Mora thinks Goforth's time out from injury last year helped him focus and he's playing better this spring.
- Mora named WR Alex Van Dyke, DB Adarius Pickett, RB Nate Starks, DB Denzel Fisher, DB Johnny Johnson (he has feet like a shorebird), LB Cameron Griffin, and DE Jacob Tuioti-Mariner as young guys who have really stood out this spring.
- Mora confirmed that Kenny Orkioke got an extra season of eligibility after last year's injury, as have Randall Goforth, Ishmael Adams, and (maybe) Najee Toran. Mora is checking to to see if Conor McDermott did also, which would be huge if so.
As always, thanks and appreciation to Ed Lewis and Bruin Sports Report for the post practice video:
After practice, DL Takkarist McKinley, DB Randall Goforth, and QB/WR Aaron Sharp all spoke with the media.
Tak McKinley is looking to be the replacement for Owamagbe Odighizuwa on the Bruins defensive line. He showed some flash as a pass rusher last fall when he joined the Bruins midseason, but he's benefitting from the opportunity to actually learn and develop with the team in camp this spring. He's added nearly 10 pounds since he entered last fall at 225, but DC Tom Bradley wants him around 255 so McKinley's other mission right now it to eat, eat, eat.
video from BSR TV via YouTube
Randall Goforth said he feels great, humble, and blessed to be back on the field with his teammates after recovering from surgery on both shoulders, even though he's still in a red no-contact jersey and expects to be held out of contact for the rest of spring. He's said he's gained a new perspective and appreciation for the game and is willing to play any spot in the defensive backfield. Goforth also talked about the secondary being a tight unit on and off the field with everyone contributing to each others' development. That's become a really deep unit for the Bruins and should be a real strength of the defense this season.
video from BSR TV via YouTube
Aaron Sharp seconded Mora's assertion that his move to WR isn't permanent as he's "just trying it out" to see how he can contribute to the team.Sharp is obviously a fantastic athlete and has all the physical tools you'd look for in a receiver, so now he's focused on working on techniques necessary to run good routes and be a good downfield blocker, both areas where athleticism isn't enough to get the job done. He is working in at the Y position but says he's looking to go anywhere he can contribute and even mentioned cornerback. I feel a bit badly for him as he's had the unpredictable bad luck of facing something that is really weird at U.C.L.A., depth at quarterback. Since he's not likely to see many (any?) reps at QB, I'd love to see Sharp get an opportunity to get on the field at receiver and make plays for the Bruins.
video from BSR TV via YouTube
Ed Lewis and OC Register Beat Writer (and former trogan) Joey Kauffman reviewed practice today in their regular Cover Two Recap that you can watch here to get some more insight into today's practice. Lewis remains really high on Conor McDermott's performance at left tackle this spring which bodes well for the future of whichever QB gets the starting job. Kauffman noted Nate Iese as a standout today which supports everything we saw last fall when Iese got some rare touches. The kid is a football player and the Bruins need to get him the ball.
Jack Wang at Inside UCLA had some additional notes from today's practice, most notably that the Bruins were running some Wildcat formation with Devin Fuller taking the snaps. Also, former Bruin kicker Chris Sailer runs the nation's top kicking camp for HS kickers and his #1 prospect J.J. Molson was visiting practice today.
Thanks again to Ed Lewis and Bruin Sports Report for all of today's videos. Ed also has video of the QBs and WRs behind firewall on the site that is worth the subscription just for the soundtrack the Bruins were cranking at practice today: AC/DC, ZZ Top, Led Zep, Nickelback. Somehow Poison slipped in there, though. Twice. Come on Bruins, we're preaching consistent greatness, here. Fire up some Alter Bridge and I'll fly out just for the practice.
The Bruins next practice is Saturday morning, which means BN Breakfast at Headlines in Westwood at 8am followed by practice at Spaulding at 9:30 am. Get out there and share your observations and thoughts with us here.