clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UCLA Football's Nate Iese Finally Breaks Through

Head coach Jim Mora, Mike Fafaul, and Nate Iese spoke to the media on Monday.

Stanford v UCLA
Nate Iese scores a touchdown in the loss to Stanford in September.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

In the week after the game at Texas A&M, head coach Jim Mora took a not-so-veiled shot at his starting tight end, Nate Iese.

"We’re going to work Caleb Wilson more at the tight end position, in place of Nate," Mora said on September 7th. "Nate’s probably going to see a little less time."

Hm. Well, things didn’t really work out like that.

Iese, a senior who seemed to draw raves out of spring practices and fall camp every year, is finally having his breakout season. Iese leads all Bruins in receiving touchdowns with four for the year and is second on the team in total receptions on the season.

His eight receptions and two touchdowns in the 45-52 loss to Utah were career highs.

"I’m feeling very confident. Like I said, I gain confidence week to week. The more reps I take, the more confidence I gain," Iese said. "Hopefully I’ll be able to put another game like that out there, but also get a win."

Though he’s putting his hand on the ground a little bit more, he’s begun to fill the hole that Thomas Duarte left when he declared for the NFL draft, becoming a favorite target of Rosen and Fafaul.

"I love having Nate out there," Fafaul said on Monday. "He’s a big guy. He’s physical. He wins in man coverage. He’s awesome."

Iese credits UCLA tight end coach Rip Scherer, who both played and coached quarterback at various points in his career, for helping the tight ends connect with the quarterbacks, and read coverages before a play.

"He helps a lot in the room with helping us read coverages and stuff, which actually helps us get open a lot easier in the game, when you’re able to have a pre-snap read before the play even starts to know where you’re going to end up," Iese said.

Asked if the coaches "challenged" Iese around the time when Mora publicly called him out, Iese responded, "I wouldn’t actually be able to comment on that."

Growing Up at Folsom

Mora, being a coaches kid, moved around quite a bit as a child. The family’s longest stop, before settling in Seattle, was in Boulder, where the elder Mora served as a defensive assistant from 1968-1973, under head coach Eddie Crowder.

"I know that place intimately," Mora told reporters on Monday. "I used to run around that field, I was there for a lot of games. I used to run around that practice field, I know it real well."

The Moras were at Stanford for a year before moving to Boulder for six seasons. Mora’s dad was then an assistant at UCLA for a season under Dick Vermeil before becoming the defensive coordinator for newly hired Don James at Washington in the 1975.

"That’s where I got my start in college football," Mora joked.

Fafaul Idolizes Tom Brady

There are worse NFL quarterbacks to admire, for sure. Fafaul finally came clean about how much of a Tom Brady fan he is, after roommate Conor McDermott spilled the beans about a certain poster of the Super Bowl champion that UCLA’s current QB may or may not have on his wall.

"It’s in my house back in Maryland," Fafaul said. "Yeah, he’s my favorite quarterback, and I do have one."

Fafaul also has a Tom Brady calendar.

"My mom got it for me for Chistmas," Fafaul said.

Caleb Benenoch’s Knee Circumference

Skip to about the 5:00 mark in Mora’s video for an interesting conversation about what Mora looks for in recruiting specific positions and a window into some of his recruiting philosophies.

The conversation includes a tidbit about an NFL team that passed on former Bruin OL Caleb Benenoch because his knee circumference wasn’t big enough... Yup.

See more from Coach Mora, Mike Fafaul, and Nate Iese. Videos are courtesy of Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the LA Daily News.

HC Jim Mora:

QB Mike Fafaul:

TE Nate Iese: