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Spaulding Report: UCLA Preseason Camp Has Begun

The wait is over. The Bruins are back on the football field. Day 1 from San Bernardino is in the books, and it sounds as if the Bruins went into it a bit slower and more deliberately than previous camps.

Head Coach Jim Mora opens his first preseason camp without Brett Hundley.
Head Coach Jim Mora opens his first preseason camp without Brett Hundley.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

"It's supposed to get hot later on"

Those were the closing words from Coach Mora's post practice interview today after Day 1 of the Bruins pre season camp in San Bernardino. His words could have been referring to the relatively temperate weather in the Inland Empire today or he could have been referring to the relatively temperate practice the Bruins held to open their 2015-16 season. The coach and the players all noted that is was a relatively mellow start for the team in terms of tempo and intensity. It's also the first time in Coach Mora's U.C.L.A. career that he has started a preseason camp without Brett Hundley. Whether that vacuum at quarterback had anything to do with the relatively slower pace remains to be seen, but when the Coach met the media he wasn't naming any starters either.

Thank you to Ed Lewis and Bruin Sports Report for the videos today.

video from Ed Lewis and BSRTV via YouTube

Mora started out with some notable absences from camp today:

RS Jr OL Simon Goines will miss the next 2 weeks of camp with a "medical issue". Mora said that they are not sure how serious it is but it is not an injury or related to previous injuries, it is not life threatening, and the team doctors are wanting to monitor things for now. That's tough for Goines as he has been fighting to come back from knee injuries for quite a while, and this is another setback. We hope the issue is simple and he gets cleared quickly, but it's best to take these things carefully.

Freshman TE Chris Clark has been fighting mononucleosis for a couple weeks (ahh, youth…) but could be back as soon as tomorrow.

RS Soph RB Craig Lee was not at practice as he is finishing school work, which suggests to me that he is not yet academically eligible. Mora said that Lee had good summer academically he should be able to rejoin the team soon.

Fr WR Cordell Broadus was excused for a couple days for personal issues but should also be back soon.

The coach turned his comments to the practice and it sounded like the Bruins eased into things a bit more deliberately than we have seen in previous San Berdoo camps where they seemed to be going full speed on Day 1. The coach said he did feel good about his veteran guys and their presence in meetings and walk throughs, their work ethic, and their attitude regarding the younger guys, and we should see the tempo and intensity pick up quickly. The one key spot that is missing a veteran though is that QB position, so it's not surprising that the team wasn't going full speed already.

The biggest question surrounding the Bruins preseason is the quarterbacks, and the questions about that situation from the media came early. Mora was asked about the QB rotation and he said that they are planning on having a main guy working with the ones every day, then he pointed out that both Jerry Neuheisel and Josh Rosen spent time with the ones today, while Rosen and Mike Fafaul both spent time with the twos, The coach said they plan to reevaluate the rotation after 5 or 6 days of practice. He was asked later what he is looking for in a quarterback and he said he had "a million things", then named the QB's presence in meeting room, locker room, and on the field; his ability to move from play to play and put previous plays, good or bad, behind him; understanding of the offense; consistency; protection of the football and the ability to good decisions and avoid bad ones; who has the trust of teammates; and who has the ability to make plays to win the game.

Let's stop there a minute and overanalyze the coaching comments on Day 1.

Mora had some other general comments that he was "generally pleased" with today's tempo but that they have a long way to go. He noted they are intentionally slowing down the first couple days so they can focus on some coaching points and recovery. Again, with Brett Hundley at the helm, I recall the team came out full speed on day one of camp the last couple years, so this is another tell to me that the coaches are cognizant they have a new QB leading this team, and the staff is easing Rosen into the system and responsibility of the starting role. It's also a sign that the Bruins aren't going to be able to pick up where they left off last season in terms of offensive flow and efficiency, meaning we should expect to see more run plays and more reliance on the defense at least early in the year.

Of course, that's just me reading between the lines. But it makes sense the staff will want to have an established QB and get that guy a many reps as possible before the game goes live in a few weeks, so I expect that we'll see a definitive answer to the QB question before much longer. The Bruins staff may wait until they have security of closed practices in Westwood to really devote time to one guy, but it just wouldn't be sensible to partition time evenly right up to kickoff against Virginia, so we should see some resolution (beyond my reading of the tea leaves) within the next 3 weeks.

Some of the big names on the team took the stage after Mora with Jordan Payton, Myles Jack, and Paul Perkins meeting with the press.

Payton called the first day was "okay" and "decent" day but noted that is was "not on our standard".

The media tried to get some drop on the QB situation from the WR, but he jukes the questions beautifully, saying "I love them all". He said if he were coach, he'd feel pressure to name a starter, but instead he is free to  "just play football". He complimented the skill sets of each, saying Josh is "extremely physically talented", Jerry in "such a smart player", and Mike is "phenomenal overall". Smooth, JP.

He did point out that Josh is his roommate in SB, and he is helping Josh get acclimated to camp routine and life in SB. In my mind, this is no accident.

video from Ed Lewis and BSRTV via YouTube

Myles Jack was styling his Don King do. With EK gone to the NFL, we need some bold hair at inside linebacker. More importantly, with EK gone to the NFL, we need some big time leadership at inside linebacker, and Jack says he is working into that. While he was previously able to focus on his game, he realizes he now needs to be more vocal on the field and is accepting that role.

video from Ed Lewis and BSRTV via YouTube

Paul Perkins showed off his elusive moss in the interview when he also artfully dodged the quarterback question, though he pretty much nailed himself to the wall with his personal expectations for the season, saying he plans to be the best running back in the nation and win the National Championship.

And that's a good goal to set.

video from Ed Lewis and BSRTV via YouTube

So a relatively mellow day one is in the books, but as Mora promised, it's going to get hot out there. Practice #2 will be tomorrow at 3pm PT at CSU San Bernardino. The practice is open to the public so get out there and see the team up close and share any observations in our open thread.

It's on!!!