The third installment of Ask Coach Mora came out today (HT to LABruin for the fanshot). Mora answered 12 questions that were recently submitted via the UCLA Football Facebook account and his @UCLACoachMora twitter account. And like Mora and his staff, the outside appearances are getting more impressive. In this latest edition, all of Mora's questions and answers are included in a single video, and there is some nice intro and outro production with UCLA football clips and music along with graphics to separate each question and response.
Since the video is 12 minutes long, I've created an index of the questions and time marks on the video to make it easier to scan through the clip for any particular topics of interest if you want to watch it in bits and pieces. Of course, it's worth the whole 20 minutes, so tell the coworkers to take a break and spend some time to sit and check out the whole thing. (note: the video has a brief glitch at 6:14 for a few seconds - just hang with it a bit)
1. What is the playing status of Ellis McCarthy? 0:10
2. What is the injury update on Damien Thigpen? 0:58
3. Will the Bruins wear the 1967 throwback uniforms this year? 1:45
4. Does Malcolm Jones have a legit chance to play and why has he been underused? 2:27
5. What kind of defense can we expect this year? 3:15
6. Do you prefer to play ranked or unranked teams during preseason? 4:30
7. Will Priest Willis convert to strong safety or linebacker sometime in his career? 5:54
8. Why specifically did you choose to run Noel's offense, and what are its pros and cons? 6:55
9. Have you seen the same strength improvement this year, and who has improved the most? 8:24
10. Why do you place such a strong emphasis on special teams? 9:25
11. What are some of the best things you like about living in L.A.? 10:23
12. Will the offense have multiple sets this year? 11:02
video posted by8ClapProductions via YouTube
What, Coach? No open discussion on the future of Eddie Vanderdoes? (just kidding)
Once again, big props to Coach Mora for making himself accessible to the fanbase and making great use of the advantages of the social media. It really means a lot that he takes his time and gives thoughtful answers and insight to the Bruin fans. Granted, Mora didn't answer some of the tougher questions that we saw in the previous installment when he addressed issues like penalties and flat performances. But then again, he has answered those questions once and there isn't much point in repeating those questions until we see the 2013 team on the field and learn whether those questions are still pertinent.
There were a couple questions and responses, though, that I thought were really interesting and provocative. I thought the best question was question #6 regarding whether Mora preferred to play ranked or unranked teams in the nonconference schedule. He admitted that it's a very interesting question and he has thought a lot about it but doesn't have a final answer at this point. Mora recognized the upside of playing unranked teams (or as Mora called them in his best PC, "teams you're pretty certain you're gonna beat", or as the world calls them in reality "SEC nonconference opponents") because of the setup for the college football playoff and the importance of positioning yourself for the top four spots. But Mora then countered that by expressing his desire to compete at the highest level with the best and said how much he wants to play teams like Alabama and LSU and Florida and Ohio State to see where his team stands and to test themselves against the best perennial programs in the land. (I also liked that as he was running off the names of the big programs that started to mention *$c in that group before he abruptly realized we were talking ranked teams and literally interrupted himself before going on to name Penn St and continue his thoughts). It is an complicated issue that we have bandied around some here within other discussions and I don't think we've come to any consensus, so I found it perfect that Mora wasn't really sure about it either. It is clear what his heart says, but he recognizes that that might not be the best thing for his team. It will be interesting to see how our out of conference dates shape up over the next few years with Mora in charge and presumably involved in choosing opponents for those open nonconference dates.
The other discussion that really caught my attention was the end of his answer to question # 9. On the surface, it is no surprise when a head coach brags that his team continues to improve in the strength department every off season. We have heard that exact line for years from previous coaches and it never really seemed to be evident come the fall. However, I am inclined to take Mora's claim more seriously because of his attention to detail and accountability, because of some of the modalities the program has added, such as the martial arts training to improve hand speed and strength for the linemen, and most importantly because of Coach Sal Alosi. I guarantee the offseason training accounted for a lot of the improvement in the team last year, particularly Johnathan Franklin's drastic decrease in fumbles and Datone Jones's physical dominance and ability to get off blocks along the line. I think it also contributed to the impressive percentage of seniors who were able to land tryouts and contracts with pro teams as opposed to the dry seasons prior. Mora gave a hint to some of the structure of the offseason workout program when he noted that players were given 10 offseason conditioning goals. He didn't name the specific goals, and I suspect the goals vary by position, but I presume they include various targets like number of reps at particular weights or times in shuttle runs and sprints. It was good to hear that a lot of players hit 8 or 9 of their 10 goals, but I was really struck when he named the three players who met all 10: Anthony Barr, Brett Hundley, and Eric Kendricks. It almost sounds like propaganda, but it actually goes to show why these players are so good, and why they played far above expectations last year. That sort of work ethic and character, when they are already stars by their own right, tells you all you need to know about the makeup of those young men. That is also the kind of internal leadership the Bruins have missed to a degree for many years. When three of our best players and biggest names are also the hardest workers and greatest achievers, the rest of the team will latch onto that example and everyone will be better for it.
I also had to agree with Mora's top 3 answers to question #11. If he had added In-N-Out, he would have had it exactly right. ;-)
Please feel free to share your thoughts on anything in these questions and answers that caught your attention. Once again, thank you to Coach Mora for his time and interest in the fans. That sort of devotion and interaction buys a lot of good will, and it can turn disaffected Bruins into serious fans again, and serious fans into regular supporters and donors. Is there anyone out there in the Bruin fanbase who isn't behind Mora and his staff right now? Perhaps our basketball coach, who has gotten off to a less than awesome start with that same fanbase, could take some pointers here about how to win back a bit of good will.