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Spaulding Roundup: Brett Hundley and Jordon Payton Speak While Media Criticizes Bruin Coaches

In the first day of practices after last Saturday's debacle at the Rose Bowl, Bruin players including Brett Hundley and Jordan Payton talked to the media about the team's struggles while members of the national media continue to criticize the UCLA coaching staff.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Well, it has been a rough couple of weeks for the team and those of us watching from the Rose Bowl stands or on TV in exile from Los Angeles. The fall of the Bruins from championship contender to Fight Hunger Bowl hopeful and the failures in coaching that have become apparent during this stretch have been covered all over the place, from this blog through the national media.

After calling himself out for his preseason prediction that UCLA would contend for Pac-12 and national honors this season, Andy Staples noted the sideline incident between Coaches Mora and Ulbrich.

One of Saturday’s strangest scenes was the sideline argument between UCLA coach Jim Mora and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich. As the Oregon offense shredded the Bruins, Ulbrich took issue with something Mora said. The men argued, and Ulbrich handed over his play card and took off his headset. It looked like he was quitting his job right there in the middle of the Rose Bowl.

After the loss, Ulbrich blamed only himself for the incident and promised it wouldn’t happen again. "I was in a moment where, obviously I lost a little bit of control," Ulbrich told the Los Angeles Daily News. "And I can’t do that. I can’t do that. That’s not a good message for my players."

I would really like to have some confidence in Coach Ulbrich's plan for and achievement with the Bruin defense - aside from the obvious fact that he still is our team's DC. I do have a fondness for him from his time with the 49ers, and he seemingly did a good job in the last 2 years as a position coach. But while the performance of the linebackers and special teams units that he coached in 2012 and 2013 could support the idea that he has a promising future as a coach, promoting him to a full coordinator was a big gamble by Coach Mora. A risky gamble in a season where the stakes were so big, and one that has backfired spectacularly.

Brett Hundley talked with the media after Monday's practice, discussing the offense's disappointing performance last Saturday as well as the emergence this season of childhood friend and high school teammate Paul Perkins as the lead Bruin running back.

Video via Jack Wang/LA Daily News

Chris Foster noted Jordan Payton's reaction to the loss

"We got to get rid of all those mistakes, the techniques, the errors, the turnovers, the wrong routes," Payton said. "Everything that is causing us to slow down. I don't know what's going on the defense or anywhere else, but I can say from my perspective, what I can handle myself, is that I have to play better. The receivers have to play better. That's definitely where I would start."

A couple of thoughts here. First, sure it is a positive sign of Jordan's character that he is not spreading the blame for what he sees as his part of the team's struggles, but that's what we expect of players on a not-completely dysfunctional team. At least below the pro level, players don't usually openly call out their teammates or coaches. Regardless of what we think of how Noel Mazzone is running the offense, I would be even more concerned if Jordan had called him out when the press came calling.

With that said, take a look at the start of that quote again. Mistakes, technique and errors. Those are all things that the coaches should have been working on from the start of camp out in San Bernardino. Hearing a veteran player in the middle of the season cite those issues as factors in his team's poor play is mindboggling. It brings to light a ridiculous failure in the high priced staff, from the position coaches who should be teaching and refining technique and correcting errors, to the CEO of the program who should be able to recognize when the shortcomings of his subordinates threaten to undermine the goals of the team.

Jack Wang has an early look at Saturday's game at Cal published at the Daily News, noting the Bruins "stale and unimaginative" defense. Stewart Mandel noted the dysfunction surrounding Pac-12 officiating in his Monday column at CBS Sports' latest NFL mock draft has Brett Hundley reuniting with Xavier Su'a-Filo next season in Houston.