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Spaulding Roundup: Payton Questions Playcalls, Jack Signals Confusion & Other UCLA Football Notes

Notes from UCLA football including comments from Brett Hundley, Jordan Payton and Myles Jack, who signals skepticism and confusion as Bruins get ready for Arizona.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Three players spoke with the media today after practice and were able to give us more details about the state of UCLA football then what we have been getting from the coaches.  Hundley, Jack, and Payton speak about what was really going on on the field in the Colorado game and the importance of this upcoming game against Arizona.  I really appreciate some or the questions the media is asking, looking for many of the same kind of answers that we are.

Let's start with quarterback Brett Hundley (courtesy of Ryan Kartje):

  • Brett says that the players still have a strong belief in what this team can accomplish and are working hard to take advantage of the opportunity to still win the Pac-12 championship.  He talks about the strong leadership amongst players that goes beyond team meetings, saying it happens one on one in practice as they get ready for this next game.  The leadership on the team is "huge" and leaders are willing and able to take the team on their backs.  He says they need to get the next four games and that this task "falls on the leaders".
  • When asked about Coach Mora's fiery defense of the state of the team, Brett says he doesn't know much about that, but instead says as players they can get where they need to go. When asked he did give a nod to Caleb Benenoch's tweet:

  • Regarding his own play on Saturday, Hundley said he did miss some throws, but otherwise felt the offense moved the ball pretty well, but not consistently and that they can't do that this week against Arizona.  He really praises the work the offensive line is doing now, giving him a pocket, time to be in there, and great run blocking.  They've been "blocking their butts off for us."
  • After an interesting question about whether Brett feels like he needs to be perfect in order for this team to win, Brett shows his usual poise.  He feels he needs to be perfect, not to win, but because he wants to be his best out there and do his part for the team.  He said that when Coach Mora told him about only average players not having bad days, that really resonated with him.  Mora talked to him about this after wishing Brett's dad a Happy Birthday on Saturday.
  • Speaking of poise Hundley said you just have to keep it, that you can't go in the shell when things are going poorly.  "We have to fight, can't go into a shell."
  • And about the last two game winning runs Brett said he told himself "just run it man... If I got to do it, I'll do it".  He said they'd been running the stretch play the whole game and when he saw them bite he just took it in.
  • Arizona is coming up and Brett says they will study the film, that going against the 3-3-5 Arizona will throw at them will be challenging but that they "will study the film so we know what we're doing".

Next up, Myles Jack (again, thank you Ryan Kartje):

  • Myles was asked a lot about why it was so difficult to stop Colorado on Saturday.  Myles said he felt that the defense really came out with "guns blazing", but that when Colorado switched things up and got in a rhythm,  the Bruin defense didn't have an answer for it.  He was asked if a good defense should be able to stop a team in rhythm and had this to say:

We should have been able to kind of, somewhat control what they were doing once they started doing what they were doing.  We didn't really have an answer for it.

  • There were also questions about the problems tackling.  He was asked how you approach an open field tackle and said you need to be relaxed, stare at his waist, and make a tackle.  When there are problems you need to go back to your technique to make the sure tackle instead of the big tackle.
  • On whether it is more frustrating to give up big plays on the ground or in the air, Jack said absolutely on the ground.  And said that the defense is "repeating mistakes" and needs to put together another complete game like it did against ASU.
  • As for Myles, he said he never worked on pass rushing in high school,  and is working on it, but that it's not natural to him.  He said he almost got to the qb a couple times and is putting in extra time before and/or after practice.  I was surprised to learn that this was the first week they let him go after the quarterback.  He said he has now been asked to go for the qb a little more.  That explains a lot IMHO.
  • Jack says Arizona has a very explosive offense and that "Solomon is a baller":

We can't have a lapse against them or it's going to be a high scoring game and we're going to be very, very embarrassed at the end of the score...We're going to have to come up with a formula to beat them.

Jordan Payton (this time, courtesy of Edward Lewis):

  • Jordan said some really interesting things as well.  First he said it was a "fantastic game to be a part of", going into overtime, showed we are a resilient ,tough team and that mistakes were made and need to be cleaned up.
  • When asked whether the coaches talk about penalties with the team he says they "did talk with us" and said it's  "getting redundant... we talk about it, talk about it, talk about it" and wonders how do we put the talk into action.
  • About the pass game Jordan says that Hundley did miss some passes and some balls were dropped.  He doesn't know if that was due to the elevation or some soreness Hundley was experiencing, but thought it went well over all.
  • He agrees with Brett that the team still believes it is a Pac-12 championship team and that each week is a battle.
  • In another telling answer Jordan said he didn't know why more deep throws were being called.  He noted that they tried to go deep a couple of times.  He thinks teams may be focusing more on taking away the deep ball because "we've been hitting it".  He says Brett's been on point and doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing.

We run what we are told and go out and do it to the best of our ability.  I'm not really sure [why the deep pass isn't called more].

Looking at some articles, Ryan Kartje gives us the injury report from Coach Mora's conference call on Sunday:

"We have 13 players that are injured and not playing with us this year," Mora said "I just looked at it and it blew me away. Let me give you some of the big names that aren’t playing: (wideout) Darren Andrews, (running back) Steven Manfro, (cornerback) Johnny Johnson, (safety) Randall Goforth, (linebacker) Kenny Orjioke, and (offensive tackle) Simon Goines – he hasn’t played yet. But it doesn’t matter. We’re still playing."

According to Jack Wang, both Myles Jack and Eric Kendricks have been named Butkus Award semifinalists. There are 15 semifinalists.  According to Wang, Kendricks leads the Pac-12 with 93 tackles this season and needs 43 more to tie Jerry Robinsons's record.  Eric had 16 tackles, yes,16 tackles against Colorado, plus an interception.  Wang notes that he had "three third-down stops to force a punt or a field goal. All but one of his tackles were unassisted."  This season Myles Jack has had 62 tackles and six pass breakups (putting him in first place in the pac-12 along with Husky John Timo).

L.A. Times writer Everett Cook takes a look at our Bruins in the NFL this weekend, including the game winning play by Anthony Barr.  And Chris Foster looks at some possible big-time future Bruins who will be at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, including Josh Rosen, Christian Kirk (WR, 5*), Carlos Strickland (WR, 4*), Cameron Scarlett (RB, 4*), and Ryan Newsome (WR, 4*).  Let's see if  5* Rosen can get these guys organized which include the #4, 12, and 27th ranked wide-receivers and 4th best running back in the nation according to Scout.

Have a good evening and Go Bruins!