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Spaulding Roundup: Media Pushes Mora for Answers While Jack & Bunche Accept Responsibilty

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We hear from Coach Mora, Myles Jack, and Malcolm Bunche as UCLA prepares to meet the Oregon Ducks on Saturday. Most of the talk is about the Utah game.

Kevork Djansezian

A warning: most of the post-practice discussion today focused on the problems UCLA had against Utah. This was difficult for me to listen to, but I would love to hear if you hear it the way I do. While it seemed that the players were looking at their own mistakes and how to improve, it also seemed like too much of Coach Mora's focus for improvement was on the mistakes of the players. While he did mention, repeatedly, the role the coaching staff has in improving the team, it seemed like his comments focused more on individual player improvement. In several instances Mora had the opportunity to address schemes, for instance on Utah's last drive, but instead spoke in generalities. Chris Foster and others tried to push Mora to be more specific but he wouldn't go there. While I appreciate not wanting to criticize one's coaching staff publicly, I think Mora missed an opportunity to demonstrate that he really saw the problems as something that needed to be seriously addressed as a coaching staff. I am still upset about Saturday's game and the coaching and scheming that seems to be taking place, thus I am listening through a very strong filter. I suggest watching the video before reading the notes that follow and make your own decisions.

Jim Mora spoke with the media today:

Thanks to Jack Wang, Inside UCLA for the video.

  • "I think everything's fixable..."
  • On the O Line:" it's just a matter of coming out here and working hard during the week....Staff putting them in the right position." He talked about the following things needing to be better: individuals, staff putting players in a better position and giving help, staying out of difficult situations, receivers getting open earlier, qb getting rid of the ball quicker. "It's all those things." "It's never one thing... ". He mentions the youth and inexperience of the o-line. He then does shift to coaches and the job of the coaches which is to coach them up and put them in a position where they can succeed. Chris Foster tries to push for some specifics, Mora thinks Chris is asking him to give away the game plan. After repeating the things coaches can do he finishes by saying that they do these things and then hope that they [the players] don't repeat mistakes. I wish this statement about repeating mistakes was directed at the coach decisions. I wish I came away knowing that Mora was as focused on the will and mistakes of the coaches as it sounds like he is on that of the players.
  • "Every team has flaws....Who is undefeated?": "Arizona." Sorry, but I had to laugh at the tone of the answer by the reporter. The press is getting on Mora. It seems so much is about "will". What do you think? He told them [the team] that the defeat was was "self-imposed". What does Mora mean by them, the players or the coaches? He uses the word mindset? Again, is he talking coaches or players? He loves the grit and toughness of the team, of the players and says that "They're impossible to discourage". So it is not the will of the players I guess. He agrees that this is the most competitive team he has had here. It should give everyone hope. Some of us are losing the ability to have hope when some of the coaches seem to continually put the players not in positions to succeed. If not for the will, girt, and talent of the players, this year would be a total disaster IMHO. "Hope that they don't repeat mistakes." Again, Coach Mora, who is the "they" to which you refer? I think the reporters did a really good job, socratically speaking, of asking questions about weakness, hearing Mora refer to the will of the players, and then getting him to praise that very same will.
  • I do wish they would move away from the gosh darn construction site.
  • Mora gushes over Marcus Mariota and agrees that playing against Kendall Thompson probably helped the team prepare a bit for Mariota "possibly the best player in the nation."
  • On Kenny Young: Mora has seen a lot of progress. Mora says he takes things really seriously, he is affected, and he comes out and works.
  • On Utah's last drive and if UCLA should have handled it differently: "The very first thing you do after every game is you look at yourself....How can we put them in a better position to make plays". "The calls were fine, but you always go could they have been better?" The question asked for something more specific and I think without throwing anyone under the bus, he could have used this opportunity to educate the fans on how they could have handled it differently, rather than sure we could have done better. You can always do better. Previously, Mora had said this about the drive:

"In the second half, we really struggled to stop the run," UCLA coach Jim Mora said. "It’s positioning. It’s tackling. It’s trying to do too much sometimes. I certainly wouldn’t criticize their effort at all. They were able to put a drive together when they needed to put a drive together. We weren’t able to get them off the field."

I love that he is backing the effort of the players. I don't think anyone is criticizing that. We are concerned about the related issues of the coaches. I get frustrated not hearing these issues not being more central to his discussion.

  • On defensive tackles Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes: They are really special and will do well at the next level.
  • On Oregon RB's: They are all so productive. It doesn't matter who's in there, "they all make plays". On Freshman RB Bryce Freeman, he's a powerful guy, has excellent vision. He has burst. "We're definitely prepared for all those guys."

Next we hear from Offensive Tackle Malcolm Bunche on o-line play:

Thanks to Ryan Kartje, OC Register for the video.

Malcolm attributes a lot of the problems to poor communication on the line. "We needed better communication". When asked about this, Bunche said that it was really loud and "people weren't speaking up" and that sometimes people weren't getting the calls through to the whole line. He also said that they watched film for 6 or 7 hours and had a great practice today with fast tempo and good communication. He said they worked on protection and that they change the protection every week depending on the team coming in..."that's why we practice". "It's redemption time." I am glad the o-line players are taking responsibility. Malcolm also spoke about Adrian Klemm and changes he was making. Again, nothing specific about the scheming or coaching but said that they had been progressing since the Virginia game, but hit this "bump in the road". He said Coach Klemm is positive and a grinder. I really like that about Klemm. And there is more to coaching than motivation. I would love to hear more about those other things.

Myles Jack on the defense:

Again, thank you Ryan Kartje for the video.

Against the run Myles says: "It was all on us." He says Devontae Booker is one of the best running backs he's played against and that now with conference play "Every loss stings." The truth. Jack is asked a lot of questions comparing his performance this year to last to which Jack responds that he's young and is still figuring it out. "Superman is Ishmael over there." He thinks the other guys are better than him at pass rushing so he's not the one assigned to that. Last year it was anything goes, so there was more opportunity for great defensive, flashy plays. This year, Myles is staying in the defense and staying in the gap like he's told to do. He says the focus all year has been staying in the gap and trusting. "I'm playing within the system." About Oregon, Jack says that "in order to get national respect we have to beat big-time teams like Oregon." He praises this year's d-line, saying they are much better this year than last year, adding, they were good last year, but this year they're better. They're doing their job. With Eddie and Kenny playing so well, it makes it easier for Myles and others to stay in their gaps. Myles is really impressed with Royce Freeman, "Wow, he's good for a freshman." saying he's quick and powerful. Jack made a point of telling Utah RB Devontae Booker how good he was after the game.

All that said, I do hope that what is being said publicly by Coach Mora is different than what is being addressed behind the scenes.

Go Bruins!