Basketball season is now a sad, distant memory, a long march to a underwhelming end, and a season that could have been so much more if only our coach was decidedly mediocre (and that's not even taking into consideration his laughably poor record of being a decent human being). But fortunately, while our baseball team is struggling for consistency and unable to soothe our basketball woes, we do have the return of Jim Mora's football team as they prepare for what is shaping up to be a huge and likely very special season this fall.
And so with our football team back in action, we're going to shift away from our usual Monday round-up of the various non-revenue results from the prior week (which we'll bring to you fine folks on Tuesday) and focus in on some of the various bits and pieces of news from around the football UCLA-iverse:
--- Beginning with our Heisman Trophy hopeful, QB Brett Hundley was the focus of a recent story by the Los Angeles Daily News, focusing in on Hundley spending a lot of the off-season working on deepening his understanding of the playbook and the game. I think we're going to see a special season from #17 this fall. Side note - anyone else notice the title of the segment at the bottom of the article - not that we've been using that since May 2011 or anything, but it's okay because BN likes to share.
--- Sticking with Brett, Bryan Fischer at NFL.com has a similar story on Hundley, focusing in on the off-season work Brett did by working with quarterbacks drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft who have worked with Mazzone before. Now since those QBs include Philip Rivers and Tim Tebow, let's hope those tips focused only on the mental aspects of the game and not the throwing-mechanics aspect of the game. Just saying.
--- As for the quarterback position itself at UCLA, Fox Sports focused in on both Hundley's off-season work with the playbook and watching film and on the primary back-up battle between photo-bomb king Jerry Neuheisel and exciting redshirt freshman prospect Asiantii Woulard, which should be an interesting battle to watch this spring and fall. Woulard has the obvious upside but UCLA fans know to never count out a QB named Neuheisel - sometimes the plucky underdog wins you a Rose Bowl.
--- Turning to the foundation of any great offense, the five big men in the trenches, Fox Sports has a piece on how last year's injury woes will go a long way to helping this year's line, which is one of the deepest offensive line units UCLA has had in the past two decades. Kind of a nice place to be after all of those years during the Karl and Rick years with a taped-up, thin, barely functional offensive line (which got kids like Kevin Craft pounded non-stop).
--- Speaking of offensive line (this would be the part of the post you could call the opinion section), the Torian White situation at UCLA really has exposed the stark difference between Jim Mora and Steve Alford. As you know, White was arrested in November on suspicion of sexual assault. Right now, White is (like all criminal defendants in this country) presumed innocent. He might be guilty, he might not be - right now, we simply don't know. According to the District Attorney's Office, the investigation is still open (which means that while charges haven't been filed yet, they still could be). And how did Jim Mora respond? His initial statement in November:
"We are aware of the situation involving Torian White, and we take these accusations very seriously," said UCLA football coach Jim Mora. "Torian has been suspended from the team indefinitely while the legal process and student discipline process run their course. Due to the ongoing police investigation, we are unable to discuss this matter further at this time."
And when he told the media that White is no longer with the team at all this past week:
"All I can tell you is he is no longer with the team," Mora said, per the Associated Press.
Now compare that to Alford's staunch defense of Pierre Pierce, his role in having the victim contacted, and his decade of not apologizing, even once Pierce was actually convicted of a crime:
These minor flaws might be things that don't work at Iowa and are fine in Los Angeles, but there is one thing that won't fly anywhere: His behavior during the Pierre Pierce scandal. Pierce, a star guard that was crucial to the post-Recker teams, was accused of sexual assault on a female student. Alford stood by his player, which is certainly his prerogative, but the way in which he did it -- repeatedly and publicly professing Pierce's innocence and testifying to Pierce's character in every public forum that would have him, publicly questioning the intent of the anonymous victim, and reportedly trying to strong-arm her into giving the case up with the help of a counselor from a Christian athletes organization -- were wholly unacceptable. Games at Carver Hawkeye Arena featured more protesters than paying ticketholders. Pierce eventually pled guilty to a lesser charge, then committed almost the same crime two years later. Steve's character judgment bona fides were effectively gone.
Based on these public statements alone, it really tells you a lot about the respective characters of each man. Now, Jim Mora may not be the right man for UCLA ultimately (and I'm hoping he proves us wrong and gets us to the promised land), but unlike Alford, he seems to be a genuinely decent human being. Is that so much to ask for at UCLA?
Alright folks, those are your various bits and pieces of news from around the UCLA-iverse (with an quick opinion piece at the end), so fire away with your comments, opinions, and other bits and pieces from spring football practice that we missed here.