The world lost a great comedic talent in Robin Williams this week, and I have some thoughts on that at the end today, but we still have UCLA Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone.
Reporter: "Devin's out for a while. Is Eldridge the next guy that kinda slides in there?"
Mazzone: "Eldridge…uh, Massington?"
Reporter: "Do you have another Eldridge on the team?
Mazzone: "Uh, what number is he? Is that 82? Ah, 29!"
That was just the beginning.
Reporter: "First impressions of [Aaron] Sharp?"
Mazzone: "Um, Sharp!" Is he number 82?"
And he was just warming up with the quarterbacks...
Reporter: "So who's your backup?"
Mazzone: "I don't know yet, I haven't made my decision yet, Chris. That's my story and I'm sticking to it."
On Jordan James injury this week and his recovery...
Reporter: "Where is Jordan James right now?
Mazzone: "Uh, he's in the stretch line."
And following up on James...
Reporter: "He [James] was getting it going last year and then he got hurt. That's sort of a consequence of football. But do you find yourself thinking and projecting, well, if he had stayed healthy…"
Mazzone: "I never project. Every time I've projected I'm paying alimony."
On the receivers' potential lineups...
Reporter: "When Devin [Lucien] comes back, can you see yourself putting Eldridge on the outside and having Jordan Payton in the slot? He's looked pretty good there."
Mazzone: "You know what…the best thing to do is like, write, draw it up, send it in to me…"
Reporter: "Well, if you're taking requests…"
Mazzone: "I mean, they're just plays, right? Anyone can call them!"
from BSR TV via YouTube
Sure, it's just a 7 and a half minute set, but that's smart! Go out on a high note and always leave them wanting more, right, coach?
In between the comedy routine, Mazzone did offer some interesting tidbits.
Mazzone spoke highly about the depth at the receiver position, noting that he has what he considers "six starters" out there, and that he is very comfortable with any of those players. He returned to the topic later when he spoke about the impending return of Thomas Duarte and Mossi Johnson to the unit. We've talked about the absence of that one big time explosive playmaker at the receiver position, but I do agree with the coach that we have a really solid group of receivers. So while defenses may not have fear that one knockout punch punch, they can look forward to getting a series of solid blows to the chin and gut and chest from every direction before going down.
He also talked about the importance of competition at quarterback and how the battle for the backup spot is important not just for their own development but that he wants them to push Brett Hundley every day, too, and that he hopes one of the backups will separate himself from the others soon.
On the running backs, he added that James is coming back fine and he reiterated his praise for RB coach Kennedy Polamalu that he began with his first post practice interview last week, noting how comfortable he is with the top 4 or 5 running backs on the roster. He also added that he is impressed with Adarius Pickett's transition from DB to RB, especially with how well he has really picked up the offense so far, and he is happy to have him on his side of the ball.
Mazzone said he was not overly concerned about some of the injuries along the O Line, due to the relative depth the Bruins have in that unit, and that other guys get a chance to work. Mazzone said this is a typical camp with "a nick here and a nick there" He added that the good side of it "sometimes you find that you have some backups that you didn't know that are a little bit better than you think and you're preparing them."
One of the guys who does not fit into that category, though, is true freshman NaJee Toran. When asked if Toran was benefitting from playing time due to injuries, Mazzone countered that "I don't think Najee is getting to play because somebody got hurt. I think he's one of our top 5 or 6 offensive linemen." NaJee is clearly benefitting from enrolling early last spring and getting to participate in spring practice where he got a chance to get accustomed to college football and college life. If he really is one of those top 5 linemen, then we'll see him on the field on the opening play at Virginia. And what would the Bruin OL be without a true freshman on the field?
There was a moment of obvious sincerity and emotion from the coach when he was asked about the progress of WR Logan Sweet. Before the reporter could even finish her question, Mazzone jumped in to praise the redshirt junior.
Oh my gosh, Sweet. Yeah, Logan's had a very good camp. I'm really happy for him. He's persevered. He's worked hard. Never says anything. He's there every day. He's got all those things - he has really come a long was from two years ago when he first got here, and he really figures into those top 4 or 5 guys at the outside spot for us.
In the first, Myles Jack talks about his camp, the fuss over getting kicked out of practice, and the development of true freshman LB Kenny Young. uclaluv's mom would be very pleased with this one.
NaJee Toran talks about his transition from high school to college and his prospects for starting this season. He's clearly got a great personality and does a great interview for a freshman. He also points out (quite correctly) that San Bernardino is not really that hot. Not if you've ever endured a Texas summer.
Defensive line coach Angus McClure talks about his outstanding unit with notes on most of his players, and he talks about his plans for the DL rotation.
Many thanks to Jack Wang for sharing these interviews. Be sure and give these guys some love for bringing all the news every day from the lovely Inland Empire (sorry, IE!)
Finally, as an unrelated aside and sort of circling back to Mazzone, one of my favorite memories as a student was when I got a seat in Royce Hall one afternoon when the Theater, Film, & TV Department awarded its annual Jack Benny (not to be confused with this Benny) Award for Comedy to Robin Williams. When Williams was introduced, he walked out on stage and very humbly and sincerely graciously accepted the award. And then a switch flipped and he transformed into that bull in a china shop frenetic comic with the rapid fire jokes which revealed a deep intelligence that was often overshadowed by the sheer degree of hilarity and the quickness of it all. Taking the stage alone, he immediately adopted the voice and persona of the stereotypical college professor and pantomimed a brief lecture in anthropology, turning to the screen to present an imagined photo of early hominids discussing "how many neanderthals it took to light a fire". Later, when some lucky students got to go on stage to ask him questions, one typically beautiful coed wearing the then-stylish jeans with holes in the knees was greeted immediately with, "Oh, I see you've been auditioning!". And that's pretty much how the 30 minutes went. Witty, intelligent, biting, hilarious. It was one of those lifetime treats you got as a bonus to by spending your college days in Westwood. Being front and center to witness one of the greats in his field, for free.
Mazzone is (probably) a better OC than Robin Williams, but few people will make others laugh the way that man did.
What a gift. What a loss.
Please take good care of yourselves, Bruins Nation, and take good care of each other.