UCLA Football concluded Spring Practice yesterday by holding the Spring Showcase at the Rose Bowl. On one hand, it could be labelled a disappointment. Rather than holding a team scrimmage which would have been more exciting for both players and fans, Coach Mora opted to make it very similar to the other practices sessions which were held this Spring.
The Orange County Register's article on the Spring Showcase reflected some of that disappointment. Register UCLA beat writer Joey Kaufman quoted two players who were disappointed by the decision to make.
LB Myles Jack was quoted as saying, "I was mad. I’ll go ahead and say that. I would rather have a game." Meanwhile, Kenny Young expresssed similiar sentiments:
Yeah, I was mad too, man. I wanted to go live and hit some people. We didn’t give the fans anything to see. The fans like to see knockout hits and tackles in the backfield and everybody just going crazy a little bit, because that’s what football is about.
Mora explained the decision this way:
For us, as a football team, it was more productive to have a practice.
Although an argument could be made that a scrimmage would have given the coaching staff an opportunity to see players such as freshman QB Josh Rosen in game situations.
Perhaps it was the format, perhaps it was the 10am start time or perhaps it was a reduction in the buzz about the team that existed last year, but the attendance was down considerably compared to last year.
In an article for the Daily News, Jack Wang noted the drop in attendance. Wang wrote:
Indeed, little separated the Bruins’ final day of spring camp from the 14 sessions that had preceded it. Last spring, UCLA had drawn 15,108 to the StubHub Center for a live scrimmage. That wasn’t the case on Saturday, when 8,738 showed up in Pasadena to watch what was essentially a regular practice. Mora said that doing so was more beneficial for the Bruins, and allowed them to host recruits on the field.
Chris Foster of the LA Times touched on a similar theme as the others. He wrote:
UCLA wrapped spring practice Saturday with a run-of-the-mill workout at the Rose Bowl. Coach Jim Mora came out of it insisting he does not have a starting quarterback at the moment.
A year ago, he did, and came out of spring practice with a crowded bandwagon. By summer, UCLA had a Heisman Trophy campaign in place for quarterback Brett Hundley and ESPN commentators were predicting that the Bruins would win the national title.
On the difference in the QB situation compared to last year, Foster quoted Mora:
We don't have to deal with that this year. So much of that was because of our quarterback.
The lack of action wasn't the only disappointment at the Spring Showcase. UCLA failed to take advantage of the Showcase as a way to introduce new UCLA play-by-play announcer Bill Roth to Bruin fans. While it's understandable that Roth wasn't in attendance as it was previously announced that he would be in Blacksburg, Virginia at Virginia Tech's Spring Game on Saturday, considering the fact that Roth was at practice on Thursday, the Athletic Department could have easily pre-recorded a message to fans from Roth.
UCLA did not respond to a request asking why this wasn't done.
After practice, numerous coaches and players met with the media to discuss yesterday's session and Spring Practice in general. Thanks to Edward Lewis of the Bruin Sports Report for the following videos.
Coach Mora spoke about the overall progress the team has made. He mentioned that by making the Showcase a practice, they could have recruits on the field. He was asked several question about Josh Rosen as well and he spoke about Rosen's progress during Spring.
New Defensive Coordinator Tom Bradley started off by joking that he had no news about the quarterback competition. He then spoke about the overall progress of the defense and, interestingly, declined to name anyone specifically who stood out during Spring. He said that, inevitably, when you do that you leave someone out and that's not fair.
Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone spoke about the overall progress that the quarterbacks made during Spring.
In addition to expressing his disappointment about the team not scrimmaging, Myles Jack also spoke about returning kicks the past few practices. He said that the last time he did that he was a sophomore in high school, but he really enjoyed it. If it's up to him, he'll be returning kicks in the Fall.
Unlike Myles Jack and Kenny Young, Kenny Clark didn't really care whether it was a practice or a scrimmage. He also spoke about the general progress of the defense during Spring.
Lastly, Jordan Payton spoke about the quarterback competition and how the coaches are going to have a difficult decision to make. He also spoke about being excited for his final season as a Bruin.
There were definitely a lot of recruits present to observe. Most notably, WR Darian Owens who just committed to UCLA recently was there. Those of us who met at Roscoe's for breakfast got to chat a little with him as he was seated at the table next to ours.