Football season is here! Well, actually, we have to wait another 26 days before the UCLA Bruins and the Virginia Cavaliers kick off the pigskin at the Rose Bowl, but the Bruins begin Fall training camp today at Cal State San Bernardino. The article will provide links to Bruins Nation’s articles about each positional unit of the 2015 iteration of the UCLA football team, discuss the history of UCLA holding Fall camp in San Bernardino, highlight some key positional battles to watch for during Fall camp, and provide you with information about the Fall camp schedule. This is essentially your primer and go-to resource for UCLA’s 2015 Fall training camp in San Berdoo.
The 2015 UCLA Bruins Football Team
Coming off an Alamo Bowl victory over Kansas State last season, the UCLA Bruins are ranked #14 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. While losing veteran quarterback Brett Hundley to the NFL, UCLA returns almost all of its starters on both offensive and defense. The general consensus is that if the Bruins can get consistent play out of whomever their quarterback will be, they should contend for a spot in the PAC 12 Championship Game. Bruins Nation has broken down each unit, with an analysis of players, projected depth charts, and other information that should give you all of the information you need going into Fall camp. Here are links to each of those articles:
The History of UCLA Football and San Bernardino
For those of you who might not have been following the UCLA football team closely over the last few seasons, UCLA Head Coach Jim L. Mora instituted Fall training camp in San Bernardino in his first season as UCLA coach in 2012. So this will be the fourth time in four seasons that the Bruins head east on the 10 away from the luxuries (and cool sea breezes) of Westwood. Most NFL teams conduct training camp away from their usual practice facilities, so one would think that this tradition is a carryover from Coach Mora’s tenure in the NFL.
There are several benefits to holding training camp in San Berdoo. First, it is great for team building and comradery. All of the players are housed together, away from creature comforts (and distractions) of home. This is an atmosphere that promotes bonding. Compared to Westwood, San Bernardino is relatively isolated, allowing the team to focus on just one thing: football. In the past, Coach Mora has sprung a fun diversion on the players at one point during camp. In 2012, what was supposed to be a grueling run into the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains detoured over to the Cal State San Bernardino pool complex for swimming and diving contests (I seem to recall video of Owa testing the tensile strength of a diving board). The past two seasons, the players actually did go into the mountains to Bruin Woods at Lake Arrowhead, for more diving contests and swimming.
Although the trip to San Bernardino was advertised as a way to toughen up the players in extreme heat—think Bear Bryant’s Texas A&M "Junction Boys"—the truth of the matter was that the coaching staff would oftentimes adjust the schedule to avoid the most extreme heat. As you can see from the schedule below, most practices are in the early morning and late afternoon, avoiding the scorching midday hours. The heat cannot be entirely discounted . . . San Berdoo is NOT Westwood, but in an era of sensitivity to heat-related injuries, the UCLA coaching staff will not be pushing the players "until they drop." That having been said, practicing in San Berdoo certainly didn’t hurt playing Houston in Houston in August, 2012, or Virginia in Charlottesville in August last season. Hopefully, it will help against UNLV in Vega$ next month. Or the Rose Bowl in any game with a 12:30 p.m. kick off.
The Practice Schedule
The Bruins will hold sixteen practices between today and Saturday, August 22nd, with only one day off during that time frame (Sunday, August 16th). All practices are open to the public. Practices are held at the athletic fields on the east side of campus, with parking in the adjacent Lots G and H, for $6. For more details, check out a map of the campus here.
The following is a tentative practice schedule:
Monday, August 10 @ 3 p.m.
Tuesday, August 11 @ 3 p.m.
Wednesday, August 12 @ 3 p.m.
Thursday, August 13 @ 3 p.m.
Friday, August 14 @ 3 p.m.
Saturday, August 15 @ 8:30 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.
Sunday, August 16 – NO PRACTICE
Monday, August 17 @ 8:30 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.
Tuesday, August 18 @ 3 p.m.
Wednesday, August 19 @ 8:30 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.
Thursday, August 20 @ 11:15 a.m.
Friday, August 21 @ 8:30 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.
Saturday, August 22 @ 11:15 a.m.
Practices are subject to change. In past camps at San Berdoo, the coaching staff has sometimes made adjustments to the practice times in the event of extreme heat. Each practice should last for about two hours. Immediately after the final practice on August 22nd, UCLA will hold a fan appreciation event.
Key Positional Battles
The following are a few of the things to keep an eye on in Fall camp:
· Josh Rosen or Jerry Neuheisel? The performance of these two in Fall camp will go a long way to determining who will be under center in 26 days.
· Who will get the edge as second string running back? Paul Perkins, who led the PAC 12 in rushing yards last season, will start at running back for UCLA. Beyond that, you have Nate Starks, a punishing back who gained some tough yards last season; Craig Lee, who has all the potential in the world, but has not yet seen action; and Soso Jamabo, the five star freshman out of Texas. Which of these three will perform well in camp and earn the second string position? And what about Steven Manfro? Is he healthy? Will he get reps out of the backfield? Will he return punts or kicks?
· Massington or Fuller? Who will start as the wideout opposite Jordan Payton? Eldridge Massington slipped in the minds of same after an uneventful spring practice. Can he step up his game in San Berdoo and earn a starting spot?
· EV4, Kenny Clark, and . . .? Who will start opposite Eddie Vanderdoes on the defensive line? There are several candidates, including Takkarist McKinley, Matt Dickerson, and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner.
· Benenoch or Goines? Simon Goines is returning from ankle surgery after missing the 2014 season. Goines started 13 games at right tackle as a true freshman in 2012, and 6 games at left tackle (and one game as right tackle) in 2013, before injuring his knee. Caleb Benenoch has since started every game at right tackle. With Conor McDermott seemingly penciled in a left tackle, can Goines get back to the form he showed prior to his injuries? Or will Benenoch perform well enough to hold onto the starting job?
These are just a few of the interesting battles that will play out during Fall camp. There are also interesting subplots at safety, tight end (the "Y" receiver), and linebacker.
Hopefully, those of you in Southern California can make it out to a practice or two. If so, please feel free to use the Bruins Nation "Fan Post" feature to publish your thoughts and observations on camp. Also, if you cannot make it out to camp but are hungry for daily UCLA football content, check back with Bruins Nation for practice reports throughout Fall camp.
Have a great week and Gooooo Bruins!!!