There were a couple news items out this evening that are worth sharing here, and both bode very well for the Bruins.
The first comes from an article by Peter Yoon on ESPN-LA who spoke with Bruins Offensive Coordinator, Noel Mazzone. Not surprisingly, after another high power offensive season, Mazzone has been getting a lot of phone calls from schools with head coach and coordinator openings that are interested in his services. The good news for the Bruins is that Mazzone says he is happy where he is.
"I'm totally committed to this program, coach (Jim) Mora, this staff, these kids."
"This is that time of year," Mazzone said of all the talk about job openings. "There's rumors this and rumors that, and he's doing this and he's doing that, and they're going here and all that kind of stuff. I'm here. I'm not looking."
"Just like anybody if there is an opportunity that arises obviously I would sit down and listen and weigh the plusses and minuses of every situation," he said. "I kind of like what I'm doing right now. I'm enjoying it. Am I saying I don't want to be a head coach? No, I'm not saying that, but I'm here and I'm not thinking that I'll be happier someplace else.
Coaches aren't known for their tendency to publicy state that they are openly looking for higher profile and better paying jobs. The next time a coordinator appears in an interview and says that he knows he had a great year and he intends to immediately parlay that in to a giant pay increase and a head coaching job will be the first. But it's still reassuring to hear Mazzone confirm his allegiance to Coach Mora and our kids at this time. I know one RS freshman QB who will be happy with those quotes.
Mora has done a great job building loyalty amongst his coaching staff. It will be interesting to see how he handles the growing pressures that continued success place on his staff, including his ability to retain his top assistants. Yoon notes that Mazzone's salary this season was $350K, and he is scheduled to go up to $375K next season. That's more money than I make by a very long way, but then none of you are traveling or tuning in on Saturday's to watch me work, either. In fact, Mazzone's salary is still pretty far below the top OC's around the country. For instance, in 2011, Auburn paid OC Gus Malzahn $1.3 million and Charlie Weis was hired as OC at Florida for over $750K. In 2010, the Bruins' OC Norm Chow made $640K, though much of that salary came from outside U.C.L.A. In the ever growing arms race that is college football, the going rate for top assistant coaches is getting higher. If Mazzone's success from this season continues for U.C.L.A., Guerrero is going to have to start writing some bigger checks to keep these coaches in Westwood. I already know the first place he can go to for some of that cash, too.
The other good news comes from where else but our always positive friend Chris Foster at the LA Times who writes that Bruins All-American LB and Matt Barkley Business Finisher Forever (MBBFF) Anthony Barr is expected to stay in college and play for the Bruins next season.
Barr said, "Nothing is set in stone." But he said coming back is "where my heart is." The last piece to his decision will come after receiving an NFL draft evaluation.
"I have an idea what I want to do, but that's going to make things much more clear," Barr said.
He sees benefits to returning to play one more season for Coach Jim Mora.
"I can get another year under this coaching staff and in this system," he said. "Coach has done a good job in getting me this far, and I thing another year would help with that development."
We've all been swaying back and forth on what we hope Barr will do and what we think Barr should do. Clearly, Barr would have several million reasons to leave U.C.L.A. this season, but remember that he has only played 13 games at linebacker to this point. To hear him say that he realizes another season in Westwood with Coach Mora and staff will benefit his development shows that he has his eyes on the long term picture of being a great player and not just someone cashing in on the quick paycheck. The return of Barr to the Bruins would be an unbelievable boon to next year's team, and Pac-12 quarterbacks are suddenly very very upset. Still, I'll believe it when I see it. After all, I am still holding out hope that Kevin Love will actually come back for his sophomore year himself, because I'm always full of optimism and hope for the best where the Bruins are concerned.
There was one other great anecdote from today's practice in Foster's article...
Guard Alberto Cid had the highlight of the day . . . as a receiver.
Cid lined up during passing drills and was covered by nose tackle Donovan Carter. Cid ran an out pattern to the corner of the end zone and made a slick catch.
Offensive players then mobbed Cid.
Several thoughts: Remember in spring when Cid started a fight with the defense which earned gassers for the entire team and the ultimate wrath of Mora for Cid? I love reading stories like this to see how players who could have shut down or bailed out instead stuck it out and stayed an integral part of the team. Tough love followed by forgiveness and second chances builds loyalty - both ways. Beyond that, it's great to see the coaches and the team injecting some fun in their extra practices before they close them again and get down to the business of dealing with Baylor. Finally, while Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price have had their struggles this season, and I'm glad to see the coaches thinking outside the box, I'm pretty sure that Carter moving to corner is not the answer. ;-)
After a day's worth of absolutely unreadable news, it was nice to scan the internets tonight and find a couple clear signs of coaches and players who are buying in to Bruin football and want to keep riding this wave to the top.