Spring Preview: Mora Part 2

Jim Mora talks about the reasoning behind the different position changes, whether he thinks he'll be able to settle on a quarterback by the end of spring, and Dietrich Riley's status...

Q: Obviously, you've made a good amount of position changes, prominent among them all the guys switching to linebacker. How much were you able to glean from the tape of last year?

A: A little bit, but a lot of it was just looking at body types. Watching some film. We've had a chance, because we've had these morning skill and drill workouts, to go out there with them and watch them move around a little bit. Going back and thinking about what they did in high school a little bit.

Q: Like with Dalton Hilliard?

A: Yeah, but actually, that was his request. And it's funny, Noel Mazzone just came into my office and told me, "I tell you what, I think Dalton can really help us over there." I mean, it all is going to change once we get out onto the field and we start competing. And then it's going to change again when the pads come on. And then it's going to change again when we get into a competitive environment with our opponents. So we just have to work through the process.

Q: The quarterback position has been the bane of UCLA's existence for going on 14 years now…

A: But it's that way everywhere. That's the point guard position. It's the guy that grips the ball every play, so that's going to be where the focal point goes. I just believe that football is a quarterback driven sport offensively, you have to have a trigger man. I mean…I didn't even let you ask your question. Who's it going to be? [Laughs] Is that what you're asking me?

Q: That's probably impossible to answer at this point. Do you think you have the material there to actually come up with a guy in spring, or do you think it'll take longer?

A: I would hope that we can come out of spring practice with, if not a definitive feel for who our quarterback is, at least a very good idea who that guy's going to be. I think it's important for a number of reasons. No. 1, it's important because it'll help us plan who we want to be offensively. We have an idea what we want to be, but we don't know if we have the parts yet. And so if we don't have the parts we can make the adjustments. And I think it's important from a leadership standpoint for your players to understand that this is the guy. This is who we're riding with, so let's make it happen. And getting him the repetitions he needs with the players he's going to play with. Now, that's in an ideal world, and I don't know if that's going to happen or not. I think one thing that we're going to promote every day is competition. There will be a depth chart when we go out there the first day, but that depth chart will be as fluid as water. It'll change depending upon performance in the previous day. I'm going to go in there into the first team meeting and put up a depth chart that says, you know, 1. Guy who is playing the best, 2. Guy who is playing the second best, and 3. Guy who is playing the third best. You've got to compete and that goes for the quarterback position as well. But it's different from the other positions because at some point you need to lock in. And your team needs to lock in on who that guy is. So hopefully sooner rather than later, but we have to let it happen.

Q: Running down the quarterbacks, Kevin Prince was a little banged up at the end of the year. Has he been able to fully participate in workouts, and is he going to be fully ready to go for spring?

A: He seems to be doing really well, so I think he'll be fine.

Q: And Richard Brehaut, is he going to participate, or is he playing baseball?

A: You know, right now, he is pursuing baseball. So, I've given him the flexibility to do that. We'll see where he is in two weeks. We'll see. It'll be hard for anyone to factor into the fall if they're not here in the spring. And especially if you're at that position. So we'll find out. But hey, if baseball's his passion, then we'll support that.

Q: And then you've got Brett Hundley and T.J. Millweard coming in…

A: And Jerry Neuheisel and Nick Crissman. There's a lot of guys there. It's going to be hard to spread the reps out. But Noel is a very good quarterback coach. If he wasn't as good a quarterback coach as he is, sitting in his office right now wouldn't be Christian Ponder, Philip Rivers. They're up there right now. Brock Osweiler. They're up there right now just watching film and listening to him. I mean they just want to be around him. I think our quarterbacks will really benefit from that, and I think our team as a whole will really benefit from that because I think he'll be able to evaluate pretty quickly. I think he knows what he's looking for.

Q: And is Taylor Mazzone going to be a grad assistant as well?

A: Taylor is going to be once he…he has to get into school. Yeah, but he'll be our special teams GA.

Q: With all the quarterbacks, do you anticipate Noel needing a little more help giving each of these guys some personal one on one time?

A: Yeah, and we have some guys up in the office that are capable of that. But it doesn't take much more than one guy. You know, he'll have to move around. He's the offensive coordinator. So much thing you do, you do together, though. Like with the receivers, the tight end position, which we call the Y. The Y is the tight end, just so you know. The F. They do a lot of stuff together. They'll be together a lot.

Q: Yeah, I was talking to Coach Tuiasosopo about the Y, and he was saying it's a lot of the same responsibilities as a tight end, just with a bit more running down field.

A: It's a tight end. You know what's funny, is everyone calls it a Y. In football, universally, it's the tight end. But say you're doing a presentation, doing a film breakdown, he's always the Y. I would say that 99.999% of footblal teams in America call the tight end the Y when they do a diagram. The flanker is the Z, the split end is the X, like the tight end if the Y. We just took out a little of the verbiage.

Q: How's Dietrich Riley? What's his status heading into spring?

A: He's not going to be able to participate in any stuff this spring. They're still evaluating him and he's still deciding what direction he wants to go. At this point he's not cleared to practice. And I think it's important for all these guys to make the right decision medically. I mean, these are still kids. It's supposed to be a game for them. And I've always been very safety conscious anyway. I'm not one of those brutal coaches who are like, "Get your ass out there and play." I'd always much rather be cautious, especially when you're dealing with 17, 18, 19 year olds. I know this, I have a 17 year old son, and when he goes to college, I want a coach that treats him the right way, and cares for him first.

Q: And his injury, watching it from the press box, it was scary.

A: You don't mess around with that stuff. You don't mess around with necks, you don't mess around with heads. You just don't. I know that. I've been around long enough to know that those two things that, if somebody gets dinged, and the doctor says, "He's out, he has a concussion," there will be not one more word from me. I won't go, "Are you sure? Are you sure." Because if he's out, he's out. Same thing with the neck, he's done. It's not worth it. I've been on the field when guys have sustained serious injuries, and it's no fun. It takes all the enjoyment out of the game.

Q: Where do you see yourself on the practice field? Are you going to be just going between units during the different periods?

A: I'll be all over the place, man. I'll be involved in everything. I like to observe, and during team periods, I like to get going coaching effort, and hustle, and finish and things like that. I don't have a script for myself during practice, you know, this period I'm going to be here, this period I'm going to be here. I just want to get a feel. I might be over there coaching the safeties for a while. I just like to see what's going on. I think it's my responsibility to see what's going on on the entire practice field, not just one area of the practice field. But at the same time I have tremendous faith in what the coaches are doing when I'm not there. I can tell you this, I'm not going to jump in and coach a quarterback in a drill. Now, I might tell a quarterback what a defense is trying to do to him to manipulate his decision making. But, I'm not going to tell him how a ball should spin off his fingers. Not my role. I'll stay in my lane on that one. There's a much better person to tell him how the ball should spin off their hand.

Q: Getting back to the staff a little, what's your early look at the way the staff has performed outside of recruiting?

A: The thing about this staff is that they're all passionate about what they do. They're all achievers. And they all have goals, whether it's to be the best position coach they can be, or whether it's to become a coordinator, or maybe some day be a head coach. They all want to be the best they can be every day. That's what sticks out to me. There's no playing. I mean, they have fun, but they're all very driven. There's not one guy that's just hanging on, trying to get another year. Or trying to get a couple more years in. Or looking at his watch, thinking, "When can I go home?" They don't do that. It's good to be around guys like that. And that's why we hired them. Because that's what they are. And they're very good football coaches. You know when you go out on the field, and you'll see it in spring, you'll watch Jeff Ulbrich coach the linebackers, or you'll watch Steve Broussard coach the running backs, or you'll see Adrian Klemm coach the offensive line, or Eric Yarber coach the wide receivers, or Tuiasosopo coach the "Y's", what you'll see is guys that are very passionate, very professional, and very knowledgeable, but you'll see guys who can give these kids insight that coaches who haven't played that position at the highest level can give them. They know things because they've done it. I watch Coach Ulbrich, and I was there when we drafted him. I coached him. I always knew he wanted to be a coach. But I've been out there when we've done some of the mat drill type stuff, and I listen to him talk to those guys, and I'm just amazed at how good he is. They're all really good.

Q: Was chemistry a big part of putting this staff together? Getting guys who could not only recruit and coach their positions, but also get along with one another and relate to the kids?

A: It's always important when you're putting together a staff to consider chemistry, and also what different personalities you want to touch different parts of your team. You can't just have a whole staff of screamers. You can't just have a whole staff of guys that are kind of subdued in their approach. You can't have a whole staff of guys who are all idea guys. You've got to have some guys who are grinders. You need some idea guys that can come up with new concepts and new plays and stuff like that. Obviously, the lifeblood of your program is recruiting. So you've got a segment of your coach population that are outstanding recruiters. The one thing that they all have in common is that, like I said, they're all achievers. They're all good men. They're all excellent motivators, although in their different ways. And they all care about the players first. I think they're all good mentors. They really care about the kids. Like, I listen to Jeff Ulbrich talk to those linebackers, and you can tell he really cares about them. He cares about them being good football players, and he cares about them being good students, and he cares about them being good people. Same with Adrian, same with Bruiser. All of them, through and through. That seems to be…that's what I get from them, just listening to them. I think what we want a staff of guys who are hardasses without being assholes. I don't care if the kids like them, I want them to respect them, I don't want them to hate them. Does that make sense? I don't want kid to ever walk out of here saying, "I hate that guy." They don't have to say, " I like him." But I want them to say, "I respect him." And I want us to be hardasses without being assholes. I don't want a kid to walk out of the room saying, "What an asshole." Although I told the kids that, there's going to be some days when they walk out of the room going, "What an asshole." They're going to say that. But I want them to understand our motivations for what we're doing. I can tell them for myself, my motivations are very pure. I think one of things in recruiting that helps is that I've been able to be a head coach in the NFL, and I don't have any aspirations to go back there. And all I'm looking for with these kids is an opportunity to help them get what they want. Does that make sense? I want to help them get what they want. I'm doing what I want to do. Which is a good feeling to have. I'm doing what I want to do. I don't have anything else I want to do. I want to do this.

Bruin Report Online Top Stories